After receiving a proposal for a Partial-Day Sharing agreement from the Emmetsburg School District, members of the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Board voted to table a reply to Emmetsburg's offer during a special 7 a.m. meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6. The reason for tabling a reply was a communication to an RA board member from the neighboring Graettinger-Terril School Board a day earlier.
"I got a call from Kyle Norris Monday night, asking if he could talk with me at the ball game the next night," RA Board Vice-President Tracy Enderson reported to the board on Wednesday morning. "Kyle told me that the GT board would like to go over the actual numbers that they had proposed to us earlier again. He said the first numbers they used when we were talking with them about sharing were before they knew what types of cuts they were going to need to make in their district."
According to Enderson, Norris indicated GT also wanted to review class offerings, as they had thought RA was talking about core classes, rather than electives, and how that might also change some numbers in a proposal to RA, as GT had thought they would have to hire additional staff for core classes, rather than electives.
"The direction the board had was we had dealt with GT and it was over," observed Board member Ray Grandstaff. "We went with Emmetsburg then for the partial-day sharing."
"My question is what is going to change from their initial offer," Board President Barry Fischer said.
RA Superintendent Andrew Woiwood reviewed Emmetsburg's proposal, which featured a 50 percent tuition level for two years, which would rise to 60 percent the next two years. The proposal also offered athletic sharing in year two, the start of talks for whole-grade-sharing for grades 9-12, and moving to whole-grade-sharing of 9-12 in the fifth year of the sharing agreement. Also proposed was an option to share a superintendent.
"We've all seen the spread sheets," Fischer said. "At the end of the road, the unspent balance isn't very good."
"That depends on the incentive dollars," noted RA Principal Jon Josephson. "Whole-grade sharing offers no incentive and their proposal doesn't show that."
"I do like their funding proposal," Fischer noted. "But it concerns me that the agreement leans heavily toward whole-grade sharing."
"They offered to start sports sharing. We're in a contract for sports and for someone to ask us to get out of that contract is unethical," stated Enderson. "Their add-ons are not what we had in mind. We wanted a partner to share chairs. I don't know where this all comes from."
Enderson paused. "The cost percentages are good, but I think it's a slow death for us if we went this route."
"Paton-Churdan has made partial-day sharing work a long time," observed Board member Katie Meyer.
Woiwood shared a counter-proposal to Emmetsburg that agreed with the funding provisions. Also included in the RA counter proposal was a provision that if supplemental weighting was no longer funded by the state, that the agreement could be terminated. Provisions for sharing of athletics and a superintendent, as well as talks on whole-grade sharing, were not addressed in the RA counter-proposal.
The counter-proposal also included a provision that Emmetsburg would give any RA teacher laid off due to the partial-day sharing agreement an opportunity to interview for any position they would be qualified for at Emmetsburg.
However, Board member Ray Grandstaff offered his opinion that more than partial-day sharing should remain on the minds of the RA board, given the uncertainty of school finances in the future. "I don't think it would hurt for us to look at whole-grade sharing down the road."
"But our finances could be a lot better in four years, too," Enderson interjected.
"Maybe later, but not right now, not part of this," Board member Larry Conlon said.
"If anything, just to keep the lines of communication open and to keep it in mind," Grandstaff said.
"You looked at partial-day sharing several years ago," Josephson said. "It's not something you just jumped into in the past couple of months."
Woiwood noted that he was asking RA students to write questions about partial-day sharing that they might have, and would forward those questions to students at Northeast Hamilton to let those students, who were in the same place RA students are currently in, respond to the RA students. "I thought it would help our kids to ease their minds," Woiwood explained.
The board continued to discuss the Emmetsburg proposal and its own counter proposal, with Grandstaff once again asking to look at whole-grade sharing down the road.
"Is there anything Emmetsburg put down in their proposal that is totally outside the realm of possibility?" Woiwood asked. "No, there isn't. You constantly look at things in an arrangement like this to make sure you're doing what's best for the kids."
But, Enderson was firm in her opposition. "I'm not prepared to do that at this time. By not doing that, we are announcing that we are not abandoning our school."
"We're at a deciding point," Fischer said. "We're working on a contract with Emmetsburg. How does this communication from Graettinger-Terril fit into this?"
"I don't care what school," Enderson replied. "We're not going with these extras."
"I'd like to see what G-T's numbers would be," Meyer said.
"We can't make a motion to accept the 50-50-60-60 percent funding from Emmetsburg and then try to work a back-room deal with GT it's either all or nothing," Fischer said.
"I think we need to finish this," Woiwood said. "We reached a finish point with GT and were not talking with Emmetsburg. Now we're talking with Emmetsburg. We need to finish."
Woiwood continued, "I like to deal with one person at a time, not with backroom deals going on."
Meyer moved to table a response to Emmetsburg's proposal until the next meeting of the RA board, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11.
"I'll second that," Enderson said. "I'd like to get GT's numbers. I don't know if there will be enough change to make it work, bet wee need to see what cuts they have to make. They had to cut $400,000 from their budget and if that would affect the quality of education, then we have to address that."
The majority of the board approved the motion, tabling action on responding to Emmetsburg to allow GT to present a proposal of their own for board consideration along with the counter-proposal to Emmetsburg at the Feb. 11 board meeting in Ruthven.