The author of a bill to re-establish the former Motley School District declared the legislation to be dead on arrival but hopes it will lead to dialogue between opponents in the Staples-Motley School District.
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said today he introduced the measure because about 600 people signed a petition requesting the legislation, but acknowledged the bill won't become law.
"I introduced the bill in hopes that people would sit down at the table and talk," Howes said. "The bill will not become a reality."
Similarly, the bill's Senate author, Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, said she introduced the bill at the request of disgruntled Motley residents but doesn't have a position on the legislation.
There were contentious feelings when the former Staples School District and the former Motley School District were consolidated -- feelings that haven't entirely disappeared.
"This consolidation was forced on Motley," Motley native Erv Bjerga, a member of the Motley K-12 Committee, said Thursday. "This is just like a divorce. Divorces take place many times without both sides wanting it."
Count Staples-Motley School District Superintendent Ken Scarbrough among those who doesn't want the so-called divorce.
"That's not what's best for the kids," he said Thursday.
The Staples-Motley School District was consolidated in the 1994-95 school year, Scarbrough said. The districts were paired in 1988 and remained that way until 1990 when they were unpaired. The districts were then separate until their eventual consolidation in the 1994-95 consolidation.
Bjerga said consolidation isn't working and cited the high number of students who are taking part in open enrollment. Opportunities for students to participate in extra-curricular activities decreased after the consolidation, he said.
"Some families just plain like the smaller setting," he said.
He said the Motley area is growing tremendously and the former Motley district would be able to financially support its own kindergarten-12 system.
He had wanted the legislation to call for a vote of residents of the former Motley district to decide the issue but Howes said House legal staff informed him any vote would have to include voters in the total Staples-Motley district. Bjerga said most of the district's activities for students take place in Staples and Motley area students spend their time there rather than in Motley.
"There was a lot of resentment because this consolidation was forced on the people of Motley," Bjerga said.
Scarbrough said after talking to legislative leaders, he doesn't expect the bill to go anywhere.
If the districts were split, he said, students would see diminished course offerings.
The superintendent said he takes the concerns of the Motley area residents seriously and a school board committee plans to meet with the group that wanted to break off from the Staples-Motley district. He said the Staples-Motley students have established friendships and pride in the consolidated district.
"The issues of splits and division -- those kinds of issues are adult issues," he said.
The fact that some 600 people signed a petition calling for a new Motley School District is what prompted Howes to introduce the legislation.
"When you get handed 600 signatures, that speaks volumes," the legislator said.
Howes said he didn't ask for a hearing on the bill because the chairs of both the Education Policy Committee and the Education Finance Committee told him they wouldn't grant him one. His hope is that the proposed legislation can serve as a starting point for discussions in the school district to resolve some bitter feelings. He said the issues are primarily adult issues and that it's time for the residents to start acting like adults and solve their problems.
"I hope it will bring peace in the valley between Staples and Motley," he said of his bill.
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