Nevada County committee to review school districts’ merger petition
Nevada County is scheduled to hold two meetings in early January to discuss the consolidation of Ready Springs and Pleasant Valley elementary school districts in Penn Valley,
The respective boards of directors of each district voted in October to submit a petition, as required by law, to Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen to consolidate the two districts into one.
The boards had considered such action after more than a year of joint discussions, town hall meetings, a thorough analysis and positive recommendation from staff following a June 2012 Nevada County Civil Grand Jury report on school efficiency.
But those meetings were only the most recent and tangible manifestations of a notion that has been floating around the two districts for more than a decade, said Amanda Wilcox, Ready Springs’ board president.
“In a way, it’s a natural progression from where we have been for the last eight years or so of shared management,” Wilcox said. “Right now we have two districts that share a district office, staff and administrators. We’re finding that it is not sustainable and that led us to look at this more carefully.”
According to data from the California Department of Education, Pleasant Valley’s enrollment numbers dropped from 803 in 1996-97 to 724 in 2004-05, continuing to decrease to the 2012-13 numbers of 477. Ready Springs exhibited similar outcomes, from 705 in 1996-97 down to 254 students in 2012-13.
If consolidation occurs, where students attend classes and where staff members work would not be changed, and no schools are poised for closure, the district has attested. Wilcox went so far as to declare that when both districts merge staff salary scales, no staff member would experience a loss in pay.
“No one is going to take a pay cut,” she said.
With the district’s shared staff currently having to file documents and manage the finances of two separate districts, Wilcox said that business and administration time would be streamlined and more efficient, and dollars would stay in the classrooms.
“The information we have at this time, in terms of funding, we would, overall, come out ahead,” Wilcox said. “Because to go ahead would take hiring more staff.”
After verifying the accuracy of the two districts’ findings in their merger talks, the county committee is expected to analyze all possible effects of consolidation and host public hearings at 6 p.m., Jan. 8, at Ready Springs School Library and at 6 p.m., Jan. 9, at Williams Ranch School Library.
“It’s out of the boards’ hands right now. We agreed we wanted to pursue this, that it was best for our students,” Wilcox said. “We are very far along, to the point where if things go as they could, we could become a consolidated district in July.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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