Caledonia residents voted 2,481 to 2,372 in April to approve an advisory referendum to start pursuing an independent school district, but the village board voted 4 to 2 against doing the study. Village trustees Kevin Wanggaard and Ed Willing were the only trustees who voted for the $30,000 study. Village trustee Lee Wishau was not at the board meeting.
Village trustee Jim Dobbs voted no on the feasibility study. But he told the village board that he would consider spending the money if Sturtevant, and Mount Pleasant would go in with them on it to pay for a larger study that would satisfy the questions that state legislators have. But Caledonia independent school district supporter Brian Dey retorted that Dobbs doesn’t represent that area, he represents Caledonia.
“You try to pass this… when there’s no support (at the state level), we’re dead,” Dobbs said.
But while the feasibility study was a no go, another resolution was passed a resolution that requests that the state change the law to allow Caledonia to separate from the Racine Unified School District.
As it stands now, Racine Unified would need to give its blessing to Caledonia to separate from the district. The group behind forming the independent school district wants state Legislators to change the law to allow communities to separate from unified school districts if they choose to through a referendum.
But a change in state law would apply any school district in the state that wanted to dissolve its relationship with a unified school district. The rule change would also allow school districts to join a unified school district if it can be done and the communities wanted to support such an arrangement.
Rep. Tom Weatherston (R-Caledonia) said he’s willing to write a bill that would seek to change the allow to allow communities that want their own school districts to have them, but he thought writing it would be “dead on the water.”
Weatherston said that all three state legislators — Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) — are thinking of how to sell the idea of the law change to other state law makers.
“But we took a blow last week when not one person from Caledonia applied for that open board seat for the Racine Unified School District,” he told the board.
Still, Caledonia resident Kim Hoover said she wasn’t interested in serving on RUSD’s board, even though her children went to Horlick High School.
“I don’t like RUSD or their board,” she said after the meeting. “I want our own district.”
Weatherston also told the board that the state legislators would like to see fiscal impact study before they proposed law change.
“Maybe we should take that $30,000 and fix the school system we got,” he told the board.
Some residents agreed with Weatherston.
“It was the correct vote given that Dey and Willing have been told time and again what is really needed in the study and just wanted to flush money down the toilet on a study that doesn’t include what is needed,” wrote Yvonne Erdman on a Facebook post.
Following the meeting, Dey announced on his Facebook page that he was resigning his position with the group.
“It is official, I have resigned my duties. Let Bob Bradley, Tom Weatherston, Jim Dobbs, David Prott and Kathy Trenedue explain why Caledonia can’t have its own school district when the voters passed a referendum to pursue a new district,” he wrote.