The message from a question and answer session Thursday, Nov. 19, about school district reorganization was that for teachers and students, not much would change.
The session, attended by the boards for both Williston Public School District No. 1 and Williams County Public School District No. 8, was for general questions about the proposed reorganization of the two districts. An election is set for Dec. 8 and a majority of voters from both districts will have to approve the reorganization plan.
Thomas Kalil, president of the District 1 school board, said the idea was that much would remain the same for teachers and students, with changes happening in the way the services are managed.
“I just want to stress what we’ve shown with regard to staff, with regard to buildings and now busing is that there will be a continuity,” Kalil said. “The exp of a D1 or D8 student will remain the same in a transition or not. Those buildings stay open, those teachers have their jobs, those buses are still running.”
From the beginning of the session, officials from both districts stressed that every school building would remain open and most teachers would keep their jobs.
“We’re going to need all of our schools,” Jeffrey Thake, superintendent for District 1, saoid. “It is imperative we keep all our schools online.”
The reorganization plan also specifies that staffing will stay about the same level. Under state law, if the reorganization passes, every teacher would get a notice their contract wasn’t being renewed, but that’s because the district will be changing. An amendment to the plan specifies there will be about the same number of teachers in a combined district as work in the two together.
“Williston Basin School District #7 will employ approximately 755 licensed/Certified and support staff FTE’s,” the amendment reads. “This number is an approximately the same number as what is currently employed by WPSD1 and D8 combined. Employee numbers will fluctuate based on enrollment and staffing needs.”
Chris Jundt, president of the District 8 school board, said he thought the plan would make sure staff were protected.
“This notion that there is not any protection in here for staff and that jobs are not going to be protected is just a false notion in my opinion,” Jundt said.
David Goetz, superintendent for District 8, pointed out that if the reorganization plan passes, the board for the new district will be bound by it for five years.
“When it passes, this is basically what has to be done for the next five years,” Goetz said. “For the next five years, we’re pretty much stuck in these buildings.”
The benefits come from working together behind the scenes, officials from both districts say.
“We are a much stronger entity working together and this plan is a reflection of that,” Thake said.
One thing that would clearly change if the reorganization plan passes is the composition of the board. Under the plan, there would be seven members, with two required to come from outside Williston city limits and the other five at large. Kalil pointed out that if the plan passes, the way people think about the school boards will have to change. That is one reason the boards decided to include a proposed name for the new district: Williston Basin School District No. 007.
“There won’t be any District 8 members on this board,” Kalil said. “There won’t be any District 1 members on this board. There will be seven District 7 members. It’s not us and you, it’s not you and us, it’s us and us, because if this passes we are one district, one community. So there won’t be a board takeover by District 8 or by District 1, there will be seven people representing District 7.”