The meeting started with a 45-minute presentation over the ICN Network by Maple Valley/Anthon-Oto Superintendent Dr. Steve Oberg and some of his School Board members. MVAO has been operating as a shared district for 16 years with two school boards, one in Maple Valley and the other in Anthon-Oto.
The communities have put the issue of consolidation on the ballot on a couple of occasions, but have failed to get enough votes to pass the issue, so they have continued as a shared district for 16 years, and from their report they have experienced a minimal number of problems in this arrangement. When the floor was open for questions from the Alta and Aurelia contingents, one of the recommendations made by Dr. Oberg, based on the MVAO experience, was that the Aurelia and Alta Boards have joint board meetings on a fairly regular (monthly, for example) basis to better ensure a consistent message to their communities.
A general discussion followed the ICN presentation. Since this meeting was a workshop, no voting action could be taken, but the Boards did go over some of the proposals for sharing and the proposed sharing agreements. Both the Whole-Grade Sharing and Athletic Sharing contracts as proposed are currently with the school attorneys for each district for a review of contract language and possible suggestions for re-wording or revisions of the proposals.
The Boards were in unanimous agreement that they need to maintain a frequent and open line of communication with each other to make sure both Boards and Districts are "on the same page."
A decision was made for the administrators of each district to appoint a group of students to meet and present suggestions or recommendations on school colors and mascots to the Boards, and a suggestion was made to have this group have representation from both district's student bodies, so that the students will feel some ownership of these decisions. The student bodies will not vote on these issues, though. The final decision will come from the Boards of Education.
The consensus recommendations for the Boards' next steps were to first take care of the sports sharing issues and "get those out of the way," and then to work out academic matters such as shared curriculums, school calendars and professional development plans.
The feeling was expressed that next year's "transition year" might present an opportunity to also do some staff sharing , and perhaps establish a common Master Contract for the staffs of both districts. The Aurelia staff has never had collective bargaining and a true "master contract," and Aurelia Superintendent Lynn Evans pointed out that their success at producing a contract whose pay scales are very similar to those of other schools indicates that it can be done without a collective bargaining process.
Both Boards felt that a possible early step in the athletic sharing, in light of current economic conditions, might be using the current uniforms of both districts, which are in very good condition, until the scheduled time to replace uniforms arises. To do otherwise, they felt, would be "fiscally irresponsible."
Doing this would bring about a situation similar to the one involving the Galva-Holstein/Schaller-Crestland sharing, where the districts have agreed on a new name and mascot for the District's sports teams and a timetable for moving into the sharing, but are currently using both the Galva-Holstein and Schaller-Crestland uniforms.
Again, these are all just possibilities that have been discussed. The administrators, Athletic Directors and others in both districts will continue meeting to "hammer out" final proposals for the Boards to consider.
The IHSAA has been notified of Alta and Aurelia's intent to share because of the football re-districting that is currently being done. Other sports' intentions will need to be submitted to the state by April 1, 2010.
There was a very positive and cooperative spirit in the room Wednesday night, and both Boards, as well as teachers and coaches in both Districts, are eager to get things moving as far as the sharing goes.