St. Elmo, Brownstown consolidation hearings later this month

Residents of the St. Elmo and Brownstown school districts will have two opportunities at the end of this month to learn about the proposed consolidation of the two districts.

Meeting three weeks after the state superintendent of education approved an application to put a consolidation referendum on the April 7 ballot, the Committee of 10 that submitted the application set two meetings to present consolidation information to residents.

The public hearings have been set for:

• Wednesday, Jan. 28 – 6 p.m. in the Brownstown Elementary School cafeteria.

• Thursday, Jan. 29 – 7 p.m. in the St. Elmo High School cafeteria.

The Committee of 10 decided on Tuesday that the two public hearings are among the methods it will use to present residents of the two districts with research it gathered on the consolidation issue. A second method is a mass mailing to all residents of the two districts.

At the public hearings, Brownstown Superintendent Doug Slover and St. Elmo Superintendent Deb Philpot will give a Power Point presentation similar to the one that was part of a public hearing in November at the Fayette County Courthouse. The two districts were required to hold that hearing prior to submitting the consolidation referendum application to state Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch.

After the Power Point presentation is given, residents of the two districts will be allowed to ask questions of the two superintendents and members of the Committee of 10. As they enter the hearing room, residents who plan to ask questions will be asked to sign their names and list the topic(s) they wish to address.

The Power Point presentation to be given at the hearings will be slightly different than the one that Slover and Philpot gave at the November hearings – it will include update information in areas such as enrollments and proposed savings.

Philpot went over that updated information, telling Committee of 10 members that the combined enrollments of the two districts are about 9 percent below the totals from the 2004-05 school year.

Together, the districts had 924 students in the 2004-05 school year; this year, the total is 841. That’s a decrease of 83 students.

“That’s a pretty big number,” Philpot said. And the projections done by her and Slover, she said, show that the enrollment figures “keep decreasing.”

The savings estimated by Philpot and Slover include $38,431 in salaries for extracurricular staff, due to such things as combining sports teams. That total does not include savings realized in salaries of officials and scorekeepers, and in travel expenses for sports teams.

The overall savings estimated for the next four years is close to $1.5 million.

Added to the savings are the incentive monies that would be offered by the state over the next four years. The two districts would be eligible for a little more than $1.4 million in incentive funds.

The savings and incentives together total $2.92 million.

In presenting those figures, Philpot reminded committee members that the totals are “conservative figures,” and said it’s important for residents to remember that a newly formed board would make all decisions regarding such things as attendance centers and staff.

And while the two districts would save a considerable amount of funds by consolidating, Philpot said, “the whole bottom line (with consolidation) is what you’re doing for your children” in terms of curriculum.

In addition to presenting information at the public hearing, the 12 individuals from the two districts plan to get the word out through a mass mailing in a couple of weeks.

Committee members also talked about the possibility of making presentations on the proposed consolidation to community groups.

“The whole key to this deal is to get people to see this Power Point (presentation),” said Clint Feezel, a Brownstown resident who serves as co-chairman of the Committee of 10.

Feezel was among committee members talking at Tuesday’s meeting about getting the word out to as many residents as possible.

“I wish there was a way we could stress how important this is” that residents become educated about the proposed consolidation.

In addition to Feezel, Brownstown residents serving on the Committee of 10 include Steve Behrends, Michele Seabaugh, Teresa Barnick and Katriena Kroll. St. Elmo representatives include Dean Buzzard (co-chairman), Chad Wilhour, Cindy Booher, Randy Myers and Brad Smith.

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