To the Editor:
Between now and this August, there may be two important issues put before the voters of the Bessemer Area School District and the Wakefield-Marenisco School District.
The first, already scheduled in early May, will be to decide if voters of the Bessemer Area District should approve the sale of a bond to finance improvements and maintenance of the A.D. Johnston High School and the Washington Elementary School.
If enough signatures are secured, another election will be held in August to see if the two districts should consolidate. Although there seems to have been large community support for such a consolidation for quite a few years, neither district’s administration has seen fit to put forth a consolidation ballot. From what I gather, there seems to be reluctance to proceed with consolidation preparations without several years of planning among both districts.
In addition, the Bessemer Area School Board has requested those in favor of such a consolidation to meet and present a comprehensive plan.
Because of the very nature of a consolidation, a plan of any sort before consolidation takes place is of little or any practical use. Let’s just suppose both the Bessemer and Wakefield boards actually do develop a comprehensive plan and that further, they get together and pound out a single plan that they would propose to use. Then, should a consolidation issue actually pass, the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District would immediately appoint a new board from currently seated members from each district. The new board will administer the two school districts from August 2014 until July 2015. During that period, the interim board, the GOISD and the state Department of Education will develop and finance a transition plan.
Once a new board is elected in November 2016 from the citizens of the new district, (Wakefield, Wakefield Township, Marenisco, Bessemer and Bessemer Township) they, and only they, will have the responsibility and the authority to administer a plan for the new district. Any increase in taxes for building improvements or other investments will then have to be approved by a bond ballot in the new district.
My objection to the bonding issue, at this time, is that any bonding should be held off until a consolidation issue either passes or fails. If it passes, the new district should decide what repairs need be made to which buildings. If it fails, the Bessemer board should then proceed with a reasonable bond proposal.