After two years of discussions, public forums, more than 600 signatures and a unanimous vote of the Green Hills Area Education Association Board of Directors last Monday, the Nishna Valley and Malvern School Districts will put the matter of their proposed reorganization into one district to a public vote on Dec. 7.
The AEA board met with representatives from both districts at a public hearing last Monday at the Indian Creek Historical Museum. More than 50 people turned out to hear the details of the plan that would have the two districts, which have had a whole-grade sharing plan in effect for the last four years, officially merge as the East Mills Community School District.
If a simple majority of voters in each of the two districts approve the measure on Dec. 7, the plan would go into effect July 1, 2011.
No formal objections to the petition were filed with the AEA prior to the Aug. 23 deadline.
A committee comprised of board members from both districts, parents and district residents held public forums over the last two years to gather input on combining into one district. Katie Lewis, chairperson of the reorganization committee, said at Monday’s hearing most of the comments her committee heard were in favor of reorganization. A straw poll the committee took at public forums in Henderson, Malvern, Nishna Valley and Emerson in March found overwhelming support.
“People said they liked the plan and they wanted us to put it to a public vote,” she said.
After recommending to both boards the reorganization would be in the best interest of the districts, 659 signatures were gathered in support of the plan and submitted to the AEA.
The proposal calls for no closings of buildings in either district. Under the new plan, the district would have two elementary schools with pre-kindergarten through fourth graders attending either the existing Nishna Valley Elementary School or Chantry Elementary in Malvern. Fifth through eighth grade would still attend East Mills Middle School at Nishna Valley, while Malvern would still house East Mills High School.
The new combined district would also have one school board, made up of three residents in the Malvern area and two from the Nishna Valley area.
Under Iowa code, the AEA board does not decide merits of the plan, rather it determines if the plan can be put to a public vote.
All eight regional board members present at the hearing voted in favor of bringing the plan to a public vote.
Rick Engel, a Des Moines attorney assisting the districts in the reorganization plan, said Malvern and Nishna Valley’s past working relationship, which includes a four-year old whole-grade sharing agreement and some class and sports program sharing as far back as 1992, “demonstrated compatibility that bodes well for a reorganized district.”
Bill Crilly, superintendent at Nishna Valley, said in addition to the curriculum improvements, the reorganization allows, combining as one district also offers financial advantages. Crilly said combing as one district will save $215,000 next year with elimination of staff redundancy at the two districts.
“There won’t have to be two superintendents, two board secretaries, two transportation directors, and what-not with one district,” said Crilly, in his third year as Nishna Valley’s superintendent.
A savings of more than $200,000 over three years will also come in the form of state tax breaks for districts that reorganize, meaning the district could save a total of more than $415,000 in the first three years of reorganization.