The Pineville Independent Board of Education has submitted a letter to the Bell County Board of Education requesting the two entities renegotiate their student exchange contract.
The current contract, which was negotiated in 2012, states Bell would give Pineville one for one plus 180 students and Pineville would give Bell one for one. Prior to the current contract, the two schools had an any and all contract, which would essentially allow any student from the two districts to choose which school they wanted to attend.
“The members of the Bell Board of Education are people of good will who are trying to do what is best for their school,” said Pineville board member James Golden. “Each of their members have told me that they have no desire to hurt Pineville Independent, and I take them at their word on that. That is why we wanted to invite them to join in a new conversation in hopes of returning to a free choice type contract.”
In the letter, representatives from the Pineville School Board acknowledged that the two entities worked together in 2012 to come to the current contract. At the time the Bell County Board stated financial issues as a concern for ending the any and all contract.
“We understood that due to financial constraints affecting the Bell County system at that time, your superintendent and board did not want to continue that “any and all” student contract agreement which allowed the free choice of schools to all parents and students in Bell County,” said Pineville board chair Ann Gains in the letter.
“While we opposed this change, we nevertheless appreciate the Bell County Board of Education for working with us to arrive at our current four-year contract instead of imposing a more drastic reduction of exchange which would have caused an immediate negative impact on our school and its students.”
The Pineville School Board asked the board to consider several things when determining whether or not they want to re-examine the current contract. One of the first things listed in the letter was the fact the Bell County School District’s financial condition has improved dramatically since 2012.
In the letter, the Pineville board said Bell has not gained any additional revenue as a result of the 2012 limited exchange contract, and Pineville will lose up to $300,000 in state funding under the current contract over the next two years.
“This money will not go to either system,” said Gains. “It will stay in Frankfort. With our weak local economy, neither Pineville nor Bell County can afford to forfeit this money.”
The letter also states each school offers distinct advantages to prospective students. According to the letter, Bell can offer some courses and programs that a smaller system cannot, and Pineville offers a smaller environment which can focus on excellence in certain specific areas and can give more individual attention.
“Some students thrive in a bigger school, while others need a smaller environment,” said Gains. “Parents and students, not boards and administrators, are in the best position to make the choice of which school is best for them. The factors that guide these decisions are personal to the individual circumstances of each family.”
In the closing portions of the letter, representatives from Pineville said they know the primary concern for Bell is the educational advancement of all students in Bell.
“We hope that with your help our two districts can be a model for the rest of the state by working together for the sake of students and not spending taxpayer dollars in a dispute over school choice,” said Gains.
Anthony Cloud can be reached at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN.