To the Editor:
School consolidation has been a conversation among area schools since the early 1980s. Occasionally, state politics or economic hard times renew the discussion and I’d like to share recent events with the community.
The Leland Board of Education was approached last spring to participate in a feasibility study with Earlville and Paw Paw. The purpose of the study was to evaluate some type of restructuring by the three districts. Schools may enter into an agreement to complete a feasibility study to determine what a restructured school might be like. A feasibility study will evaluate the tax rates, debt structure, transportation, school facilities, special education services, collective bargaining agreements, curriculum and extra-curricular activities of the schools involved. The study with Earlville and Paw Paw had a very ambitious timeline. After much discussion, the Board voted against joining this study. The Board did not want to incur the cost of the study to give up our Leland identity and still end up being a relatively small school.
After declining the Earlville and Paw Paw offer, Leland was approached by Earlville to join a bigger feasibility study that might include Serena, Somonauk, and Indian Creek. After an initial meeting with Dr. William Phillips, a consultant who specializes in feasibility studies, Somonauk and Leland agreed to participate in a larger study. Our Board thought that a larger study would offer more information and a wider choice of options, including the possibility of a restructuring that would result in a high school of 400-600 students. This high school size is considered by most consultants to be the minimum size in a high school to support efficient operations, curriculum and extra-curricular activities. This study, however, never got off the ground as a study with only Leland and Somonauk defeated the idea of a larger study.
Leland is financially stable and there is no need to consolidate based on financial reasons. One of the goals of the Board is to expand curriculum offerings, in particular at the high school, with minimal cost. We continue to explore options as to how to accomplish this goal with minimal cost to the district. Sharing of staff and resources is one way to achieve this goal.
In order to look at ways to share resources and to further identify common vision with contingent districts, a committee was formed to approach other districts about the future of education in our area. The committee consisted of two board members from each school district. Meetings were held with Somonauk, Indian Creek, Serena, and Earlville.
These meetings were productive in terms of identifying ways to share resources with each other.
At this time, there is interest among area schools to do a feasibility study that involves two or more districts. The cost of doing a larger study does not increase proportionately with the number of schools. However, no commitment or timeline has been established to participate in a larger feasibility study. A feasibility study does not commit any of the districts to continuing toward restructuring or consolidation. It is only to provide information. The process to consolidate schools takes two or more Boards to decide, after public hearings, to place the issue of consolidation on the ballot. The referendum must be approved by voters in each district. A “no” majority vote in any of the districts would mean the consolidation effort would fail.
We recognize the strong pride and tradition of Leland Schools. The passage of the referendum to raise the tax rate in 2012 spoke volumes about the community support for our school. The Board will continue to investigate ways to provide the best educational opportunities for our students. We continue to strive to do what is best for our students and the community.
If you would like to read a more detailed explanation, you may refer to the Superintendent’s page on the district website at www.leland1.org. Please don’t hesitate to email questions to Superintendent Jodi Moore or the board. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Leland.email@example.com. Or, call Moore at 815-495-3821 to set up an appointment. All correspondence will be shared with the entire Board.
Janet Plote, president
Board of Education
Leland CUSD 1