Residents circulate petitions to dissolve Climax Springs school district

Petitions being circulated inside the Climax R-IV School District are asking voters to approve a ballot issue for the April 3, 2012 election that would allow the dissolution of the district.

The residents circulating the petitions say they are doing so because even though the district has the highest per-student spending ratio of any Lake Area district, recent MAP proficiency test results show that high school students scored well below acceptable standards in key academic areas.

Janet Lewis, who is coordinating the petition drive, said the group of residents made the decision to move forward with the petition drive after she received “little satisfaction” when speaking to the district’s Board of Education, earlier this year.

Lewis said although she asked the board to “apply all its time and energy” into improving the district’s academic record, she did not receive a satisfactory reply.

“For years our students are told how special they are and that they can go anywhere and do anything,” Lewis said. “When in fact, they cannot do the simplest math function or read a job application. Recent high school scores support this view.”

The results of the MAP tests recently released by the state for the district’s high school in the areas of communication arts and math show scores of 36.4 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively.

The lowest similar rating for other Lake Area school districts was an overall test score in math for the Macks Creek District of 53.2 and a 50.3 score in communication arts for the Eldon High School. Both of those scores are above what is required by the state for accreditation. Most other Lake Area high schools had test scores above 60 in the two academic areas.

However, Climax Springs Superintendent Michael Diekmann said he believes the district now has programs in place to correct that recent “dip” in the MAP score results.

In 2010, the Climax Springs high school Map test result in the area of math was at 48.7 and at 40.8 in communication arts.

However, Diekmann said the district has taken several steps to approve the academic scores of its students including purchasing individual computer equipment for every student in grades seven through 12.

The Climax Springs district is listed on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website as having a per-student spending level of $12,863.

The second highest spending level for Lake Area schools is the Camdenton R-III District at $9,558 per student. However, the Camdenton High School students had overall test scores of 77.7 in communication arts and 64.3 in math.

But Diekmann said it is unfair to compare the Map scores at Climax Springs to larger school districts because with a kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment of only 230 students, overall test results are easily “skewed” if only a few students are absent on the day the tests are given.

Former Climax Springs school board member Bill Holden, who is working with Lewis in circulating the petitions, said he is behind the move to dissolve the district because he feels that the administration and board members are putting their desire to build new facilities above the academic needs of the students.

Last April, the district placed an issue on the ballot asking voters to approve a tax increase to pay for the construction of a new high school. When that ballot issue failed to garner a majority approval, the issue was placed on the August ballot as well, but once again it failed and that time by an even larger margin.

Diekmann said although he feels those opposing the tax increase did not understand that the school building is in a “desperate state of disrepair,” there are no plans for another ballot issue asking for a tax increase “at this point” in time.

“We heard the voters loud and clear,” Diekmann said. “And we have no plans to place another tax issue on the ballot at this point.”

He went on to say that board members have recently been in discussion about hiring an “engineering firm” to evaluate the current school buildings and recommend a course of action for handling needed repairs.

The wording on the petitions being circulated asks registered voters to approve the following statement taken directly from the Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 162, Section 162.451, “Upon petition of at least ten percent of those voting in the last school election at which school board members were elected or one hundred voters, whichever is greater, filed with the board, the question of dissolving a seven-director district shall be submitted to the voters at a municipal election and if a majority of the voters voting thereon vote in favor of dissolution, the district shall be dissolved and the same territory included in the district may be annexed as provided by section 162.081 (of the Missouri Revised Statutes).

Holder and Lewis said however, if the district should be dissolved they have no recommendation as to which of the surrounding districts students should attend.

“That is a decision best handled by DESE,” Lewis said.

But Diekmann believes that dissolving the district “would be a disaster for the student body” no matter what school they attended in the future.

“We are able to provide one-on-one attention to our students that they wouldn’t get in a larger district,” Diekmann said. “And our student body is so small that individual students have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities (without going through tryouts) simply because they want to be involved in that activity and that certainly isn’t true in the bigger districts.”

The Climax Springs R-IV School District is accredited by the state even though the most recent high school MAP test scores in math and communication arts were lower than at least one other district that had its accreditation taken away. The Climax Springs District takes in parts of Camden, Benton and Hickory counties.

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