Greene County broaches whole grade sharing at joint meeting with P-C board

Paton-Churdan superintendent Kreg Lensch agreed with Greene County superintendent Tim Christensen that communication has improved between the two districts, but a suggestion that P-C consider whole grade sharing at the high school level received a chilly reception when the two boards met Nov. 29.

An annual joint meeting of the boards is in the current sharing agreement. That clause was largely ignored until a year ago. Now, the boards hold a joint meeting in November and representatives of each board meet in May. Christensen said the meetings have been “positive and productive.”

Sid Jones and Chris Deal had been asked to present information about the proposed regional academy, and that was the first agenda item. Greene County board member Steve Fisher said the regional academy would affect P-C students as much, if not more than Greene County students, and that’s why he thought it was important for the P-C board to hear the presentation.

P-C principal Annie Smith called the regional academy “an amazing opportunity” but asked about alternatives should an April bond referendum fail. Greene County board member Sam Harding said there is no “Plan B” at this time.

With new members on both boards, Christensen and Lensch had prepared a handout about the current agreement. P-C now pays Greene County 90 percent of its state per student funding for each class hour its students are at Greene County. That totals about $137,000 per year. Both superintendents are now making an effort to maximize the number of shared teachers. This year, there are three teachers shared between the two districts; two of those are new hires. “It allows both districts to maintain quality programs,” Christensen said.

After conversation about improved communication, Greene County board president Mark Peters read a prepared letter. The first paragraph was about the regional academy proposal.

The letter continued, “We value our relationship with Paton-Churdan, and as we embark on this journey, Greene County Schools wants to ask Paton-Churdan for full support in this project, and we’d like Paton-Churdan to consider expanded sharing with Greene County Schools and to take full advantage of all the opportunities made possible by this project.”

Peters said, “failure is not an option,” referring to the proposal. “There are so many opportunities for our kids, and we just want to go forward and keep moving forward with our relationship and maybe expand that relationship,” Peters said.

Christensen said the “elephant in the room” is that the regional academy would teach high school students in the morning, but P-C students don’t arrive in Jefferson until mid-morning. He asked P-C to consider a change to that model.

“What it comes down to is that we’d love for you to consider sending high school here fulltime. I’d really encourage you to talk about it,” Peters said.

Fisher said it is important to do what is best for students, and also what is best for taxpayers. “We’ve got to do the best job we can spending the limited funds we have,” he said.

P-C board president David Palmer clarified that not all students would utilize the career academy, so little would change for them. Harding noted that the beginning courses in all career and technical education would still be taught at the high school. The academy would provide more advanced courses.

Lensch said he has spent his entire career in small schools, and that the element of local control and school boards representing their constituents is important. “Decisions are tough… I can say that the relationship we currently have works really well for us. I don’t see a lot of negatives on either side. It provides a great revenue stream for Greene County… and it provides our kids wonderful opportunities,” he said.

“Things like sharing, like whole grade sharing… you know when it’s time. You just do. You know when you’re not serving your kids like you should be serving your kids. When that time comes, the more positive this relationship is, the easier transition it is,” he said.
Lensch said that if a regional academy is built, “this board is going to have to look at it and say ‘What’s best for our kids’ and then make those decisions.”

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