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Nelson, East Coloma districts agree to merge

Public hearing the next step on the way to April 6 vote

ROCK FALLS – Nelson Elementary and East Coloma school boards met Wednesday to discuss consolidating. By the end of the night, both sides agreed to move forward and signed a petition establishing a committee to move forward.

Now the paperwork must be approved by Regional Office of Education Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth, then sent to the state Board of Education for its approval. The matter then must be voted on by members of the school districts.

The petition identifies 10 people, five from each district, who will serve on a committee of 10. That committee will set a tax rate for a consolidated district and decide how the new district’s school board would be elected.

By state law, if East Coloma and Nelson were to consolidate, the board would have seven members, East Coloma Superintendent Kevin Andersen said.

He believes the committee will decide that members of the consolidated district’s board will be elected at large, because studies to divide the consolidated district into voting districts would be costly.

“I don’t think anybody wants to draw up districts,” he said.

Andersen will deliver the paperwork Sondgeroth today. After Sondgeroth receives the paperwork, he will publish notices and set a public hearing. He must submit the regional board’s approval to the state by the first Friday in October if the referendum on the consolidation, and votes on new board members, are to make it on the April 6 ballot.

They must pass April 6 if consolidation is to take effect by fall of 2013.

On the committee of 10, Nelson would be represented by its three board members, David DeVries, Kimberly Velazquez, and Christopher Buikema; its Superintendent Gregory Lutyens, who lives in the East Coloma district, and former Nelson School Board member Pauline Moeller. East Coloma would be represented by four current board members Mark Nardini, Jerry Stanley, Neal Folgers and Bill Seidel, and Assistant Principal David Chavira.

The joint meeting was held in part because some people were concerned that having both the referendum and the election of school board candidates on the ballot might confuse voters. Those fears have been allayed, Andersen said.

“It was a positive meeting to get everybody together.”

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