Teachers, parents, and students embraced and some cried moments after the Iowa Board of Education voted unanimously to de-accredit and close the Farragut Community School District. This is only the third time the state education board has dissolved a school district.
The southwest Iowa district struggled for years with compliance issues, like having a licensed physics teacher on staff or buildings meeting the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally Farragut has a declining enrollment and ended fiscal year 2015 having overspent nearly $93,000.
"I want to say to the people who came and spoke today, and to the superintendent, we've followed this the last few years. You've done an unbelievable job to get to the point you're at," says education board member William "Mike" May, a retired school teacher and former state representative from Spirit Lake. "I just don't see how you continue to cut, continue to offer the students of that district what they really need...you've done everything you could."
Farragut's superintendent and school board asked the state board of education to hold off on making a decision until the end of the academic year. But a report detailed the situation as irreconcilable, including the fact that Farragut has had a negative-fund balance for five years.
"One of the number one reasons districts get in trouble is they don't proactively address their spending pattern, compared to their revenue. That is what happened here," Iowa Department of Education's Deputy Director Jeff Berger told the education board. "How long is that OK with you?"
The district's dissolving could have a far-reaching impact on the community of Farragut.
"We do not have many businesses and sometimes we do struggle with that. The school was kind of our main business that brought everyone there," says Blu Ossian, a sophomore at Farragut's Nishnabotna High School. "Now that we don’t have one, I don’t know what will happen."
Students will finish out the year in Farragut, while the Department of Education redraws the district’s borders. A period of open enrollment will follow, and students will select where they wish to attend for the 2016-2017 school year.