BOE to seek input regarding consolidation

Published 3:48 pm Friday, May 31, 2013

The Butler County Board of Education said it will seek input from community members on a proposed plan to consolidate W.O. Parmer Elementary School and Greenville Elementary School.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt presented the plan to the board during Thursday’s work session saying he feels that the upcoming school year is the time to make the change.

An item concerning the proposed consolidation was removed from the agenda for a special called meeting, which was held immediately after the work session.

“This was our first work session looking at the proposal,” said board member Linda Hamilton. “We aren’t ready to make a decision. We’ll solicit additional input from the community.”

Part of Douthitt’s proposal included surveys from parents and teachers. Sixty-nine teachers filled out the survey. Only seven supported consolidating the schools. At the work session, Greenville Elementary School principal Bryant Marlow said that while the proposal is “vague,” he believes that five to 10 years down the road the change could be successful.

“I’ve sat down with Mr. Douthitt quite a few times and he’s expressed his vision to me (regarding the consolidation), and I do believe it could work, but it’s going to take precise planning,” he said.

Douthitt said that he felt that despite the opposition from the majority of the teachers, consolidation is still the right move.

“My focus is the children we serve, and not any inconvenience for me, principals or teachers,” he said.

Douthitt said he believes combining the schools will expanded educational opportunities by creating additional electives for the students.

“A larger staff gives us more flexibility,” he said.

As part of his proposal, Douthitt said that during the first year of the consolidation there would be no staff changes. By year two, one of the two principal positions would be eliminated and as assistant principal position would be added. Douthitt said the number of teachers would stay the same unless declining enrollment caused a reduction in the number of teachers at the school.

“I’m having trouble grasping how by consolidating the two schools all of the sudden we have all these added possibilities (of new electives) with the same amount of teachers in place,” said board member Joe Lisenby. “Why do we have to consolidate in order to offer these electives? To me it just doesn’t make sense.”

During the work session, board members, teachers and parents voiced concerns about the proposal.

“It’s the unknown factor that bothers me,” said Dale Gates, who has children in school at both W.O Parmer Elementary School and Greenville Elementary School. “I’m not really against a merger, but it seems that there is still a lot that isn’t clear and as a parent that concerns me.”

No official action was taken regarding the proposal, but Douthitt did tell the board that a final decision must be made July 1 in order to submit the necessary paperwork to the State Board of Education should the board elect to consolidate the schools.