Friday, September 05, 2014

Courier News

Courtesy of the on-line 9/3/14 Ida County Courier,

O-A board discusses whole-grade sharing issues

The Odebolt-Arthur School Board met in special session Aug. 25 to discuss opening the whole-grade sharing agreement to discuss class configuration.

Superintendent Dr. Nick Ouelette told O-A that Battle Creek-Ida Grove’s board met with architects Aug. 21. After reviewing six schemes, the BCIG board decided to have the architects proceed with plans for the seventh through 12th grade at the high school.

The preliminary proposal calls for new vocal and band rooms that would be shared by the middle school and high school, an additional gym, 12 extra classrooms with a target of $14.1 million bonding capacity. If the work were spread out over two years, the bonding capacity would be $16 million. The target date for the bond election is April 2015.

Under this scenario, O-A would house the fourth, ifth and sixth grades, which means the whole-grade sharing agreement needs to be opened for discussion. Each district has to adopt a resolution notifying the public that they are opening the wholegrade sharing agreement to discuss one, some or all of the 21 points of the agreement. Ouelette thought BC-IG just wanted to open the agreement to discuss grade configuration, but activities could be on the table. Ouelette suggested placing the resolutions on the September agenda.

After two hours’ discussion, the O-A board informally agreed not to take any action to look at other options until after the September meeting. The intent is to open the wholegrade sharing agreement for discussion.

According to Ouelette, O-A has several options, including:
• Keeping the current grade configuration.
• Changing the grade configuration to PK-sixth grade at O-A, PK-third grade at Ida Grove and seventh through 12th grades in Ida Grove.
• Contact other sharing partners, such as East Sac or Schaller-Crestland.
• Developing a one-way share with O-A’s ninth through 12th graders going to BC-IG, East Sac or Ridge View and keeping its own PK through eighth grade. Downside, the district could lose a lot of students to open enrollment and have limited use of its facility.
• Dissolve parts of the district by sending certain grades to certain districts. For example: high school students east of a designated line would go to East Sac and students west of the line would go to BC-IG. Ouelette stressed if the district gives up those rights, they could never have those grades back.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Ouelette. The whole scenario is contingent on the bond passing and, even if it passes, BC-IG wouldn’t be ready to change the configuration until fall 2017. If the bond fails, BC-IG could decide to go with something else.

“I feel the earliest would be two and a half to three years out. I’ve talked to Rick Franck (each district’s attorney), and he indicated he might recuse himself from the situation. He told me, “We’re in uncharted waters.”

Ouelette said things for the board to consider are how is it going to affect our kids, both districts need to share positions, what are the financial conditions of other districts, what about the long-term use of this building and what is the quality of other facilities for our kids?

“They want us to give up two more grades. If they tell you one thing to your face and do something else, you lose your trust,” said Traci Bengford.

Joey Hoefling said, “We lose all the middle school activities. I think we have to be proactive versus reactive. I think we have to open the sharing agreement and look at all our options. We’ve told them how we felt about moving the middle school, and they went this way anyway. It feels like no one listens to us.

“We’ve had those conversations, and they went ahead and went against our wishes. How do you call that sharing; how do you have a win-win situation? We have spoken our piece, and they don’t care. Do we lay down and let them run all over us? We need to look at all our options. We started these conversations in February, and it’s gone downhill since then.”

Ouelette said, “We need to have an open dialog, or it forces negativity between the boards. If you choose to share with someone else, you have a lot of unknowns. The hand has been pushed. They can’t go to the voters without having plans drawn up—it’s kind of like the chicken and egg—which comes first? They’ll be looking at a 20-year payment plan if it passes. Maybe we should have looked at a reorganization vote first.”

Ouelette continued, “If keeping it the way it is isn’t an option, then you need to weigh in: is having the fourth through sixth over here and seventh-12th over there better than sharing with someone else? There are so many other issues and variables before it even gets to a vote. I think we need to bring in a marriage counselor because the two sides are locked. I don’t think terminating the whole-grade sharing agreement is the way to go. We need to find out the driving force behind this.”

“Consolidation isn’t going to happen now and possibly not for a very long time. If we say we like the agreement as is, there’s going to be a standoff. I don’t think the community would support moving the middle school out, so how do we as board members support that option when it’s against what our people want?” said Paul Neumann.

As far as activities, Neumann said he felt high school sports should be at the high school. He also commented that, if the district were to go into debt, he’d rather do it for an educational purpose versus a wrestling room.

Others commented that moving sports back and forth between the facilities would be confusing for everyone.

“They’ve forced the issue. We’ve told them what we prefer,” said Pat Hoefling.

“I want to know what are the nonnegotiable items? What is your issue? It’s the same education in each building; do you think your kids are coming to the slums? This is the third time we’ve been asked this,” said Naomi Lozier.

Former O-A board member Deb Bengford sat in the meeting, and board members asked for input from her. She said, “I think I have a feel for what the elementary staff thinks. If the BC-IG board feels a change is needed, what is the catalyst for the change? Why the change of heart when both boards wanted the middle school as sixth-eighth and now they’re moving the sixth grade to elementary?
“I’m also thinking of all the chaos. People’s jobs, the kids and all the uncertainty that’s floating out there and felt in both districts. I think there’s a small group of people not being very thoughtful on how we’re trying to educate our kids.”

Another comment from the O-A board was, how long would it be before they want their grade schoolers back? A year?

“O-A doesn’t have the ability to be on their own (PK-12). BC-IG wouldn’t have enough room for their middle school and high school students if the whole-grade sharing agreement is dissolved, they wouldn’t be able to have the classes they do or the higher qualified teachers. Even the elementary schools won’t be the same. Nothing in either district would look the same,” said Ouelette.

The next joint board meeting is Monday, Sept. 8, in Ida Grove.

Former Odebolt man sentenced

Matthew Gritten, 42, of Albert City, formerly of Odebolt, was sentenced to two, 10-year prison terms Aug. 18 in Pocahontas District Court, according to information on the Iowa Courts Online website.

Gritten was arrested on Jan. 24 and charged with two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of lascivious acts with a child.

Gritten was sentenced to two, 10-year prison terms on the counts of lascivious acts with a child. The prison terms are to run concurrent with credit given for time served. He was also fined $1,000 plus 35 percent on each count and ordered into the sex offender program. A no-contact order remains in effect until further notice.

Area driver’s license locations
  • Ida Grove—Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a. m. to 4 p. m. at the courthouse.
  • Sac City—Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:30 a. m. to 4 p. m. at the courthouse.
  • Storm Lake—Monday through Friday, 8:30 a. m. to 4 p. m. at courthouse.
  • Carroll—Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.; and Saturday, 8 a. m. to 1 p. m. at 510 N. Carroll St., Suite 1.
  • Cherokee—Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a. m. to 4 p. m., and Tuesday, 8:30 a. m. to 4 p. m., courthouse.
All testing needs to start no later than one hour before closing.

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