Wakonda School Board votes to attach to Vermillion School District; If plan receives state approval, Wakonda patrons will have final word by M. Jill Karolevitz "This is a tough job � planning your own funeral � and making it attractive," said Wakonda School Board member Jim Morrison as he and his colleagues pondered a reorganization plan for the Wakonda School District Monday night, Nov. 12.
The board voted unanimously during its regular meeting to attach to the Vermillion School District, upon a recommendation made by Superintendent Ron Flynn. The action stems from the Lovejoy petitions presented to the board last summer, calling for the dissolution of the Wakonda School District.
If the reorganization plan is accepted by the Vermillion School District, it will be sent to Pierre. If it's approved by the S.D. Department of Education and Cultural Affairs, an election will be scheduled for Wakonda School District voters to accept or reject the reorganization.
The election must take place within 90 days of the plan receiving approval in Pierre.
During a public meeting Nov. 5, the school board distributed surveys to school district patrons, asking their opinion on several factors regarding reorganization. The answers were then rated in order of importance:
? Student/teacher ratio
? Academic achievement levels
? Course offerings
? Teaching experience of staff and/or degree level
? Location or distance from home
? Number of and/or quality of activities offered
? The school district's current tax rates
? The school district's tax base
"Arguments could be made for attaching to the Vermillion School District, based on those answers," Flynn said Monday night. "If we would attach to a smaller school, the class sizes may go up to 28 to 30 students. They probably would not split them up into more sections. The academic achievement levels in Vermillion are very close to ours and they are able to offer more courses. And almost half of Vermillion's teachers have master's degrees."
Flynn also noted that many Wakonda residents work in Vermillion, while several school district patrons have chosen to open enroll their children in the Vermillion School District.
"When it's all said and done, I don't think I will have any trouble defending the plan to attach to Vermillion," Flynn said.
But Flynn added that keeping an attendance center for elementary students in Wakonda would not be written into the reorganization plan.
"I would hate to see people vote in favor of a reorganization plan because we would promise to keep an elementary school here," Flynn said. "I don't think they should be voting on it based on that assumption. If the other school board wants to keep an attendance center here for a while, that would have to be their decision. But there would not be a building project completed so they would have to keep the 1922 building and I don't think they'd want to do that."
School board president Van Moser didn't think writing an attendance center proposal into the reorganization was possible.
"The secretary of education, Ray Christensen, said we could write the plan any way we want, but the other school district would have to approve it," Flynn said. "He (Christensen) would also have to approve it and set an election date."
"Then the bottom line is, if they don't like the plan, don't vote for it," Moser said.
Flynn said he would like to see a plan offered that is consistent with what the petitioners have called for all along.
"I don't want anyone to accuse us of trying to throw out a lousy plan to insure it will fail," he said. "The people responsible for the petition and those who signed it have always said 'bigger is better' and 'small schools don't cut it.' It comes back to that time after time, so we want to give them that option (of attaching to a larger district)."
Flynn said writing a reorganization plan that would include two or three smaller districts would be more complicated and not something he would recommend.
"The other districts would have to decide which group of students would go where," he said. "They would also have to decide what is the assessed value of the land going toward each school district. It's my feeling that writing the reorganization plan that way would make for a very complicated process that would be unnecessary. And if people don't like the Vermillion School District option, they could always open enroll their kids into another school district other than that."