Despite a unanimous vote on Monday night, the Ruthven-Ayrshire school board has decided not to continue negotiations for a sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril Community Schools.
"In order to proceed, you need to make sure you have enough people interested in the option," Ruthven-Ayrshire Superintendent Andrew Woiwood said. "In the board discussions since Monday night, enough opinions changed."
Woiwood brought the school's financial situation to the board at a special meeting Oct. 29. On Oct. 31, the board made a motion of intent to negotiate a whole-grade sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril. The original intent, however, did include an amendment that allowed the district to explore "all options and opportunities to determine what is best for the R-A students." The amendment did not pass at the time due to a split vote.
"They made the decision that whole-grade sharing was not their best financial option," Graettinger-Terril Superintendent Jesse Ulrich said. "For Graettinger-Terril, you have to keep it in perspective. Ruthven-Ayrshire was the one who approached us to ask if we were interested in whole-grade sharing."
Due to their decision to discontinue their whole-grade sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril, Ruthven-Ayrshire's options are to either continue as an individual school for the next year or to enter into a partial-day sharing agreement with another area school. The board has discussed sharing with Emmetsburg Community Schools.
If Ruthven-Ayrshire should choose to proceed into the next year as an individual school, Woiwood noted that by Fiscal Year 2014, the district's unspent spending authority, when paired with an allowable growth of zero percent, would show a negative amount of $116,227, and would end the five-year trend with $1,324,666 in debt. Should the governor set allowable growth at 2 percent for the coming year, Fiscal Year 2014 would show a negative balance of $86,947, which would end the five-year trend $1,205,636 in debt. The district is currently in Fiscal Year 2013.
If, however, the board enters into a partial-day sharing agreement with Emmetsburg, the district will have $137,834 unspent spending authority by Fiscal Year 2014, even with zero percent allowable growth, and will end the five-year trend with $38,264 in debt. A 2 percent allowable growth will show a balance of $167,114 by Fiscal Year 2014 and $80,766 at the end of five years.
A partial-day sharing agreement, however, has not been formally discussed yet between the Ruthven-Ayrshire and Emmetsburg school boards.
"We've had informal discussion about it for the past two years," Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt said. "Their board came and took a tour of our facilities, but we haven't done anything official yet."
Joynt mentioned briefly to the Emmetsburg school board president the idea of a 50 percent funded sharing agreement. The Emmetsburg board will discuss the option at their next regular board meeting.
"We'd certainly like some discussions about it," Joynt said. "We could use more students in the high school, and we wouldn't have to hire a lot of staff. It would definitely help our finances."
Even in their talks with Graettinger-Terril, Ruthven-Ayrshire has always voted to keep an option to share with Emmetsburg open.
"Our vote Monday night was unanimous, given the idea of proceeding with partial-day share as well," Woiwood said.
One reason Ruthven-Ayrshire initially continued sharing negotiations with Graettinger-Terril was the athletic sharing agreement they signed last year. The agreement, valid for six years, will be revisited by both boards each year.
"We have to meet each year to renew it," Woiwood said. "We'll do that at a later time."
In initial talks regarding an athletic sharing agreement, Emmetsburg also expressed interest in sharing with Ruthven-Ayrshire.
"We've talked about it before," Joynt said, "though specifically about football. We can certainly have those talks again. I imagine it would be difficult for them to share students with Emmetsburg and then have those students get on another bus for shared athletics with Graettinger-Terril."
Though they are no longer a sharing option for Ruthven-Ayrshire, Ulrich said Graettinger-Terril will continue to do what they feel is best for their students.
"We're going to focus on how we can remain financially viable," Ulrich said. "We've had a lot of positive things happen, including our Breaking Barriers Award."
He continued. "We're disappointed we couldn't come to a positive and mutually beneficial agreement, but at the end of the day, it's their decision."