GARNER | The AEA 267 Board of Directors Wednesday night unanimously accepted Garner-Hayfield and Ventura’s reorganization petition.
The issue can go to a public vote in September. If the vote is successful, the new district will begin operating in 2015-16 as Garner-Hayfield-Ventura Community Schools.
Tyler Williams, shared superintendent for Garner-Hayfield and Ventura, said he was “thrilled” with the meeting’s outcome.
“Whole-grade sharing has been a wonderful experience for both the community and students,” he said. “Reorganization is the next step in the process.”
ONCE APPROVED, the new school board will consist of four members from Garner-Hayfield and two from Ventura, with a seventh member unanimously elected, district attorney Rick Engel said. The board will then move from seven to five members over a period of three elections.
Board members will remain at-large, a method Engel said both districts are currently using.
Assets and liabilities will merge in the event of a successful vote, Engel said, noting neither district has any outstanding general obligation bonds.
Whole-grade sharing, an early step towards reorganization, began in 2012-13.
It’s since aided both districts and their students.
At Garner-Hayfield, School Board President Jim Thiele said it has allowed the district to expand its 1:1 computer program, class offerings and extracurriculars, all while providing an identity for junior high students.
“The elementary school was busting at the seams,” he said. “We needed room for kids.”
ALTHOUGH the 7-mile trek to Ventura resulted in some unhappiness at first, Thiele said junior high students would “kick and scream” if they had to return to the elementary building.
The districts have also shared a superintendent, curriculum director, business manager and transportation director, which has resulted in extra state incentives.
On Ventura’s side, the extra funding meant the junior high could also offer jazz band, Spanish, theatre, Photoshop, art, yearbook and agriculture classes in six- to eight-week blocks.
But the transition wasn’t easy at first.
“For the last four years, I bled Ventura blue and gold,” said Larry Costello, Ventura School Board president. “Our community would do whatever it took to keep our schools functioning.”
At the same time, the school had to eliminate double sections in its junior high and high school, meaning courses like algebra and Spanish were offered at the same time, which Costello said was not a good fit for students.
With Clear Lake “more than willing for us to lock our doors and send our students to them,” Costello said the district chose to go with Garner-Hayfield, something that allowed Ventura to do what was “best for our students.”
THE TRANSITION has since been an uneventful process.
“It’s like they had been going to school forever,” Costello said. “From the first day of school, everybody was accepted.”
No objections to reorganization or district boundary changes were filed with the AEA, and no one spoke against reorganization during the public forum.
Receiving no objections was “unusual,” AEA 267 Chief Administrator Roark Horn said.
“This is the seventh or eighth (reorganization) we have done in the last four years I have been chief, and this by far has been the smoothest,” he said.
A community meeting is planned at 7 p.m. May 21 for Ventura residents at the Ventura/Garner-Hayfield Junior High gym. Williams said Garner-Hayfield plans to have its meeting at a later date.