Saturday, January 09, 1999

Split school district discouraged

Monroe effort not supported at state level

Enquirer Contributor

        MONROE — A state education official is asking the Ohio Board of Education to reject a plan to split the Middletown/Monroe City Schools into separate districts.

        James Van Keuren, Ohio's interim superintendent for public instruction, has recommended against a petition from a Monroe group trying to form its own school system. The group, known as the Committee on Reviewing Education (CORE), wants to form the district from areas within the city of Monroe that are part of the Middletown/Monroe and Lebanon school districts.

        The new district would encompass about 1,000 students. Nearly all now attend Middletown/Monroe; about a dozen are enrolled in Lebanon schools. The Monroe group is seeking the split because it says it can provide a better education for Monroe students.

        CORE members plan to speak during Tuesday's state board of education meeting, when the matter will be discussed. The final decision on the new district rests with the board.

        “When we got the letter (Friday from the state) we could tell they didn't have correct information,” said Suzi Rubin, CORE spokeswoman. “If we leave Middletown, the state is saying Middletown will have a deficit of $5.1 million over five years. They're not considering that if we stay, Middletown will have a $4.9 million deficit over five years. We're not costing Middletown $5 million. We're costing them $200,000 over five years.”

        Middletown/Monroe Treasurer Edmund Pokora said he received the state's financial analysis and Mr. Van Keuren's recommendation late Friday, and was still reviewing it. He said no decision had been made on whether anyone from the Middletown/Monroe district or board would go to the Columbus hearing.

        “This is a complex matter that hasn't ever been done before,” Mr. Pokora said. “We'll be discussing it again Monday.”

        It's the second time in a little more than a year that a CORE proposal has gone before the state board. A similar plan was rejected in December 1997.

        The Middletown/Monroe school board is not actively campaigning against the split but maintains the students would be better served if the district remains intact. “Our position has not changed,” said Tom Brickey, president of the Middletown/Monroe Board of Education.


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