By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A petition to dissolve the Dodds Grade School district and annex into the Ina Grade School district could be filed by the end of this month.
“I’m not sure the board has made a commitment. We’re trying to get public input on what the community would like to see,” said Board President Rodney Martin. “I don’t want to send a message that we’ve already made a decision and we’re just seeking the community’s support. We’re having these meetings hoping the public will engage.”
“We want to make sure the community is aware of what the actual steps we have to go through with the dissolution and also how it will benefit the kids here, and for them to ask questions,” said Dodds School Superintendent Craig Clark.
A community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24 for community members to voice their opinion about the possible dissolution of the District.
The Dodds Grade School Board of Education will conduct its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 when a decision is likely to be made to consider annexing into the Ina Grade School District.
A similar public meeting in June garnered only 11 community members.
“I think the turnout we’ve had sends us a message,” Clark said. “It would make the decision easier to have some input.”
The first step in the dissolution is to present a petition to the Regional Board of Trustees, a seven-member committee of community members from Jefferson and Hamilton counties. After the petition is filed, the Board has between 50 to 70 days to conduct a public hearing.
Following the public hearing the Board has 10 days to render a decision on the dissolution and annexation petition. There is also a timeline for people who oppose the petition to appeal the decision.
“We’re probably looking at late April or early May before we know anything if our board files the petition after our meeting on the 28th,” Clark said. Clark and Martin said it will be a “challenge” to make the transition into the Ina district by the 2014-2015 school year, although the schools have begun that process. The sports teams have already been consolidated.
“I’m very confident the Regional Board will follow the recommendations of the petition we will present,” Clark said.
“I have no idea how they (trustees) will respond, but they very rarely go against the choice of the school district themselves,” said Jefferson-Hamilton counties ROE Ron Daniels. “I will work with them in any decision they make as a local body, as well as the parents of their community.”
Dodds currently has 132 pupils; Ina’s enrollment is a little over 100. As a result of a state study conducted by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, and legislation approved, districts with an enrollment of 750 and under can petition for consolidation and receive state incentives.
Clark said if the dissolution and annexation occurs, the Ina district would be given approximately $1,374,240 from the state in incentive money over a four-year period.
“That money and dissolving will allow us to staff the building like we used to, and provide many activities that we currently do not offer to our students,” Clark said, noting those activities could include a music program, art, drama, technology classes, student council, Beta Club, school newspaper, and a full time nurse.
Additionally, all teaching staff will be retained automatically under contract negotiations; and Clark’s contract — which runs through 2005 — will have to be honored by the Ina district. Clark’s wife, Monte Jo, is the superintendent of the Ina School district.
Clark said both buildings will have to remain open due to enrollment numbers.
“The board is in agreement long term the dissolving of this district is the best thing for the kids,” Martin said. “The intent is to seize the opportunity while it still exists. Funding will eventually either be greatly reduced or non-existent. The intent is to develop a scenario where the kids drive the curriculum instead of funding.”
In April, a referendum was on the ballot that would’ve consolidated the Opdyke-Belle Rive, Ina and Dodds districts, however, it failed in the OBR area. It needed to pass in all three districts. Since that time, officials in the OBR district took action to close the Belle Rive attendance center and send all pupils to the Opdyke attendance center, making it a pre-K through eighth grade attendance center.