FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Our partner in news, The Journal Gazette, reported Saturday that New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald is frustrated by plans to redesign East Allen County Schools and is considering starting a new school district for New Haven residents.
McDonald said he will form a committee to explore the option, which he suspects would provide better educational opportunities than the recently approved East Allen redesign plan. To move forward, he knows he would need to get permission from East Allen County Schools and meet other state requirements, according to the Gazette.
McDonald’s announcement comes after the East Allen school board’s decision this month to close six elementary schools and maintain all five of the district’s high schools. The plan will save $6.8 million in annual operational costs – $1.9 million short of what the district had hoped to save.
To offer stronger academic programs, the district will need more money. So Superintendent Karyle Green’s team is lobbying to pass an $8 million property tax referendum in November.
The creation of a new school district would be possible only if the East Allen school board agrees to it, according to Lauren Auld, Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman.
If that were to happen, the new district would need to serve at least 1,000 students in grades 1 through 12, she said to the Gazette.
McDonald thinks a new district could attract 2,500 students.
McDonald's research, as well as research conducted by a company hired by the district, confirmed that the majority of residents wanted to keep their five high schools open, she said.
Green expects the firm’s report to be on the East Allen website soon.
The current makeup of the board also made it difficult for Green to propose school closure, she said.
“In order for us to close a high school, I need to have four board members to vote for closing a high school. I don’t,” she said.
Green said she was “taken aback” by those who had “all of a sudden become vocal about the ‘two high school’ concept.”
“These discussions have been going on for 20 years, and there has not been a push that has gained any momentum for two high schools,” she said.
Despite the circumstance, McDonald thinks Green should have worked harder to sell the idea of consolidating into two high schools.
“As the leader of a community, you have to do the right thing, not because it’s popular,” he said.
Green said McDonald is not the first community leader to speak of secession. Leaders from three other communities have mentioned similar proposals, she said.
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