St. Elmo, Brownstown school boards will continue to study reorganization

Finances are often one of the main reasons that school districts look into consolidating with other districts.

But thats not the case with the Brownstown and St. Elmo school districts, according to Brownstown Superintendent of Schools Doug Slover.

Both districts are financially solvent, so finances dont have to be the driving force with this, Slover said.

The big thing is the curriculum opportunities that might be available to our students, he said.

The Brownstown Board of Education voted unanimously last Wednesday to proceed with a reorganization feasibility study, a week after the St. Elmo Board of Education voted 5-1 to do the same.

Those votes, according to Slover and St. Elmo Superintendent of Schools Deb Philpot, mean simply that the two districts want to continue studying reorganization.

Basically, our board members feel that they are not yet educated enough to make decisions (regarding reorganization), Slover said. We want to get more specifics before we get to the next step.

This just means that we are going to proceed with a study, Philpot said.

At a joint retreat held earlier in the month, officials from the two districts discussed the reorganization issue at length, Philpot said.

What they came up with is the idea of forming, under state guidelines, a 10-member committee who would be charged with an in-depth study on the issue.

The committee will be made up of five residents from each school district. The makeup will include board members, teachers and chosen residents from both Brownstown and St. Elmo, Philpot said. She and Slover will serve in advisory roles.

For the time being, the districts would put the issue before voters in the spring of 2009, if thats the decision the two boards make.

There is no pressing timeline. We can take our time and be educated. We dont have to jump into this,’ Slover said.

The two superintendents like the idea of considering consolidation because of how it could improve the educational offerings of students in the two communities.

The big thing is, Slover said, what would a junior high and a high school curriculum look like.

How many classes of algebra I could we offer, how many classes of algebra II could we offer, could we offer four years of foreign language classes instead of two or three, he said.

One reason for looking into reorganization, Philpot said, is that it would allow the districts to share a lot of resources that we both have to provide.

Special education, I think there is something that we could do there, she said.

Also, Philpot said, the districts are individually close to the point of having to hire additional teachers for certain grade levels.

Also, she said, One of the major benefits could include offering more classes and adding programs.

I truly think that things could be run a little more efficiently by pooling resources, Philpot said.

But, she emphasizes, a decision on reorganization will be made by the residents of the two districts and only after some serious study and discussion.

A key part of the process is board members becoming educated on the issue, and then passing along that information to residents of St. Elmo and Brownstown.

We want to get true data out to the public, Philpot said.

We have some projections, but those are only projections that we all (from both districts) put together.

There is a lot of legwork to be completed before a referendum could be held, she said.

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