CLARK COUNTY — West Clark Community Schools board will not seek a petition to finalize the separation plan, but instead will let voters decide in the May Primary election.
Board President Doug Coffman said a lot of that decision has to do with the timing of the holidays and only having 80 days at this point to get 13,000 signatures.
“I like the idea of a petition, because it gave you a good barometer on how the issue is publicly, but at the same time I don’t think we would have gathered enough signatures,” Coffman said. “So, I think it would have been a massive effort for that one benefit.”
The district recently was approved by the state to seek separation into two school districts, Silver Creek Community School Corp. and Borden/Henryville School Corp. The first of its kind in the state, the district started pursuing the separation after a failed $95 million referendum in November 2017.
If the majority of voters in May agree with the separation, the existing school board will dissipate and two new school boards will take over, Coffman explained.
“There’s a lot of people from a teacher standpoint, asking what about my job, do I have to re-apply, do I lose my seniority. Those are decisions this board can’t make, because there will be a new board,” Coffman said. “We wanted to communicate what our intent was. We’re not wanting to harm anyone.”
So during the school board meeting last week, the board had a first reading of a resolution, requesting the new board to honor seniority, not make teachers who are labeled as efficient or better re-apply for their jobs and more. The board is expected to vote to pass the resolution at its next meeting.
“This is what our intentions were. We’re hoping they agree with those, but they may not. But I think they will,” Coffman said. “The intention is for each community to be able to have more of a say so in their future.”
Coffman said the initial new boards will be selected by the local town trustees. There will be 5 appointed members for each new district, with about half of those on a 2-year term and the rest on a 4-year term. After those terms end, those positions will be elected seats, all having 4-year terms. He said existing school board members may be asked to fill those roles.
He said the appointed members are expected to be announced in January. At which point, he hopes to have those new appointees shadow the existing West Clark board to see how the board operates. He said if the May vote is in favor of the separation, at that time the West Clark board will dissolve and the new boards will be ready to take over.
“We’re looking for this to be as smooth as possible,” Coffman said.
He said misinformation is already spreading on social media and people are answering questions the board has never addressed. To help inform the public, Coffman said the district will be posting a question-and-answer section on the West Clark website, with a place for people to submit questions. All questions will be answered by a consensus of the existing school board.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at Henryville High School.