A new organization of parents, students, teachers and taxpayers has been formed to work in support of school consolidation. The group will organize support and conduct an education campaign to educate voters about the benefits of A-C Central and PORTA school districts consolidating to create a new school district.
The new group is called, “Citizens for Kids First.” The organization’s president is Laura Richard from Chandlerville; Caitlin Mahoney from Ashland is vice president and Kevin Thomas of Oakford is the group’s treasurer. Other local members include Allen Grosboll and Tracy Muller of Petersburg, as well as the other citizens who served on the Committee of Ten. It also includes parents and students from both school districts. Laura Richard said “We chose the name “Citizens for Kids First” because we wanted to underscore that the consolidation decision should be based on what is best for children.”
Creation of the new organization came as the Committee of Ten concluded its official duties. Committee of Ten Co-Chair Karen Hoffman stated, “The Committee was charged to study consolidation, make recommendations, and make the case for consolidation to the Regional Superintendent and State Superintendent. We have finished our official work and, as a formal public body, we are going out of business. Now, it is time for a larger, citizen-based advocacy group. That is why Committee of Ten members and I are joining and working with Citizens for Kids First.”
For most of 2013, a group of ten citizens from A-C Central and PORTA worked to consider consolidation and determine whether the districts should move forward. In the fall, the Committee of Ten recommended on a 10–0 vote that the two districts should consolidate and the issue should be put on the ballot. After necessary signatures were gathered on petitions of support, the Regional Superintendent conducted a lengthy public hearing in October and concluded that consolidation would benefit citizens and students in both districts. The issue then went to the State Board of Education and State Superintendent Christopher Koch approved the consolidation proposal in November. He directed the question of consolidation to be place on the March 18 ballot to allow voters to decide the question.
Al Grosboll, who also served as a Co-Chair of the Committee of Ten, strongly supports the creation of Citizens for Kids First. “We did our job to get the consolidation issue before the voters but now we need a grassroots group of parents, students, teachers and taxpayers to drive home the importance of this school merger. Consolidation will strengthen our schools, expand academic opportunities for every student, save money and help taxpayers.”
Caitlin Mahoney of Ashland explained that she is working for consolidation because it will provide expanded opportunities for new generations of students, “I like the name Kids First because it means we want to put the interests of students first. This should not be about local politics or school mascots. For me and my friends, it is about one thing: creating a bright future for children and our communities.”
Ben Hollis who served on the Committee of Ten added, “The new group’s name says it all – we are about kids and expanded classes, better technical and vocational education, more college preparation classes, and more academic choices for every child. Some folks may go to the polls and focus on the past; I urge people to go to the polls focused on the future.”
Citizens for Kids First is interested in adding new members and raising funds for the campaign. If you wish to join, make a contribution or help support consolidation, please contact Karen Hoffman or Caitlin Mahoney in Ashland, Laura Richard in Chandlerville, or Al Grosboll or Kevin Thomas in the PORTA area.
There will be three Consolidation Informational Meetings in February. The first will be held on Monday, February 10, 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, Ashland. The second meeting will be held on Monday, February 17, 7 p.m. at the Chandlerville Community Center. The third meeting will be held on Monday, February 24 in the library of the PORTA High School in Petersburg. Everyone is welcome to attend.