By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After resolving a glitch in the process, the Blue Sky and Kremlin-Gildford school districts are moving forward with elections on consolidating the districts.
"We're ready. It's all drawn up and ready to go," Blue Sky Superintendent Terry Grant said this morning.
Blue Sky intends to hold its election June 8, in conjunction with the primary election, if KG wants to hold its election on that day and the Hill County Clerk and Recorder's Office approves, he said.
Grant said he wants the two districts to hold their elections on the same day.
Hill County Superintendent of Schools Shirley Isbell said Thursday that when the districts' school boards voted earlier this month to hold elections on consolidation, they left out a step required by state law. That step, requesting the county superintendent to call for an election before the boards vote on the election and the date, has been taken care of and she is sending out the order for elections, she said.
Isbell said state law lays out steps that must be followed for consolidation. Since consolidation is a high-profile issue in Montana and has both support and opposition in the two Hi-Line districts, she wants to make sure that every step is properly followed, she said.
The next step is for both districts to set the date for their elections and to submit their election resolutions to the county clerk and recorder, she said.
The school boards voted this month to hold elections after people spoke at meetings in both districts, some in favor of and some against consolidation. The KG board's advisory group had recommended it reopen consolidation discussions with Blue Sky, which the KG board broke off in February 2003.
Grant said the Blue Sky board has already approved holding its election on June 8, contingent on the county superintendent calling for an election and agreement on the date by the KG board.
KG Superintendent John Ballard said this morning that he will contact KG board members to see if they want to call a special meeting to set the date or act at their next scheduled meeting in May.
Grant said Blue Sky wants to hold the election to coincide with the primary election so voters in the district aren't forced to come out three times - once for the regular school election, once for the primary and again for a special consolidation election.
Once the clerk and recorder receives the school board resolutions, the districts must post notice of the election between 20 and 30 days before the election.
Once the election is held and canvassed and Isbell receives the certified results, she must order the consolidation of the districts if the voters in both districts approve it. The order will include the appointment of an interim school board for the district. The appointed members will be replaced over time through staggered elections.
Isbell said Montana law is somewhat unclear on some issues of consolidation, including when the consolidation must take effect if approved. She is working with the state Office of Public Instruction and asking lawyers for legal advice on some issues, she said.
One of the questions she is trying to resolve is the size and makeup of the interim school board she would appoint to oversee the consolidation. Isbell said the size of the board depends on the population of the district, and she is asking lawyers how to best proceed with appointing the members if the consolidation is approved.
Isbell said she will work with the district superintendents and school boards to find people from the districts who are both interested in and qualified to serve as members of the interim board.