Fulton board rejects school merger plans
Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 9:09 pm
Fulton Independent School Board members were faced with three options.
In the end, they opted to not merge Fulton Independent schools with Fulton County, Ky., schools.
Despite heavy rain and thunderstorms, a large crowd of parents packed into Fulton Independent Schools’ board office on West State Line in Fulton for the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday night. Their main concern was an agenda item related to a possible merger between the two school districts.
Discussion of a merger between the two systems began last year when the Fulton County School Board approached the Fulton Independent School Board to ask about discussing a possible merger and/or sharing of services. At that time, Fulton County’s superintendent was not returning and the county board thought it might be a good time to discuss the issue. A meeting was held last year, but no decisions were made, and Fulton County now has superintendent Dennis Bledsoe in position.
Earlier this year, Fulton Independent Schools superintendent Dianne Owen announced her plans to retire effective June 30 and three members of Fulton Independent’s board voted to ask Fulton County’s board to have another discussion at a joint meeting about a possible plan for merger. The two boards met Feb. 28 in Fulton with a moderator from the Kentucky School Boards Association and there was discussion of what services the districts could share, resulting in possible cost reductions for both.
No action was taken at the Feb. 28 meeting between the two boards.
The Fulton Independent board met for its regular monthly session Tuesday night and its lengthy agenda included an action item related to the merger.
School board chairman Debbie Vaughn opened discussion by explaining that board members had three options — for Fulton Independent schools to merge with Fulton County; for the two districts not to merge; or to take no action.
Board member Dr. Lee Seng made a motion to not merge the districts, prompting a time for discussion of the matter.
Board member Dr. Josh Whitledge said the board’s ultimate duty is to explore all options for a favorable learning environment that is in the best interest of students and he said the board pledged to do so “without haste.” He said to vote on the matter Tuesday night was in contradiction to that pledge and indicated he would abstain from the vote.
However, Whitledge said the board would remain unified about how to enrich educational opportunities for all students regardless of the decision.
With no other comments from any other board members, a roll call vote was taken on Seng’s motion to not merge. He was joined by board member Sam Hancock, Ms. Vaughn and vice chairman Bill Robertson in voting for the motion, with Whitledge abstaining as promised.
There were no comments from any audience members — several of whom were wearing blue Fulton Bulldogs clothing to show their support for the system — and the board quickly moved to other business on the agenda.
After the meeting, parent and former school board member Carol Bransford told The Messenger she was very happy with the board’s decision not to merge.
“I love the way things are,” she said, adding that she believes Fulton Independent schools have excellent teachers. “I am so glad that they did not merge.”
Sharon Patton, a grandparent, echoed Ms. Bransford’s opinion. She said her children received good educations at Fulton city schools and she now has grandchildren in the system. She also praised the system’s educators.
“I love it. I’m so happy,” she said. “I was very against (the merger).”
However, parent Melissa Robertson said she wanted the merger and was disappointed with the board’s decision. She said the merger would have opened up more educational opportunities for Fulton city students due to services offered by the county district that aren’t offered in the city system.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.9.11