Like sugar in water, Clearfield Community School District is dissolving.
“We’ve known for quite some time that the end was near,” said Joe Drake, shared superintendent of Mount Ayr, Bedford and Clearfield school districts.
There are currently 20 students attending the kindergarten through sixth-grade school.
“I want the public to understand the reason we have to close, or need to close, is not because we aren’t providing a quality education, not because the teachers are doing a bad job,” Drake said. “It’s just the simple fact we’ve run out of students.”
Neighboring school boards Lenox, Mount Ayr, Bedford and Diagonal were contacted about having a conversation with Clearfield School Board to discuss the possibility of reorganizing. However, for a variety of reasons, the four boards turned Clearfield down.
At Clearfield School District’s monthly meeting, March 19, the board discussed and passed a motion to pursue dissolution of the district. The board also appointed a dissolution commission, made up of three board members and four eligible voters within the school district.
“Technically, the board could sit and do nothing, ... there’s involuntary dissolutions and there’s voluntary dissolutions,” said Drake. “We want to do a voluntary dissolution. Then we have more control.”
If Clearfield had opted for an involuntary dissolution, the state of Iowa would take control of the dissolution.
The dissolution commission will be responsible for putting together a proposal of dissolution, as stated by Iowa code. Iowa code also says “the commission shall send a copy of its dissolution proposal, or shall inform the board that it cannot agree upon a dissolution proposal no later than one year following the date of the organizational meeting of the commission.”
After filing the proposal, a date of hearing must be set within 10 days.
Members of the commission are boardmembers Bob Cameron, Patty Parrish and Becky Kerns, and Clearfield voters Gina Knox, Doug England, Sara Deskin and Michele Sobotka.
Iowa schools receive money from the state government through different funds based on how many students they have. One main source of money is allowable growth, which increases each year and is used toward paying for things like heat, electric and supplies.
“Iowa schools are told basically, based on the number of students they have in the building, how much (money) they have the authority to spend,” said Drake. “And, because our enrollment has declined so much over the years, and we have so few students, we don’t have enough students in the building to generate enough money to pay everyone that needs to be paid.”
Any money a school receives and does not spend goes into budget authority, which gives the school the authority to spend it, depending on the stipulations the state puts on the money. Clearfield CSD had a budget authority of $800,000.
“Our unspent budget authority at the end of the 2012-2013 school year was $160,000,” Drake said, “and, we’d been going down at about a $200,000 rate every year.”
Steps were taken quickly toward the dissolution. Clearfield School Board sent out a questionnaire to Clearfield Community School District landowners asking which school district they want to opt into.
The next step will be to ask the neighboring school districts if they will accept the Clearfield district.
If all goes as planned, the dissolution will go to a vote in September, where Clearfield voters will decide the fate of Clearfield CSD and its assets. The dissolution must have an approved vote of 51 percent to pass, and if so, 2013-2014 will be the final Clearfield CSD school year.
If the vote does not reach 51 percent, the process will start over.