The Augusta School Board may soon allow voters to change the way its members are elected.
Currently, the board is made up of two representatives from each of three districts within U.S.D. 402 and one at-large member. At the last school board election, no candidates filed to run for District 3, Seat 6.
The board operated with only six members until Sept. 9, 2013 when Matthew Blank was selected to fill the vacant seat.
In order to avoid similar situations in the future, the board will soon consider a resolution that would put an item on the ballot changing all of the seats to at-large seats.
At one election, the candidates would compete with the top four vote totals taking those seats. At the next election, the top three vote-getters would join the other four.
Current board members saw several benefits to changing to at-large representatives.
“We aren’t that large as a district,” Board Member Andy Hall said. “And there is no real demographic difference in each district.”
Board Clerk Connie Hummell pointed out when the current method of election was chosen in the past, the elementary schools were neighborhood schools, but now Augusta allows open enrollment.
If the board approves a resolution calling for an election, the question would appear on the next regular ballot in either April or November.
Blank said he would prefer to see it on a November ballot where more voters turn out.
“My desire is to have the most engaged board we can have,” Board President Bill Rinkenbaugh said. “This way six or seven people can run and no one has to worry about running directly against a friend because both could possibly be in the top four who got elected.”
Ultimately, Rinkenbaugh said, no matter what the board chooses, the voters will have the final say.
The issue is expected to come back before the board at the December or January meeting.
The board had another decision taken out of their hands Monday evening.
While Augusta’s board was meeting, the U.S.D. 490 board in El Dorado was also in session.
A letter from El Dorado’s Superintendent Sue Givens to Dr. John Black, superintendent in Augusta, indicated she expected her board to dissolve the current Special Education agreement to allow for the creation of an interlocal agreement for special education services.
Currently, El Dorado is not the largest district in the county as they were when the current system was put into place. Because El Dorado is now smaller compared to other districts, housing the special education program in their budget skews the percentage of administrative costs compared to total funding for the district.
Page 2 of 2 - The new interlocal agreement would create a new school board to manage the special education programs for Augusta, Andover, Bluestem, Circle, Douglass, El Dorado, Flinthills, Remington and Rose Hill districts.
Some on Augusta’s school board wondered what choice that would leave.
Black told the board they could decide not to join the new agreement but the district would have to house its own program. The reason for these districts is because of the immense cost of these programs.
Other questions included what happened to current special education employees when they change employers.
Black said all could be released and allowed to seek re-employment to the new district, all of the employees could be automatically moved to the new district or some combination of those two options.
Black said he assumed option one or two would be used and he expected the new board would want to begin with as much continuity as possible as they start a new endeavor.
The letter from Givens asked the Augusta board to be prepared to take action on this new program at next month's meeting.
Kent Bush can be reached at email@example.com.