All Eyes on Tekamah-Herman


By Brian Depew, Lyons Area Resident

At a special meeting on April 23, the Tekamah-Herman School Board decided they needed to hear more from the public about consolidation. Patrons had previously voted 70% to build a new school in Tekamah, but Board members voiced concern that those attending the public meeting were not a representative sample of the district.

To gather more input, the Board decided to mail a survey to registered votes in the district. The district hopes to have enough surveys returned ahead of their regular May 12, 2014 meeting to use the result to guide their decision. The board suggested that a 25-30% return rate would be sufficient and that they will proceed however the survey directs them.

My View on School Consolidation


I have been listening to everyone’s comments on school consolidation, and I have to say, I am appalled.

There is so much negativity in the community. The ones that support the issue are not as vocal. One local resident expressed concern to me over voicing their support of the issue for fear of starting an argument with friends.

I am worried we may become a community divided, regardless of the outcome. I am not afraid to voice my support of the issue. I am in favor of consolidation.

Money is the biggest issue for all concerned. The state cannot provide funding as in the past. And, if the state so chooses, they could step in and solve our problem for us. All three schools could be absorbed into another system, without being partnered. This would mean no voices would be heard at all.

It is up to all of us to look out for the well-being of our children. It isn’t about sports, school colors, past rivalries, etc. It is about education!

With the consolidation, more could and more than likely would, be offered academically. Our children would thrive with the realm of knowledge to be gained.

There are other ways the children would benefit from consolidation. One of the most important being social skills. They would meet many others and learn more from others around them. This will benefit them the rest of their lives.

Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Academics, to me, is the most important reason to consolidate. Our children could benefit, or be left behind if consolidation doesn’t happen.

The world is ever changing. If we don’t change with it, not only do we lose but, we lose our future in our children.

I for one don’t want to sacrifice a child’s future because of fear of the future.

I commend the school board members in all three districts for their efforts in dealing with this issue. I am sure it has been very difficult for them.

One last thing: Before developing an opinion, please be well-informed. Know ALL of the facts. Remember, this is for long-term. Having the finances for now doesn’t guarantee a stable future.

We owe our children the best education possible.

 

 

Lyons-Decatur Patrons on Consolidation: Look at Other Options


By Brian Depew, Lyons Area Resident

Can also be read at burtcountyschool.com

Around 100 Lyons-Decatur patrons gathered in their school gymnasium in Lyons tonight to hear from school officials, the architectural firm engaged by the board and the bonding agency to discuss county-wide consolidation.

The proposed $61 million project includes a $5.5 million elementary renovation and addition in Lyons. Due to projected teacher lay-offs, the current projection is that Lyons-Decatur taxpayers would save 3 cents on the levy compared to current operations.

The overarching theme of patrons in attendance was a desire to look at other options to address the challenges the district faces. Ideas raised in small group discussions included: co-oping activities with a neighboring district, sharing teachers, unification rather than consolidation, and consolidation with other districts.

Asked to rank the most important principles for the future of the district, patrons ranked quality education first followed by: consider other options, keep school in town, and community involvement.

On the final question of the night, 36% of those voting chose county-wide consolidation, 35% chose different consolidation, 26% other and 3% do nothing. The total voting for an option other than a Burt County School was 64%.

70% Tekamah-Herman Residents Want New Tekamah School


By Brian Depew, Lyons area resident

Can also be viewed at burtcountyschool.com

A crowd of over 300 people gathered in the Tekamah-Herman gymnasium this evening. Following two hours of presentations comparing costs, levy rates, curriculum and activities offerings, Tekamah-Herman residents voted overwhelming to build a new school in Tekamah.

70% of those voting chose the option of building a new school in Tekamah. Only 23% chose county-wide consolidation. Applause broke out in the room when the tabulated results appeared on the overhead screen. Superintendent  Brandon Lavaley called the results “helpful direction for the School Board to make decisions with going forward.”

The fiscal impact of Tekamah-Herman building a new facility on their own rather than joining the proposed Burt County School is 7.4 cents on the levy, or $74 per $100,000 of valuation. Tonight, residents indicated they were willing to pay that extra levy to maintain their community school closer to home.

All options presented included closing the Herman location.

 

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.

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