A tale of two communities
CC-E communities discuss district's future
Members of the Clay Central-Everly community and school officials agreed, the district has reached a crossroads and changes are necessary going forward. While the district has been actively exploring cost saving measures as supplemental state aid has declined over the last several years, school officials said the process has received greater scrutiny in the last two months after the district confirmed the loss of 17 students who moved from the district or open enrolled into a neighboring district.
"That is why we are collecting the data, to see what are our options," CC-E Superintendent Dennis McClain said. "If we have conversations that offer us certain options, we are going to consider those options. If they negate those options, we are not going to look at those options. ... Sharing activities, sharing staff, operational sharing with positions, so sharing positions that garner operational sharing dollars from the state, sharing programming and sharing students, we are looking at the whole gamut right now as possibilities."
CC-E's administration team, school board and community members are taking a closer look at potential cost saving measures through a variety of committees. The administration organized an assembly with junior high and high school students to inform them of the process. District officials hope to present their findings at a future community meeting sometime in January or February.
"If we don't have a community, we don't have a school," CC-E School Board President Allison Goyette said. "We need to keep the community understanding that we are doing this for children. We are doing this for their children's children. We are doing this for the future of CC-E and what we can do to keep the communities together."
While rumors have circulated about the longterm future of the district for decades, frustration has built in recent years with some long time community members. Many are wondering what will happen to the communities if the district decides to consolidate the elementary located in Royal, and high school located in Everly, into one building housing the entire student body.
Everly Mayor Brad Behrens traces his roots in the Everly community back to his father who graduated from Everly High School. The mayor too graduated from CC-E in 1998 and has a stepson who is enrolled in the district currently. He expressed concern about how the district's uncertain future may impact students.
"It is just to the point where their kids are getting to a certain age where all you hear is, 'We don't know if we are going to be here next year,'" Behrens said. "People are sick of hearing it. It gets very, very old."
Royal Mayor Fluff Ihry moved to the area in 1950 and has since watched her six daughters and two sons graduate from either the Royal or the CC-E district. She said if the district does consolidate to one building, she anticipates more enrollment loses following the decision.
"School activities, to me, are a very vibrant part of a community and if you can't get those things, you lose a little part of your life," Fluff said. "... No matter whether it is Everly or Royal, it is going to hurt, but you have to think down the road. Can't you see that is what is happening. In time, there is going to only be one school in this county and it will all be Spencer. Not that all the students will go there. Some will go to Sioux Central, some will go to Hartley."
"I think community nostalgia is what these schools bring to people," Goyette said. "The history of the schools. It is the idea of, 'Let's walk down memory lane.' If that memory lane is gone, where do we go? We don't have a town is what the forethought of people is. It is not true, but I think that is what the people might think."
Community members differed about how best to serve the district going forward, but all offered a vote of confidence affirming the shared traditions of the communities in the district and quality of education students have, and continue receiving, from the schools. Above average scores on standardized testing, success in speech, music and drama and a strong FFA program were discussed as highlights of that ongoing tradition.
Former Everly Mayor Bud Meyer graduated from Everly High School in 1954 and has attended two of his children graduations from Everly High School and three of his grandchildren graduations from CC-E.
"I think it is important to have either community to have the school there," Meyer said. "If it isn't, it should be. Still we have to get along. The school system is an excellent school system, even though some people won't believe me. There isn't a kid who graduated from CC-E that didn't get the education that he or she wanted. I am sure Royal wants the school in their town and I am sure Everly wants it in their town. If it means keeping the school open, I am all for moving it one way or the other."
"A lot of it is just a sense a pride," Behrens said. "If you go back into the old Cattlefeeder days, you hear about the girls championships. You can go to Sioux Falls, Sioux City or shopping in Minnesota and you will see someone up there who will ask you where you are from and pretty soon they will say, 'Oh yeah, you guys had the Cattlefeeders girls who went to state all those years back in the 1960s.' It is neat to hear that. ... There is still at least a sense of pride."
CC-E parent Iesha Toft summarized the difficult decision facing the district and suggested that the communities must put aside differences, come together and look toward the future.
"If you talk to Everly people they are going to say that is my heritage, that's my history, that's where my heart is, that is where my children were raised," Toft said. "It is a part of history. It is nostalgic. It's a very big part of their lives. Same for Royal. My husband's family was all from Royal and we are all from Everly. I feel like no matter what, you are going to have people who have this huge heartache. Both of these communities are heart-string communities. We are all there for each other.
She continued, "My hope is that everyone sees that regardless of what happens. Whether it is sharing or either site being down to one, that they look at it in the broader picture that we still have a school, CC-E. We still have the same staff. We still have the same majority of children and we still have the same community spirit. Which is small town, there for one another, excellent education and that people see that whole broader picture regardless of what the next move is for CC-E. That they retain their children in the school system."