(Editor's note: The following was submitted to the Chronicle Times as a letter to the editor. Because of its importance to both communities, the Chronicle Times editor assigned it Page 1 priority.)
On Monday, October 5, the Cherokee Board of Education will conduct its monthly Management Team Meeting. The topic of the meeting will be the discussion of a whole grade sharing proposal with the Aurelia Community School District.
Prior to that meeting, the Cherokee Board of Education feels that it is important to share the facts surrounding the proposal with the communities of Cherokee and Aurelia.
For the past several years, the Cherokee CSD and the Aurelia CSD have conducted several joint board meetings to discuss what a future sharing proposal would look like. These conversations have been fruitful and in the last four years, a proposal has emerged that is predicated on the idea that a sharing agreement should maximize the educational opportunities for the students of Aurelia and Cherokee through the sound exercise of fiduciary responsibility.
In July of 2007, the Cherokee Board of Education published the fundamentals of the proposed sharing agreement. Since the publication of that letter, representatives of the Aurelia and Cherokee Boards and administration have continued to meet and refine this proposal. While there is still room for collaboration, the basic tenants of the proposal include the following concepts:
The Aurelia Board of Education has expressed the desire to retain a school in Aurelia. The Cherokee Board has always supported this thought and has designed its sharing proposal in such a manner that it will allow for a strong, vibrant, and financially sound Aurelia school. The Aurelia Board feels that a K-8 district would best serve the needs in a Cherokee/Aurelia sharing agreement and the Cherokee Board concurs.
The Aurelia Community School District would maintain a K-8 program independent of the Cherokee Community School District. The Aurelia Board and administration would be the sole governing authorities of this program. The Cherokee Community School District feels it is in its own best interest to have the Aurelia CSD maintain its own program for as many grades as is financially feasible. Investing in excellent educational programming at the K-8 level and allowing students the opportunity to begin school in closer proximity to their homes will only contribute to the success that Aurelia students will experience when they transition into Washington High School.
For each student in grades 9-12 that the Aurelia CSD sends to Cherokee, the Aurelia CSD would retain a suggested 10% of the district cost per pupil. The dollars retained by Aurelia could be used to provide for transportation costs and above all, strengthen the Aurelia K-8 program and maintain strong spending authority for the Aurelia CSD.
The name of the school has not been formally discussed between the boards of Aurelia and Cherokee. Since the Aurelia CSD will remain an entity independent of the Cherokee CSD, the name of the school in question is obviously the high school which will serve Aurelia students. The high school serving the Cherokee CSD is unique in that its identity lies not with the community, but rather with our first president. Washington High School is the identity of the school and that would remain. However, the board is not adverse to referring to it as "Washington High School of Cherokee/Aurelia" for the near future.
The Cherokee CSD has offered that middle school students of the Aurelia CSD participate in the extracurricular program of Cherokee Middle School at no cost to the Aurelia CSD other than transportation between Aurelia and Cherokee. The Cherokee CSD is open to holding some Middle School extracurricular contests in Aurelia.
Representatives of the Aurelia and Cherokee Board and administration met in August and discussed the possibility of retaining the faculty of Aurelia High School at Washington High School. The Cherokee Board certainly empathizes with the desire to retain staff and is committed towards creating a mechanism which would maximize the hiring of Aurelia High School Staff when it is financially feasible. During tumultuous economic times in which state tax revenues continue to plummet, enrollment for all area schools is forecast to decline, and allowable growth erodes, it is simply irresponsible for any school district to promise full employment to its staff. All area districts have reduced faculty, administration, and programming in order to meet existing economic challenges. Yet, the Cherokee CSD has pledged to work with the Aurelia CSD to assimilate Aurelia teachers to the greatest extent possible and responsible.
The whole grade sharing agreement shall be in effect for 10 years.
As discussed in the July 2007 publication, the Cherokee Community School District believes that a sharing agreement with Aurelia is mutually beneficial for the following reasons:
Educational opportunities for the students of both districts will be maximized through a diverse curriculum. Having a Western Iowa Tech Community College campus in Cherokee allows the Washington High School students of Cherokee/Aurelia the opportunity to take post-secondary courses during the instructional day without having to leave the community.
A sharing agreement promotes efficiency by reducing administrative and other personnel costs and maximizes the use of dollars for core educational purposes. The Aurelia CSD will retain a portion of the district cost per pupil which will only benefit the students of Aurelia's K-8 system.
The Cherokee Community School District would be able to maintain present levels of programming that would benefit students of both districts without having to make program reductions.
Both districts would be serving students in the same county and Northwest Area Education Agency.
Extensive ties already exist between the students of Aurelia and Cherokee through involvement in a variety of youth, community, and church activities.
The Cherokee Board of Education believes that a sharing agreement that serves the high school students of Aurelia is an arrangement that strengthens the educational programming of both school districts through the sound use of scarce resources. The Cherokee CSD is committed towards the continuance of excellence in educational programming in Cherokee County and feels that a partnership between the Aurelia CSD and the Cherokee CSD will only serve to fulfill that ideal.