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Cities, Jordan School District meet to stave off a split

Published July 15, 2014 10:28 am

Board responds to list of member cities' demands, including personnel issues, in attempt to keep the district together.
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Four other cities are considering joining South Jordan in asking the Jordan School District to change its ways, in hopes of avoiding a possible district split.

And it appears the Jordan district has already made at least one change, announcing to employees that Deputy Superintendent Burke Jolley will leave the district.

Board vice president Susan Pulsipher said Monday she could not comment on whether Jolley's exit has anything to do with threats from South Jordan City of splitting from the district. But South Jordan has asked for personnel changes among other things as it considers splitting, and South Jordan Mayor David Alvord said Monday several of the council members wanted Jolley out.



Jolley declined to comment Monday about his exit, though the district announcement said it was by mutual agreement. His contract is not up until June 2015.

Pulsipher said she she couldn't comment Monday on whether the district will have to buy out the rest of his contract. Jolley has been with the district for 16 years.

Changing personnel is just one of a number of actions the City of South Jordan has requested the district do. City leaders handed the district a list of requests earlier this month, to be responded to by the end of July — in time for the city to decide whether to place the question of a split on the November ballot.

City leaders feel the district hasn't kept pace with the city's rapid growth. City Council members are also awaiting the results of a feasibility study looking into a possible split before making a decision about putting the question before voters.

On Monday, leaders of South Jordan, along with the mayors of four other cities and lawmakers, met with district board members to talk about that list of requests. The mayors of the other cities are considering signing a memorandum of understanding based on those requests in hopes of avoiding a split.

Alvord, of South Jordan, said Monday that if the cities and district board can agree on the requests — ultimately in the form of an interlocal agreement — South Jordan might stop the split talk.

Signing the memorandum of understanding would be a precursor to signing an interlocal agreement.

"This would really help us work out an agreement that would put South Jordan in a position where we wouldn't be interested in putting [a split] on the ballot," Alvord said of the memorandum.

The memorandum includes a number of requests, largely aimed at increasing the cities' roles and involvement in district decisions.

For example, the memorandum would have the district board submit to the cities a five-year plan describing construction and remodeling of schools. It also asks the board to examine and evaluate all its nonschool properties and report back to the cities.

The group that met Monday made it through the four-page list of requests but not without argument.

Jordan board member Kayleen Whitelock, for example, opposed a part of the agreement that would have required the district to get approval from the cities before making changes to its five-year building plan.

"[Voters] elected us to oversee the district, not for the cities to then oversee us, and personally, some of the verbiage in this is a little offensive to me," Whitelock said. That line was struck from the memorandum.

Pulsipher also told the mayors that they need to trust that the district is changing.

"We cannot move into the future if you treat us like we're still in the past," she said.

And Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, called the memorandum a "one-way street" with Jordan being asked to make all the changes. He said if he were asked to sign it, he'd "tear it up and walk out of the room."

Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth, however, said the memorandum was meant as a starting point, not a final document.

South Jordan City Councilman Mark Seethaler said changes are needed to improve communication between the cities and district.

"We as a city have been told to butt out of the school district's business on more than one occasion," Seethaler said. "That should not happen."

Herriman Mayor Carmen Freeman said, "I am 120 percent convinced we can build these buildings, we can remodel them, much cheaper than what we're doing."

Voters recently defeated a proposed $495 million Jordan bond.

Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, said it's vital to avoid another split. He said he has not heard from one voter in South Jordan in favor of a split.

"We've already lived through one mess," Cunningham said. "We don't need a second one or a third one."

In 2007, voters on the east side of the Jordan School District voted to split over concerns that the east-side's needs weren't being met, among other issues. The east-side went on to form the Canyons District.

That split cost taxpayers across Salt Lake County tens of millions of dollars after the Legislature passed a law resulting in other county districts having to shift money to Jordan to help it make up for revenue losses.

Most of the mayors and Pulsipher left Monday's meeting saying they hope to sign the memorandum after running it by other leaders and lawyers in coming weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

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