By a margin of nearly 6-to-1, voters in the Malvern and Nishna Valley Community School Districts approved a reorganization plan that will have the two districts merging as the East Mills School District next July.
The special election, held last Tuesday at the Malvern Public Library and the Indian Creek Historical Museum, saw 483 votes cast, or about 19.2 percent of registered voters. The tally of votes between the two districts saw 413 in favor of reorganization and 70 against. Of the 283 votes cast in the Malvern district, 263 voted yes. The number of no votes was slightly higher in Nishna Valley, with 50 of 200 votes cast against the measure.
Pete Franks, president of the Nishna Valley School board said he wasn’t at all surprised by the overwhelming favor of yes votes in either district.
“We certainly didn’t do any political polling or anything like that and we didn’t know quite what to expect, but I think most of us had a pretty strong suspicion this would pass,” Franks said. “And that’s simply because we didn’t hear much opposition organized or otherwise, during the reorganization’s public hearings.”
The official merger of the two districts will occur on July 1, 2011.
Tuesday’s vote culminated nearly a year of discussion between administrators, board members, instructors, parents and voters in both districts on reorganization options.
As both a parent of two students in the Nishna Valley district and a board member, Franks was supportive of the reorganization.
“It is in the best interest of the students and it gives us the ability as a district, whether it be in whole-grade sharing or a reorganized district, to improve with this being a permanent arrangement,” Franks said. “With me speaking as board president, I think I’m allowed to say our board supported and recognized the work of the reorganization committee and passed a resolution supporting their recommendation and urged voters to do the same.”
Malvern School Board President Susan Stogdill said she was pleased with the result of the vote. She supported the reorganization resolution and she too wasn’t surprised by the voting margin.
“I think the community reorganization committee did a wonderful job informing people and I think this is the best for the kids,” she said. “I think most people had an opportunity to voice their questions ahead of time and the fact that we had done whole-grade sharing gave people a preview of what this might look like with reorganization.”
Nishna Valley and Malvern are currently in the fourth year of a whole-grade sharing agreement that has fifth through eighth graders attending classes at Nishna Valley and high schoolers in Malvern with each district maintaining their own school board and superintendent.
William Crilly, superintendent of the Nishna Valley School District, has said the new district could save as much as $400,000 in expenditures and tax breaks over the first three years of the reorganization. The reorganization will also allow the new district to improve curriculum and class offerings, he said.
Franks points to the students’ opinions themselves as a prime example of the measure’s community approval. A student attitude survey conducted last year concluded students in each district favored making the whole-grade sharing agreement a permanent arrangement.
“It was an exhaustive report but the real bottom line was the students said, ‘We think this is good, we don’t see any reason to go back to the way things used to be,’” said Franks. “And I think a lot of voters that were on the fence read that or heard about that data concerning reorganization and they figured, if this is working well and we’re not hearing a lot of negative commentary, then why wouldn’t we listen to those who this affects the most.”
Stogdill said the next step is the mountain of paperwork the two districts must complete to formally complete the reorganization process. She doesn’t think students will see much of a difference at all.
“We just want to get everything lined up so it’s a smooth transition come July 1,” she said,
One superintendent and one school board will serve the new district. The provisional East Mills board will be comprised of two appointees from the current Nishna Valley board and three from the current Malvern board. Franks said the two boards would be meeting this week to select their representatives to the provisional East Mills board.