Greene Co, P-C look to improve communication, sharing

No interest from P-C in a countywide district

The Greene County and Paton-Churdan boards of education set the groundwork for improving communication at a joint meeting Nov. 30 at the school in Churdan.

P-C superintendent Kreg Lensch set the tone for the meeting, saying meeting together in “healthy for both districts.”

By consensus, the boards agreed to hold two joint meetings each year. “If we’re going to meet, let’s put it on the calendar and meet no matter what. It’s an opportunity to communicate, to build relationship, and ask what opportunities there are,” Greene County superintendent Tim Christensen said.

“That keeps people from wondering what’s up, if meeting together is just what we do,” Lensch added.

A subcommittee with two persons from each board will meet during the summer and the full board will meet each November. A committee meeting was set for June 28, 2017. Committee members weren’t named. The full boards will meet Nov. 29, 2017.

After about 15 minutes of useful but easy discussion, Greene County board member Ashley Johnston asked a more difficult question. “I hear a lot of community members wanting us to come together as soon as possible. I think the grand goal is to be a county-wide school, to all come together,” she said. “What are your thoughts on that?”

Denny Tilley, who is less than a year into a second stint on the P-C board, having served 10 or 12 years ago, answered first. “As long as we’re providing the best education possible to our kids, I don’t see any reason to be one Greene County school. I’m still a firm believer that small is better. There’s more one-on-one. When you get 40 kids in a class with one teacher or two teachers, it goes down hill,” Tilley said.

“I think that’s going to be pretty typical in every small town,” Lensch said. He is also superintendent for Glidden-Ralston, with P-C paying for one-fifth of his contract. “I don’t think it’s a thing where you hang on for as long as you can anymore,” according to Lensch. “Money isn’t the issue…. Schools don’t close for lack of money. They close for lack of kids…. “If and when that time comes, we’ll know it…”

Johnston later asked what students say about the current sharing agreement. P-C principal Annie Smith answered, “kids are resilient. Most are really happy right now with the way things are.”

Sharing more staff positions was also on the agenda for the meeting. Currently the two schools share media specialist Jenny Fisher. Lensch said that any staff sharing must be in the best interest of the students, not the finances of the districts.

P-C principal Annie Smith noted that right now, it’s unknown what teaching positions may be available next year. “If we look at this as a serious avenue we want to pursue, we can have some important conversations in the next couple of months,” she said.

The three administrators – Christensen, Lensch and Smith – agreed that in the future, they’ll consult with each other not only as openings develop, but as staff reductions are made as well. Lensch said P-C could be part of finding employment for Greene County classified employees whose positions are eliminated or reduced by the closure of the intermediate school.

Bryce Martin, a Greene County patron, asked about sports sharing. “When you split up the kids for some sports but not others, are you giving them the best opportunity?” he asked. “Are they having good experiences with teammates, a chance to win?”

Greene County and Paton-Churdan have shared programs for football, baseball and softball, but separate programs for other sports.

Tilley said that having students participate is more important than winning, and that he feared students would not go out for sports if all programs were shared. Greene County board member Mike Dennhardt told Tilley that winning matters. “People say that second place is OK, but when you go out to get a job, where does second place get you?” he asked.

Lensch said he has coached for 26 years and had teams that were 0-9 and teams that were 12-0. He said he loved the teams the same and that players on the 0-9 teams wouldn’t say they had less fun than those on the 12-0 teams. “To me, sports is an opportunity. As long as we can provide those opportunities, you’re going to win and you’re going to lose. That’s part of high school sports,” Lensch said. “I don’t think combining our athletics is going to make any difference in wins and losses.”

Smith agreed. “Our five year history proves that. We’ve had winning seasons of separate sports – winning basketball seasons and winning volleyball seasons. We’ve had great programs. Together, we’ve had great programs. But we’ve also had separate losing and combined losing seasons. I think it’s the kids. It’s a lot more than just our kids being together,” she said.

“It would be more difficult if they competed against each other when they’re separate. That would put an odd dynamic in it,” Lensch said.

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