Merger still possible at Emery, Bridgewater
As patrons in the Emery and Bridgewater school districts discuss consolidation, the superintendent of a newly consolidated school says such in-depth and continued talks are a good thing because it's important to have everyone's support before mov...
As patrons in the Emery and Bridgewater school districts discuss consolidation, the superintendent of a newly consolidated school says such in-depth and continued talks are a good thing because it's important to have everyone's support before moving forward.
Platte and Geddes are a little more than three months into their first year as a consolidated district. The merger came after many months of talks, meetings and planning.
And while Superintendent Tony Glass said the process at times was arduous, "if you rush it, it's not going to happen."
"The consolidation will happen only when both communities are ready for it," he said.
Emery and Bridgewater have been in talks for more than a year. This week, Jason Bailey, the superintendent of both schools, said the consolidation plan is in "discussion stages." No committees have been set up, but school board members from both towns are working to gather information that will later be submitted to the state.
Bailey is tentatively planning to have a vote for consolidation toward the end of 2008.
"What we're kind of thinking is that the vote will be sometime around September or October, if things go as we hope," he said. "We're starting to prepare."
Bailey said the plan, which will be submitted to the state upon completion, must contain steps required for the consolidation, including reorganization, timelines, maps, land area, bus routes, Census statistics, budgets, facilities and other vital information.
Glass acknowledged the sometimes tedious nature of the consolidation process. For him, the most difficult part of combining two school districts was rearranging staff members. He estimated between five to eight teachers did not have positions available after the consolidation.
"Some took early retirement and some did not want to transfer," he said. "There were some very good teachers that we couldn't place."
While it was difficult to see some staff members go, Glass said the consolidation has been a positive for the schools. Students are able to take classes dealing with employability and ACT preparation as part of a curriculum that Glass said would not be available had the schools not consolidated.
"We're able to offer more electives for the students," he said. "The quality of both staffs (has) really just upgraded."
As enrollment in many small schools across the state continue to decline, Glass said he expects to see more consolidation in South Dakota's future.
"I think it will be something that we're going to have to struggle with in South Dakota with education for a long time to come," he said.