By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Annexation of the Dodds Grade School district into the Ina district is the most likely option school officials will seek after a failed referendum prevented consolidation of several Jefferson County districts.
Rodney Martin, president of the Dodds Grade School district, insists that school officials will do what’s best for the children.
“We will give our kids a better, quality education with more opportunities, regardless of the outcome,” Martin said Thursday. “We are still considering all of our options, but the option at the top of the list is to annex into the Ina district. We would still be able to take advantage of all the state incentives and we would still be acting upon the voters’ wishes as both districts voted to consolidate.”
Martin said the districts would be given approximately $1.4 million over a four-year period from the state if the annexation takes place.
The referendum in April would’ve consolidated the Opdyke-Belle Rive, Ina and Dodds district, however, it failed in the OBR area. It needed to pass in all three districts. Since that time, officials in the OBR district have taken action to send pupils from Belle Rive to Opdyke next school year, making it a pre-K through eighth grade attendance center.
“I want to emphasize Dodds Grade School will be open next school year,” Martin said, noting rumors have been circulating to the contrary.
“I think it’s been a little exaggerated as to the extent of what problems we have,” said Superintendent Craig Clark. “I’m not going to lie; we have some financial hurdles to get over but the Board has worked hard over the last 6 to 8 months to implement some cuts. We’re also sharing some things with Ina from all of our sports next year, and pending contract negotiations with our teachers, we’ll be ready to go on Aug. 14 when school starts.” The two districts have had a cooperative agreement for girls’ sports in the past, but starting next year, the boys’ will also have joint teams.
The District has had a reduction in force of three teachers and four aides, although Clark said he 99.9 percent sure some of those aides will be recalled. The District also terminated a nursing position.
He added, “The fact we’re looking at these other options is not necessarily based on the fact we’re going to close but on what opportunities can we give our kids. We can remain open and function, but the problem is, is somewhat at the kids’ expense when it comes to all the extra things the kids need and need to enjoy when they’re in school. By looking into annexing, we’ll be able have art and music and all the extra programs we don’t have now because of all the cuts we’ve had to make.”
“The Board’s objective has been to reach a point where the kids grow the curriculum instead of funding driving the curriculum,” Martin added. “That’s one reason why Dodds engaged in consolidation. We want to address the overachievers and the underachievers.”
The Dodds district had a $1.4 million operating budget five years ago, but over $500,000 has been cut in state aid funding.
“This year, with the state saying they’re going to fund 82 percent, that’s substantial,” Clark said. “We’re on the upswing in enrollment. We’re up 20 kids since the feasibility study was done. We may not see the benefit of that this year, but next year we will, which will increase our funding.”
Clark added that if the state reduces state funding to 82 percent levels, the District is likely to lose a minimum of $70,000. The District has lost approximately $250,000 in state aid funding over the last three years.
In order for annexation to occur, a public hearing is required. The Dodds Board of Education would then petition to the Regional Superintendent of Schools’ Board of Trustees to dissolve the district. Clark estimated from start to finish the process will take approximately 70 to 75 days.
“We don’t think it’s possible until the 2014-2015 school year,” he said.