The Hutsonville-Palestine Committee of Ten will continue to pursue school consolidation through a citizens' petition.
The committee voted 9-1 Monday night in favor of collecting enough signatures from local voters to place the question of consolidation on the ballot for the voters to decide.
On June 19, the committee presented both the Hutsonville Unit 1 and Palestine Unit 3 school boards their petition advocating consolidation of the two school districts. The Hutsonville board unanimously approved the petition, but the Palestine board voted it down 5 to 2.
Because the Palestine board voted not to approve the petition, the next option would be for the committee to collect 50 signatures of registered voters in each district on a citizen's petition, that can then be forwarded to the Regional Office of Education 12 for further consideration.
Originally it was thought that signatures only needed to be collected from Palestine voters, as there board voted no, but it was learned that 50 signatures are needed from both districts.
"We were misinformed," said committee chair Tina Callaway.
Before moving forward, Palestine Committee member Damien Tingley wanted to clarify a couple of issues. First, he answered the question of who is paying for the petition process.
The cost of writing up the petitions is being split between the two school districts. Tingley explained that as the committee was created by the two school districts, was empowered by them to do the best they could. As there are elected board of education members participating on the committee, it is legal and appropriate for the districts to pay the cost of preparation of the petitions.
The second issue Tingley said he felt was important was to make sure that the members of the committee were still willing to pursue the petition for consolidation.
He pointed out that with the lack of support from the Palestine board, more of the burden will fall directly on them as they move forward. He wanted everyone to be comfortable with making that decision.
Committee member and Palestine board member Don Wagoner was the single no vote in moving forward.
"I still think it needs to go to the voters, but I do not believe there is enough community support to pass," said Wagoner. "It should sell itself."
Wagoner also said, "This is an opportunity to look at something else."
For committee members Deann Wells and Hutsonville board member Chad Guyer, this is the best course of action.
Guyer said, "I thought we (the boards of education) formed this committee because this was the best action."
"I am frustrated," said Wells. "We were asked to form, then stalled. I feel the Palestine voters are not being told the full truth or a half truth."
Moving forward the committee members now have copies of the petition and need to collect a total of 50 signatures from registered voters in each district for a total of 100 signatures. Each signature needs to be witnessed and the petition notarized before being submitted to the ROE.
The committee will meet again Monday, Aug. 28, at the Palestine Grade School. It is hoped they will have enough signatures by the meeting to keep within the original timeline of the process.