Reorganization Vote Passes By Wide Margin
GRAETTINGER – “I’d say looking at the percentages of voter approval in both districts, it’s obvious that the people have confidence in their school boards and the direction we’re taking for their children.”
With those words, Superintendent Dan Mart of the Graettinger and Terril School Districts summed up the results of Tuesday’s reorganization vote by patrons of the two districts. The question facing the voters was simple – to reorganize the two districts into the Graettinger/Terril Community School District.
Unofficial election results from the Graettinger School District saw a total of 289 votes cast on Tuesday, with 280 voters approving the question to just nine “no” votes, or 96.89 percent approval. In the Terril School District, 228 votes were cast, with 143 yes votes and 85 “no” votes on the question, 63 percent approval. Passage of the reorganization proposal required a simple majority plus one vote of votes cast in each district.
“Overall, that gave the question 78 percent voter approval, which is very satisfying,” Mart noted.
The two school districts first began their road to this point in 2002, when a group of patrons of the Terril district began looking at options for their district. With the declines in student populations, and the resulting loss of state financial aid, options were examined by the steering committee that included whole-grade sharing agreements with neighboring districts. A meeting was held with the Graettinger Community School Board and a citizen advisory committee to study the concept of whole-grade sharing between the two districts.
After considerable study, public meetings and a vote, patrons of the two districts authorized an initial three-year whole grade sharing agreement beginning in the 2004 school year. The original agreement allowed for elementary classes to be held in both communities, with middle school students attending classes in Terril and high school students attending classes in Graettinger.
At the end of the 2006-2007 school year, the two boards voted to modify the existing sharing agreement, with students in Kindergarten through second grade, as well as high schoolers attending classes in Graettinger. Grades three through eight attended classes in Terril. Both communities also operated their own three-year old and four-year old preschools. Both school boards approved the modified agreement to run through the 2012 school year.
With the sharing agreement working well between the two districts, school board members and the district citizen advisory committees kept looking at their goal of providing the best possible education for the youth of the districts. One topic kept coming up – reorganization, or merging the two districts permanently into one.
Many months of meetings, discussion and conversation followed, until this past summer, patrons of both districts submitted petitions to the Prairie Lakes Education Agency requesting a reorganization vote be taken. After obtaining the requisite number of signatures, the petitions were presented to the Prairie Lakes AEA, which set up a public hearing for objections. That hearing, held Oct. 2 in Terril, saw the Prairie Lakes Board reject all of the objections to the proposed reorganization, clearing the way for the Dec. 2 public vote.
With passage of Tuesday’s reorganization question, an initial seven-member school board must be appointed within 45 days of the election, with four directors being appointed from the Graettinger district and three directors being appointed from the Terril district. That board will then become a five-member board through a board election following the reorganization, which will go into effect on July 1, 2010.
“We’ll have to make those board appointments during the December school board meetings in both districts,” Mart noted. “But for now, we need to say thank you to the school boards, the volunteers who called voters, the reorganization committee and everyone who has supported our efforts. The past four years of our whole-grade sharing are a perfect example of what two communities and schools can do for their kids.”