Pettus ISD Superintendent Tucker Rackley and Pawnee ISD Superintendent Elaine Richardson shared their views with the Bee County Republican Party on Monday.
They were invited to speak at the Republicans’ regular monthly board meeting after a Beeville ISD trustee said earlier this month that he believed taxpayers might be able to save money by consolidating all four county school districts.
BISD Trustee Tom Beasley said he asked his fellow colleagues on the school board to at least discuss whether they are in favor of looking into the idea and seeing if combining all four school districts is even feasible.
If his fellow board members believe the concept is worth exploring, he said, then they could open a dialogue with the boards and administrators of the other three school districts in the county, Skidmore-Tynan ISD, Pawnee ISD and Pettus ISD.
“The first step is to see if we even want to explore the issue,” Beasley explained. “If they don’t, then the issue dies right there. But if they believe it’s worth exploring — that we should look into it as a way of saving taxpayers money — then we can approach the other school districts and see if they are interested in exploring the idea.”
He has asked for the issue to be placed on the agenda at a future board meeting.
Beasley wondered if the county taxpayers need to be paying for four superintendents, four athletic directors, four head librarians and other salaries that, perhaps, one person can oversee.
Rackley told the Republicans that BISD trustees should be commended for searching for innovative ways to save taxpayers money. But he said combining the four school districts isn’t the answer.
“They can discuss what they feel is the best thing for the children of BISD, and they can even discuss if they like what they feel is the best thing for the children of Bee County,” he said. “And, certainly, for them to look forward and discuss something of that nature is just fine.”
However, BISD cannot force consolidation on the other school districts, Rackley said.
However, while BISD trustees discuss what they believe is best for the children of Bee County, Pettus ISD trustees may well have a similar discussion, Rackley said.
Combining the school districts would mean consolidating all the athletic teams and other extracurricular activities, he said.
Presently, students in all four school districts have the opportunity to participate in athletic events and extracurricular activities. But creating one high school would limit the number of students who could participate, he explained.
Besides, he added, “People have a lot of pride in their communities. We have people whose sons and daughters, their grandchildren even their great-grandchildren have gone to Pettus ISD. There’s a lot of community pride there.”
“They feel great about the education their children are getting (at Pettus ISD) and in no way do they want that disturbed,” he said. “In no way is that a reflection they couldn’t get the same education at Beeville ISD, but it is a reflection of their pride in their community.”
He said he doubts if he could twist Pettus ISD residents’ arms enough to make them support a proposal to join Pettus ISD with Beeville ISD.
“Most definitely I do not believe that the people who live out in Pettus ISD will believe it is a wise thing for their children to come to school in Beeville, even if down the road someone might be able to prove that it might save somebody some money,” he said. “I don’t believe it would save Pettus ISD taxpayers any money. Pettus ISD already has the lowest tax rate in the county.”
Richardson said cutting her position would probably cost taxpayers more money because of all the hats she wears.
“I’m not only the superintendent, but I’m also the business manager, the transportation director, I’m the maintenance director... so when you talk about saving money, I’m not sure it would work in my case,” she said.
Likewise, Rackley said, “if you combine the schools and expand (one school district), you will have only one superintendent, but because it is a larger school district he or she will want a higher salary and (he or she) will have to have more assistant superintendents because of the expansion of the schools,” he said. “It could be done and it might save some money but the bottom line (that the idea will never pass), I believe, is going to be community pride.”