By JEROD CLAPP
Whether the town partners with them or not, the Clarksville Community Schools board of trustees said they’ll have a New Tech facility open in August of 2014.
The message from the board came at their Tuesday meeting after Clarksville Redevelopment Commission president Bob Popp made comments to WDRB last week about his concerns with taking students away from Greater Clark County Schools and asking that the Clarksville school corporation merge with the larger neighboring district.
The board sought the old Value City building in Clarksville as the site for the New Tech school — a project-based, problem-focused educational model — for a couple of years. Bill Wilson, board president, said the redevelopment board has thrown hurdles in the way of that plan in recent months.
Doug Wacker, board member, said he’s not sure why Popp made those comments, but also doesn’t understand why a partnership with the city has run into issues in the last three months or so.
“We just partnered up with our school resource officer in a wonderful partnership with town officials,” Wacker said. “But for some reason, this project seems different, and only in Mr. Popp’s mind. I don’t know what the difference is between partnering over school resource officers and bringing new educational opportunities to the citizens of Clarksville.”
The district planned on the town’s decision to partner with them by April 1. With that deadline expired, superintendent Kim Knott said the district’s administration has to move forward in seeking financing options for the facility and a number of deadlines coming up on May 1.
Bill Wilson, board president, said discussions with the town have largely been moving forward in the last few years on the New Tech project and the old Value City property.
Jim Bemiss, board member, said the unexpected comments from Popp were unwarranted, especially since neither the town council or redevelopment board he sits on have the authority to force a merger of the two districts.
“I can guarantee you that there’s nobody sitting up here that’s in favor of a merger with Greater Clark Schools. I don’t know that Greater Clark is interested in merging,” Bemiss said. “What I do know is that for some reason known only to Mr. Popp, he’s interested in merging.”
Bemiss said the district has made a lot of changes in the last four years, but no one on the board is interested in discussing a merger with Greater Clark County Schools.
“I, like everybody else, I think, was totally blindsided by Mr. Popp’s news conference, whatever,” Bemiss said. “We have an ‘A’ high school, we have financial stability, we have general stability. We bit the bullet three or four years ago to get to this point and it was painful, I can tell you it was painful. But because we did that, we’re in a position right now [that] I wouldn’t trade places with anybody.”
Wilson said in spite of the difficulties thrown at them from the redevelopment board, he thinks a decision will come soon.
“We are working to develop that and get through those [hurdles],” Wilson said. “I think maybe, we’ve made a little bit of headway, I’m not sure. We won’t know until it comes to a vote and it’s got to come to a vote. We can’t get drug out forever. But I want to assure everyone we’re not looking at a merger. We’re here, we’re going to be here, we’re going to have New Tech, and if we can get the town, redevelopment to partner with us, it will provide a facility.”
Alan Bryant, a Clarksville resident, said he was also frustrated by Popp’s remarks and wants the him to butt out of discussions, including a merger.
“As a citizen of this town and having the corporation that we have, it just doesn’t make any sense to me why our town council is trying to budge and push into the business workings of our school corporation,” Bryant said. “I’m very upset.”
Wilson said he didn’t think the discussion on the New Tech facility was planned for Thursday’s redevelopment board meeting, but a special meeting should be called in the next two weeks.