Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 25, 2014

Dodds meeting draws crowd

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — When the Dodds Grade School Board of Education meets Tuesday, there is about a 50-50 chance it will approve dissolving the district and annexing into Ina Grade School District 8.

About 80 community members from the Dodds Grade School District attended a public informational meeting Friday night in the school gym — first hearing a presentation on the benefits of joining the Ina district, and then asking questions to Superintendent Craig Clark.

If there was a theme to be garnered from the meeting it is Dodds community members welcome thoughts from the Ina Board of Education on what their future plans are for the proposed annexed district.

It appears the Dodds board is not likely to rush into any decision at its meeting 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“It was our intent (to make a decision),” said Board President Rodney Martin. “We don’t want to hurry into anything, although I don’t think there will be any opposition to it. All we’ve done is cut. Our philosophy has been what can we do to survive. I want to do better than that. I don’t care if its underachievers, overachievers … we need the money to teach every child.”

“We are in a perfect storm,” Clark said. “We have declining enrollment and Springfield cut 11 percent of our state aid funding, plus we have an aging faculty.”

If the Dodds Board decides to dissolve and annex into the Ina district, a petition would be presented to the Regional Board of Trustees — under the

administrative arm of the Regional Superintendent of Schools — and that 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 petition. If 50 percent or more of the registered voters in the Dodds district oppose the petition, the annexation would not move forward, Clark said, adding the entire process will take about 90 days.

Regional Superintendent of Schools Ron Daniels has gone on record saying the trustees would likely approve the petition based on the wishes of the district.

During his presentation, Clark explained the Dodds district approved $150,000 in revenue bonds for its Education Fund to offset the budget; and $100,000 was taken from the Transportation Fund to pay bills last year. He said one teacher retired and three more were RIF’d (Reduction in Force) although one of those teachers was recalled following the retirement of another teacher. With kindergarten being the exception, teachers at Dodds are teaching two grades each. He said if the annexation takes place, he is confident Dodds will remain a K through 8 building next school year, and the district may be able to go back to single classes for each grade.

If the annexation petition is approved, the Ina district would receive approximately $1.4 million in incentive money from the state. The incentives are based on fund balances, state aid formulas and differences in salaries, Clark pointed out, plus the district will be given $4,000 per certified staff member.

“If we wait until next year, this will drop significantly,” Clark said. “This is another reason the board is looking at this option.”

The Dodds district could still consolidate, without annexation, into the Ina district. However, the earliest that could appear on a ballot is April 2015, according to Clark.