Oakland-Craig Holds Public Meeting on Consolidation

By Brian Depew, Lyons Resident

Can also be viewed at burtcountyschool.com

More than 175 people gathered in the Oakland-Craig gymnasium this evening to hear a presentation on the prospects of a Burt County School. The meeting opened with a statement that the meeting was being held to seek the public’s input on possible consolidation ahead of any decisions and that presenters had no planned agenda.

However, the presentation and framing of key questions all leaned heavily in favor of consolidation. Attendees who were members of the Oakland-Craig district were offered handheld clickers that they used to weigh in on a series of questions throughout the evening. For instance, residents were asked “What level of trust to you have in your board to make the right decision for the community.” 40% of those responding with clickers stated they had “full trust” in the board. 60% stated they had either “partial trust” or “no trust” in the board. Not all residents picked up a clicker to vote.

Oakland-Craig Superintendent Joe Peitzmeier reviewed the several-year process the Oakland-Craig district has been involved in including consolidation discussions with Logan View and West Point. Numbers were presented by DA Davidson, the bonding agency hired by the three boards. New bonded debt for the total project is estimated to be $56,370,000. This includes elementary projects in Tekamah and Lyons and demolition costs in all three towns with school facilities.

With absorption of a portion of the Oakland-Craig debt, total debt of a Burt County district would be $61,213,500. Oakland-Craig would retain $2 million of their existing debt, costing Oakland-Craig taxpayers an additional 3.3 cents on their levy above what other district residents would pay. One patron asked each board member to state whether they were in favor of consolidation and why or why not. 7 of the 9 board members gave answers that boiled down to yes. 5 were strong yeses and 2 were slightly hedged. Gus Ray was the only Board member to firmly say he was opposed to consolidation.

He was also the only Board member to offer an alternative articulation of the future for Oakland-Craig throughout the evening. Later two patrons pointed out that the Board had opened the meeting indicating they were there to get public input into how to proceed, but that a majority of them had clearly already made up their mind in favor. The final question the audience was polled on was for options to proceed.

Three choices were offered by Jim French, representative of DLR Group, the architect engaged by the boards to assist with the process. He framed the question on his slide as: (A) Do Nothing (B) Consolidate (C) Other Perhaps sensing a fair amount of skepticism in the room, in reading the question off ahead of the vote, French said, “Voting for consolidation doesn’t necessarily mean you are for it.

It means you want your Board to keep talking to find out more information.” With this framing of the question, a slim majority, or 53% of those voting, indicated their preference was for the Board to continue the discussions. 47% voted for “do nothing” or “other.” Framing the final question of the evening as “do nothing” being offered as the alternative to “consolidate” did not actively offer patrons a chance to vote for other sensible options such as sharing teachers, co-oping activities, sharing classes or curriculum, etc. Patrons interested in such options could vote for “other.”

The meeting adjourned at 9:40pm.

Kats’ Korner, School Merging

Everywhere I go, people ask me what I think about the school merger. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t made a decision one way or the other.

I would first like to commend all of the school board members involved in this very serious situation.

It can’t be easy. There are so many issues involved, and above all, so many people.

The number one concern, in my opinion, is what is best for the children. They should be the main focus.

Do we need to merge? I believe at some point, yes we will. Schools haven’t received as much financial aid from the state as they had in the past. This could cause more problems in the future. One thing to understand is, one school districts finances are different from another’s.

One question that has been asked of me is how this will affect everyone’s taxes. I do not have a definite answer. I recommend contacting a school board member for an answer to that question. I know this has been of concern to many.

People in the Oakland-Craig School District have voiced many concerns because of the district adding onto the elementary school. A bond was previously voted in to do so before the schools merging became an issue, which raised taxes. Many people are concerned about this happening again.

I understand your concerns. The best advice I have is to contact your school board members with your concerns, attend school board meetings and the public meetings in the future.

If it were on the ballot today, how would you vote? I am still undecided.

I will decide as time passes and more information becomes available. I trust in the school board members to do what is right for the children. That is their job and I believe they all are taking it very seriously.


——————————————-Kats’ Korner———————————————-

I am sure everyone can recall a winter worse than this one, but can you recall one with more bizarre weather?

Last Sunday was just beautiful. How unusual is it to have 60-degree weather in January? People were out soaking it in, enjoying the day.

It was a good thing too, because the wind and cold came back. It is so odd to have so many very cold, windy days, along with bursts of snow that looked like a blizzard! At least the snow only lasted a few minutes.

I wonder what will happen on ground hogs day? I hope spring will be coming soon!


shivering in the cold—————————————–Kats’ Korner————————————————

This has been a very busy month. I have had many things come up unexpectedly. I am trying to get my life balanced better as issues with city council come up and take time. I love every minute of it and it is a great learning experience.

I am hoping to get my feet firmly placed on the ground in the next week or so, as I believe things will be more settled down. At least, that is my hope!!

Have a great day.

Let us remember, each day is a gift. Never wish it to hurry up!

Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

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