School merger talks continue, no petition yet
While the Grass Valley and Nevada City school boards agreed to continue to meet on consolidating the two districts, neither felt ready to begin crafting an official petition to do so.
Members requested information on a few specific issues before they begin to draft an official petition.
“We owe it to the kids, the staff, the electorate to not have just a single-page petition,” said Frank Bennallack, a Grass Valley board member, at the fourth joint meeting of the two districts to discuss consolidation facilitated by Holly Hermansen, the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.
Among the more predominate pieces of information the board has requested are updates on both districts’ revenues, which will be used to gauge what a combined revenue might look like.
“Initially it was kind of exciting to talk about the gifts we could give each other. Now I feel like there is this urging to hurry through the process,” said Susan Mahaffy, a kindergarten teacher at Deer Creek Elementary School in Nevada City.
“There are lots of questions that have not been thought of yet,” Mahaffy said. “I urge you not to be impulsive.”
Hermansen spent much of Wednesday’s meeting outlining the next steps in the process. Many of those steps involve the Nevada County Committee on School District Organization.
“The county committee plays a really large role in this,” Hermansen said.
The committee consists of 11 members who are elected by a group of designated elected school board members from every county district at their annual meeting.
Once the two districts craft and submit that petition, their official roles in the process are completed, Hermansen said. However, the board members would be free to continue to publicly campaign for the consolidation, as well as make comments to the county committee at their public meetings.
“They will take very seriously the input you give them,” Hermansen said.
Much of the state’s involvement with approving a consolidation can be bypassed by the county commission.
Voter approval of a consolidation can also be waived by the Nevada County Board of Education, the governing body that oversees Hermansen’s office, if no public opposition is demonstrated.
These election and state board approval bypasses could significantly reduce the consolidation process, which would otherwise likely take more than two years, Hermansen said.
The two boards plan to review their requested information at their next joint meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 23, where the boards will again consider whether to craft a petition.
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