Frequently Asked Questions regarding the proposed consolidation of Catlin Unit 5 and Jamaica Unit 12
Question 1. Why consolidate?
Answer 1. Budget concerns due to declining enrollments and withering state funding have forced rural schools to steadily shrink their operating budgets to the point where the small school is struggling to survive. As operating budgets have been cut, so have educational programs, opportunities, and course offerings for the students of our districts. A consolidation would bring substantial savings to the new district, making it viable, while at the same time, making it possible to enrich our curriculum through additional course offerings.
Question 2. What happens if the consolidation does not pass?
Answer 2. With the decline in state funding both districts have been forced to begin using reserve funds (savings) in order to maintain current operating levels. Financial projections (Exhibit B of the consolidation plan) show that these funds will be completely exhausted in just a few years. At that point, neither district would be financially able to effectively continue operation. If consolidation does not pass, these options remain before savings is exhausted: 1) large tax referendum, and 2) continue to cut all non-essential programs, including sports, and any advanced course offerings not required for diploma. These options remain after savings is exhausted: 3) deactivate high schools and tuition students to other districts, 4) dissolve the districts completely.
Question 3. How will a consolidation affect my taxes?
Answer 3. A consolidation would not adversely affect the tax burden of the new district as there is NOT a tax referendum attached to it. The new district would levy taxes, annually, in the same manner that both districts currently levy taxes.
Question 4. How will we save money without closing a building?
Answer 4. Savings will be realized by the sharing of resources, administrative restructuring, and staff reduction.
Question 5. Which grade levels will be located at which facility?
Answer 5. Both communities will retain an elementary (pre-k – 5) facility. Catlin area elementary students will attend the north campus (Catlin) and Jamaica area elementary will attend the south campus (Jamaica). The Jr. High will consist of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels and will attend the south campus (Jamaica facility). High school students will attend the north campus (Catlin High School facility).
Question 6. Where will sports be played?
Answer 6. The high school athletic coop structure has been successful in bringing sports to both communities. This structure will continue into the consolidation. Under the new district, the sports co-op will no longer exist, but there will be no recommendation to change how the sports programs currently operate at the high school level. Jr. High sports will be played at the south campus (Jamaica).
Question 7. How long will students be on the bus?
Answer 7. Regular bus routes will be much the same as the current routes. There will be additional bus time for Jr. High students from Catlin shuttling to the south campus (Jamaica), and for High School students from Jamaica shuttling to the north campus (Catlin).
Question 8. What will the administrative structure look like?
Answer 8. Administration will consist of one Superintendent (south campus), one pre-k – 5 principal at the north campus, one high school principal (north campus), and one pre-k – 8 principal at the south campus.
Question 9. How will we save money if we keep the same number of administrators?
Answer 9. By restructuring the new administrative job descriptions so that they accurately reflect the duties of the new positions, combining duplicated positions, and more closely aligning the salaries of the new positions to regional averages, there is savings potential.
Question 10. When would the consolidation take effect?
Answer 10. The consolidation question would appear on the November 4th 2014 ballot and, if passed, would take effect on July 1, 2015. Students would begin the 2015-2016 school year in the newly created Salt Fork district.
Question 11. How will the board of the new district be elected?
Answer 11. The consolidation petition will request that the board be elected on a separate ballot at the same election as the consolidation question – November 4, 2014. The board will be elected by an ‘at large’ process, meaning there will be no separate voting districts.
Question 12. Will anybody lose their job?
Answer 12. Yes. Unfortunately, the combination of resources to achieve financial savings will mean the loss of some jobs.
Question 13. Is consolidation a band aid fix?
Answer 13. The financial projections show the consolidation to be a meaningful solution to financial and educational shortcomings for a number of years. However, considering current state funding levels and recent negative trends in funding, the Committee of Ten is recommending the board of the new district seek collaboration with other nearby districts in the future.
Question 14. Why not do a south county school now and skip the consolidation?
Answer 14. A south county high school would require 5 years and $50 million to complete if the process was beginning now. Neither district has this much time, nor do the local districts possess bonding ability of this scale. A project of this size would require substantial state funding. Considering that the state will not commit to funding a project like this, it is currently not an option.
Question 15. With the state cutting transportation funding, how will this affect the new district since it seems transportation costs will increase?
Answer 15. Transportation is a large issue for rural districts. By making use of a bus route mapping program, the district would be able to maximize bus route efficiency, which could offset some current cost. Additionally, if the state does continue to at least partially fund transportation, our percentage of reimbursement would increase due to Catlin area Jr. high students now traveling to the south campus. Transporting students is just something we have to do, and it does cost money. We just need to be do it as efficiently as we can.
Question 16. I have heard that the Catlin High School building is unsafe. Why would Jamaica want to send students there?
Answer 16. The rumor that the Catlin High School building is unsafe is false. Both campuses are required to have life/safety inspections every ten years, and are inspected annually by the Regional Office of Education. The most recent life/safety inspections show that both districts had issues needing attention, but these issues were corrected at the time and none were structurally related.
Question 17. Why was the north campus (Catlin) chosen for the high school location?
Answer 17. Both campuses are equally sufficient to serve as the high school location, but the closer proximity of the north campus to DACC was the largest deciding factor due to student participation in the College Express program, which is located at DACC.
Question 18. Why was it decided that the Jr. High would consist of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades?
Answer 18. The curriculum subcommittee determined that the 6th grade students would see greater benefit and higher test scores by being a part of the Jr. High class structure instead of a stand-alone class format with a single teacher as in the elementary level. Many Jr. High teachers also support the idea. In addition, the new Common Core State Standards Initiative is geared toward a 6th, 7th, 8th Jr. High format.
Question 19. Why was the ‘at large’ election method chosen over separate voting districts? Wouldn’t separate voting districts ensure equal representation across the district?
Answer 19. Currently, Jamaica uses a ‘separate district’ voting method in which up to three candidates from any one voting district can sit on the board at one time. This method has been in place for many years, but is no longer available in a new consolidation. The only ‘separate district’ option available by statute today is to divide the entire new district into seven voting districts substantially equal in population. Only one person from each voting district could sit on the board at any one time. This option could be problematic in two ways. Firstly, it could limit the availability of desirable candidates if more than one resides in the same voting district. This would be likely in districts containing more densely populated areas, such as towns. Secondly, there is a real possibility, considering the low number of candidates running in some past elections, that not all voting districts would produce a candidate.
Question 20. Are there enough parking spaces at Catlin?
Answer 20. The facilities subcommittee determined that there are 229 potential parking spaces on asphalt and 97 available at the sports complex. See Exhibit A (facilities subcommittee section) of the consolidation report for more details.
Question 21. What will the mascot and school colors be at the grade school and Jr. High levels?
Answer 21. The entire district, including grade school, Jr. High, and high school, will be considered the Salt Fork Storm with the colors black and silver.
On behalf of the Committee of Ten and its subcommittees, thank you for your interest in the advancement of education for the students of both districts and for taking steps to make an informed decision on this matter.