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CCA to consider new school attendance area boundaries

OXFORD– With a new elementary school scheduled to open in Tiffin in the fall of 2015, the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school board of directors is beginning the process of evaluating and redefining attendance area boundaries.
At its regular meeting Wednesday, May 14, the board unanimously approved two contracts worth $35,000 with RSP and Associates, an Olathe, Kansas based consulting firm. Under the first contract, for $11,000, RSP will conduct an enrollment study similar to one conducted last year by Dr. Gerard Rushton from the University of Iowa, which was commissioned by the facilities committee to predict future enrollment growth. RSP’s study will form the basis for new boundaries based on current and future enrollments in the district.
In a follow-up after the meeting, superintendent Tim Kuehl clarified the purpose of the new study.
“While this is very similar work to that of Dr. Rushton, the RSP reports come back with even more detailed information. Including maps that demonstrate exactly where housing developments are anticipated to develop,” he said.
A board-appointed committee of 20 to 30 members will meet at least five times with RSP for the purpose of taking the enrollment analysis and drawing up a series of scenarios. The committee will determine how many scenarios to create, and present to the board for its consideration and ultimate approval. RSP will also meet with the board twice, the first to review the process and set a timeline, determine any parameters such as keeping grade levels intact, and determining what criteria the committee should use in coming up with their scenarios. The second would be to present findings of the study and the committee’s recommendations.
Additionally, there will be one public forum with a brief presentation and a series of stations showing the scenarios being considered. Community feedback will be solicited on those scenarios.
The second contract with RsP for $24,000 covers meetings with the board, committee and the public.
“Is it inexpensive? No,” said Kuehl, “but it gives us peace of mind.” Kuehl said having an outside group facilitate the process is, a benefit to the district, as the recommendations would be coming from an impartial third party, avoiding perception of a bias on the part of the board or administration. The goal, an RSP representative said, is that the recommendation is the committee’s, and not RSP’s or the superintendent’s.
Kuehl said as he became familiar with the district last summer and fall, he discovered a common theme: frustration with the process used in the facilities committee. “It is my desire to ensure that our community and committee members feel value and purpose in the process,” Kuehl said.
Kuehl pointed out the value of hiring consultants, a practice which often draws fire from critics.
“We are members of the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) for consultation on board policy and board member training, and of ISFLC (Iowa Superintendents Finance and Leadership Consortium) for finance and policy. We employ a construction manager for our building projects. All of these things bring a level of expertise that may not be present on the board, and allow them to fulfill their duties in a well-informed manner,” Kuehl said.
RSP will start immediately, with the enrollment committee most likely formed next month. The goal is to form a recommendation by September with a final decision made far enough in advance to allow affected families to plan accordingly before the first day of school in 2015.
Board president Steve Swenka asked if RSP’s was a fair and competitive bid.
”Nobody else does it,” Kuehl said. Johnston, Ankeny and Waukee school districts used RSP’s services he noted. “Everyone that has worked with them have been very positive.”
As the CCA district continues to grow and will potentially need additional elementary schools, boundaries may have to be revised again at a later date.