Havre Daily News
More than 25 times in the past quarter-century the East End and Hilldale Hutterite colonies have sought publicly funded schools or attendance centers for their communities. At tonight's Havre school board meeting, they will try again.
At a 7 p.m. meeting in the Havre Middle School auditorium, board members will consider an agreement that would allow Rocky Boy Public Schools to provide each colony with an attendance center, which is similar to a school and would be publicly funded. Rocky Boy Public Schools is making the request for an interlocal agreement between Rocky Boy and Havre Public Schools that would effectively put the colonies in the Rocky Boy school district. Both colonies are in the Havre district, making the interlocal agreement necessary.
If the agreement is approved by the board, RBPS will start a 10-month study to determine the feasibility of operating attendance centers at East End and Hilldale, which are among the largest property taxpayers in Hill County. If the study shows that the plan is in the Rocky Boy elementary district's best interests, that district could then embark on the plan without further approval from HPS. The agreement would last through June of 2008.
The board most recently voted against an East End request for the Havre district to fund an attendance center in July of 2004. The request was denied by a 6-0 vote.
East End has also made similar interlocal requests in the past. In November of 2003 North Harlem School District applied for an interlocal agreement so it could provide an attendance center at East End, and was turned down by a 4-3 vote. In November of 1996, Cottonwood schools tried the same and was voted down 5-0.
HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said today he believes the board has turned down similiar interlocal agreements because of budget issues. Although the funds for the attendance centers would not come from the HPS budget, he said, the money would still come from Montana's limited education dollars.
"Opening two new schools within 25 miles of where schools already exist appears to be very inefficiant," he said.
Miller, in a memo, asked board members to "decide what you believe is in the best interest of our students, the students in our county, and the students of Montana" when voting on the request.
Rocky Boy Superintendent Sandra Murie said Monday that Rocky Boy was first approached by the colonies about working out an interlocal agreement a year and a half ago, but shelved the idea. When East End approached Rocky Boy school officials again last fall, they decided to look into it.
Colony members often go to Rocky Boy for business, she said, and she feels the two communities have a good working relationship.
Both colonies currently run private schools for their children.
Also being discussed at tonight's meeting will be the busing of some children in the HPS district to the newly formed North Star School District, formerly Blue Sky and KG. The board will not be deciding whether or not these children will be allowed to be bused to Rudyard, but instead whether that district will get state and county funds for reimbursement.
The board will also vote on an agreement drafted between HPS and the Havre Wrestling Club that would allow HPS to assume ownership of Mat Corner. The Mat Corner building is a one-story facility on the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue that has been used by Havre's wrestlers for more than 10 years. The wrestling club is offering HPS the building for free.
The two sides agreed to the donation in December, and since have been working out the details.
Also, the board will vote on a proposed contract for Superintendent Kirk Miller that includes a 4 percent salary increase. Miller was the only employee of the Havre Public School system that didn't receive a similar raise at the board's June 14 meeting. The proposed contract runs through next June 30.