BORDEN — Just two days after 70 percent of voters turned down a referendum, the West Clark Community School board voted unanimously Thursday night for Silver Creek to secede from the school district.
Board secretary Doug Coffman made the motion after addressing a packed room.
“You spoke loud and clear that you do not want to pursue the referendum and for one I got the message,” Coffman said. “That being said I think we are left with limited options. Option one is to consolidate which is not something I believe that the communities would support. Two is to do nothing, which I do not believe is an option. Three is to start all over and do another referendum, which again I do not believe we will ever get a consensus and only kicks the can down the road. And the fourth option is for Silver Creek to emancipate or divorce from West Clark Community Schools so that it can pursue with its own tax base with it and go as needed.”
Board member Crystal Gunther seconded the motion.
The board met Thursday night at Borden Jr./Sr. High School. An unusually large crowd gathered for the meeting and broke out into applause when the motion passed.
Teresa Baird, a Borden resident, Henryville teacher and Silver Creek High School graduate, also supported the motion even though she sat on the steering committee for the failed referendum.
“I think at this point it might be the best decision because that is what they want and it’s what they’ve wanted for a while because they think no one can agree,” Baird said. “It’s been simmering. It’s been said before.”
The process of breaking up a district has never been successfully done in the state of Indiana, according to district attorney Mike Gillenwater. It will take at least a year. A committee will be formed and will go to a referendum or petition, he said.
Superintendent Chad Schenck said he hoped there would have been more time between the vote and the decision to secede, but doesn’t think that would have changed the board’s decision.
“Since the establishment of West Clark Community Schools this frustration has been building,” Schenck said. “[The board] doesn’t know any other action or course. Of course, when you go through a divorce it means there’s irreconcilable differences. I think they tried everything and tried for a very, very long time to stay together for the kids.”
As for immediate needs of the district, Schenck said he is encouraging the board to bring a 12-month plan to its Nov. 30 board meeting. However, the district may not be able to issue bonds while it is in the process of pursuing a divorce so those options may be limited.
“I can’t say if there’s someone willing to sell those bonds. I can’t say. I don’t know. Only putting forth a project and a bond issuance and holding a 1028 hearing, that’s the only thing the board can do to find out from the market if someone is going to buy our bonds,” Schenck said.
Staff members in the district currently are safe Schenck said, echoing Gillenwater’s statement that it will be a long and involved process.
As for whether or not the decision was the right one for the students in the district, Schenck said, “History has to be the judge of that.”