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01-12-06 Poll no help in reorganizing St. Marys school

By Janie Southard

  St. MARYS -- Grade-level schools versus neighborhood schools? The survey says parents who responded are split 50/50. School board says table the matter until more ducks are in place.

  At the beginning of the school year, the board of education requested a committee be formed to study the concept of reorganizing the district's elementary schools and submit a final report in January.

  The concept was first discussed several years ago while the district was involved in designing a new school campus. But voters did not pass the necessary levy to proceed with the new school.

  The master plan, if approved, says elementary students would be placed in schools centered on grade levels rather than in the current neighborhood schools containing multi grades. East school would become grades kindergarten through third, and West would become fourth through sixth grades.

  Results of the recent survey to parents asking their opinions on a number of questions revealed at least two stumbling blocks: 1.) responders were almost equally divided on the issue and neither concept was clearly preferred, and 2.) only 10 percent of those surveyed responded.  "I guess we're left wondering if that 90 percent just don't care or if they didn't have time to complete the survey," Superintendent Ken Baker observed during Wednesday's board of education meeting.

Elementary Principals Lisa Elson and Sue Sherman, co-chairs of the committee of 28, noted the survey did not contain a point-blank question as to parents' preference.

"It wasn't difficult to know their preference just by their comments," Sherman said.

Baker said the results showed everyone (responding) had a vested interest and had their own little piece of concern.

Following discussion, board members unanimously decided to table the matter while they collect more information about the district's spot with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the state's $27 billion project to renovate or construct new school buildings throughout the state.

  Baker learned in November that OSFC is progressing faster than expected with building projects. He informed board members at the November meeting that the St. Marys district has moved up significantly in project time slots.

  Originally scheduled for OSFC attention in 2012, the district has likely moved up to 2008, which puts no small pressure on the district to get their ducks in a row.

  The board will meet 8 p.m. Jan. 28 for a work session, which will include OSFC representatives as well as architects.

  A work session also is set for 7:30 a.m. Jan. 31 for a tour of district buildings to examine requests for permanent improvements.

  The board adjourned into executive session for the purpose of personnel evaluation with no action taken.

  In the organizational meeting preceding the regular meeting, board members Rees McKee and Craig Gottschalk were sworn in as board president and vice president, respectively. New board members Lisa Tobin and Ralph Wiley also were sworn in.

  New board member Eric Langsdon did not attend the meeting as he was out of the country on business. He earlier informed Baker he expects to attend the work session.


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