The Hutsonville-Palestine Committee of Ten is ready to present the petition for consolidation to the Hutsonville Unit 1 and Palestine Unit 3 school boards.
During Monday night's meeting, the committee members took time to clarify the type of consolidation they are talking about before voting unanimously to send the petition to the two boards.
Committee Chair Tina Callaway asked Hutsonville Superintendent Julie Kraemer to explain that "Consolidation type 11A," which the two districts have been working towards and the committee has been working on, is actually "type 11E."
Kraemer explained the information they had was changed in 2014 and the 11A is now called 11E. It is the same type of consolidation just a different letter. The committee wanted that understood before voting.
Committee members voting to send the petitions to the respective boards were Matt Draper, Kristie Elder, Lindsay Beabout, Deann Wells, Tina Callaway, Diane Wyman, Chad Guyer, Don Wagoner, Damien Tingley and Kaycee Rodgers. It will be their names that will go on the petition.
Callaway asked the other committee members to join her at the Monday, June 19, board meetings for both districts to present the petition as a sign of unity and professionalism. It will then be up to the respective boards to approve a resolution in favor of the petition or not.
If approved, it will then go to Regional Superintendent Monte Newlin for review. Newlin will then send it on to the State Board of Education for approval.
If approved, the petition will come back to the county clerks in Crawford and Clark counties to be placed on the November 2018 ballot. This is necessary because Unit 1 has voters in both counties. It will then be up to the voters to approve the consolidation.
As the process moves on to the next phase, there is a growing concern the consolidation will again fail because of a lack of leadership, education and marketing towards the public.
Specifically, Callaway and the Palestine members of the committee said they would like to see more enthusiasm from the Unit 3 board and for them to take the lead in educating the public.
"We have to sell this to our own friends and family," said Callaway. "We need to be enthusiastic. The petition gives the people an opportunity to say so (yes or no to consolidation)."
Beabout voiced her observation on the negative view the public has about consolidation. "Some adults act like four year-olds, they don't care what you say," she said. "A step closer would be our (Palestine) board."
One of the issues the committee believes is important for people to understand "Plan B" is if consolidation fails.
Hutsonville's board members have openly said if this does not go through, they cannot afford to be "Good Ole' Hutsonville" much longer. They will have to do something else, but they don't yet know what.
Palestine's board has discussed a few options, but does not have a Plan B either.
A thought apparently circulating among the public is if they vote "no," Plan B will be to consolidate with Robinson by default. What the committee and others want people to understand is that all of their fears about units 1 and 2 consolidating - loss of control, closing of buildings and firing of teachers - will happen if they have to go to Robinson.
While most people do not want to think of a school as a business, it is in the business of producing educated young people, and it takes money to do that. Kraemer provided the committee and interested parties with a financial sheet that shows how declining enrollment is effecting income.
Since the 2009-10 school year the amount of entitlement money, the money that comes from the state, has decreased by over $1 million between the two districts. That does not include the amounts the state prorated because the did not have the money to pay their obligations.
Everyone agrees that consolidation is an emotional issue, but it is also financial.
"Folks don't want to face the ugly part," said Tingley.
The discussion part of Monday night's meeting covered a number of topics, concerns and complaints and at times got very direct and heated. However, it helped to clear the air, and explain the challenges the committee and boards of education will face as they move forward with the process.
For now, the committee will take a two-month break to present the petition and let the respective boards of education discuss and vote. The next scheduled meeting will be Monday, Sept. 11.