By Tracy Ouellette

The Mukwonago Area School District Board of Education voted 5-3 Monday night to accept the five owner-initiated small territory detachment requests from homeowners in the village and town of Eagle. Board member Joanne Newberry abstained from the vote.

“While the decision by the Mukwonago Area School District is unsettling to some members of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District the outcome was not unexpected,” Palmyra-Eagle Area School District Superintendent Dr. Steven Bloom said Tuesday.

The requests went before the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District Board Wednesday night and the board voted to deny all five of the detachment requests. Now, the homeowners who made the requests can appeal the board’s decision and take it to the state Department of Public Instruction for a decision.

“As this is a highly charged and emotional issue for members of the Palmyra and Eagle communities I know that the PEASD Board of Education will also take into consideration many factors in making its decision on the matter at the Special Meeting on Wednesday,” Bloom said Tuesday morning, prior to the decision by Palmyra-Eagle.

According to Bloom, statements that were submitted by community members, parents, students or employees by 5 p.m. Wednesday “regarding the potential detachment of one or more of the proposed small territories as outlined in the five petition areas will be entered into the record, become part of the official proceedings and be documented accordingly.”

MASD board member Art Schneider said Tuesday morning “a lot of people spoke on both sides of the issue” Monday night.

The Mukwonago Area School District Board held a special meeting Feb. 16 in the High School auditorium to accommodate the crowd. About 100 people showed up at that meeting to hear the presentation to the board about the possible owner-initiated detachment requests from the town and village of Eagle residents to be annexed into the Mukwonago Area School District.

Village of Eagle resident Lisa Schulist made the formal request Feb. 16 to the MASD board for the five proposed detachments that would take those areas in Eagle out of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District and into the Mukwonago Area School District.

“I am a 15-year resident of the Village of Eagle and it’s my fifth year open enrolling my children into MASD,” Schulist told the board at the Feb. 16 meeting. “I believe the petitions speak for themselves. The 354 families that have signed these petitions believe it is in their children’s best interests to be part MASD. Many of our children have been attending your schools and have benefited from the effective, successful and well-rounded school district you have created.”

Schulist cited low test scores and the fact that about 100 kids from the areas requesting annexation into MASD already open enroll into the district as reasons for the requests.

“It is our understanding that most of the students currently enrolled in the high school would open enroll to remain in PEASD along with their siblings. It is also our understanding that families of 16 of the current PEASD students would attend MASD schools if you approve this attachment,” Schulist said.

“These numbers do not indicate a massive change in enrollment at either district. Even if the 60 additional children in the affected areas were to come into MASD, that would be a 1 percent increase over your current enrollment.  This would not put the district at risk of overcrowding, as some opponents would like the community to believe. This number also represents a mere 6 percent of the Town and Village of Eagle. It does not spell the end of PEASD as the opponents would also like you to believe,” Schulist added.

After Schulist’s presentation Feb. 16, about a dozen Palmyra-Eagle Area School District residents spoke against the annexation. They voiced concerns that the possible detachments were just the first step that would eventually destroy the district.

One Palmyra-Eagle resident pointed out that the process originally began as a large parcel detachment but the requesting group wasn’t able to get the signatures required.

Tactics used by the group attempting to obtain signatures was also raised at the MASD meeting last week. According to posts on the Facebook page “Eagle and Palmyra, Together Forever, Palmyra-Eagle” several Eagle residents who had previously signed petitions for detachment had since requested their names be removed because of dishonest tactics that were used.

Many of the residents who spoke against the requests also pointed out that most of the families requesting the detachment have already made the choice to go to Mukwonago schools and others in the areas in question shouldn’t be forced to open enroll back in the district in which they already reside.

There were also some Mukwonago Area School District residents who spoke out against the annexation who said they feared the additional kids in the district would cause space and needs issued for the district.

Mukwonago School District Business Manager Darren Clark presented the fiscal study on the detachment done by Baird to the board Feb. 16.

If the annex takes place, the Mukwonago Area School District would take a $450,000 hit financially the first two years, but Clark said that would disappear in the third year because of state aid and revenue limits being calculated on a three-year rolling average. By the third year, it is estimated, MASD would see a more than $800,000 increase in revenue annually.

Editor’s note: A detailed story about what led to that decision, what steps come next should the petitioners decide to file an appeal as well as the potential impact on PEASD will appear in next week’s issue of The Enterprise.

 

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