Now that a group of Caledonia residents has made it clear they are serious about pursuing an independent school district, leaders in both Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant say they’d like to maybe get in on that.
David DeGroot and Rick McCluskey, both of whom are trustees in Mount Pleasant, attended a presentation by former school board member Brian Dey Monday in Caledonia. DeGroot said exploring a new school district – either as partners with Caledonia or in partnership with Sturtevant – is about doing what’s right for Mount Pleasant.
“I’ve not been shy about my opinion that Racine Unified isn’t cutting it,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have folks interested in moving here but our school district is a problem.”
Officials in Sturtevant are also interested in exploring a new school district because of the importance of Racine County’s place in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor.
“We have to recognize the import of this area east of I-94,” Village President Steve Jansen said Tuesday. “We need to decide if we want to be part of this or not.”
Dey is most likely going to make a presentation in each of the neighboring villages, he confirmed with Racine County Eye Tuesday. He said he’s happy for the interest and compared a villages-only school district to how the west end works.
“I actually like it,” Dey stated. “It would be comparable to Union Grove.”
That village has separate school districts for its K through 8 students and its high school districts.
“There’s a lot that plays into this,” Sturtevant Trustee Chris Wright said. “Would we have a smaller unified district similar to Union Grove? Maybe that would work, but we’d definitely have to examine a lot of options.”
Residents on the Racine County Eye Facebook page were supportive of a new school district separate from Racine Unified.
“If they do that and create a strong school district it will help the whole county attract businesses,” Ian Hamilton posted. “Unified will not want this; thats a lot of tax dollars they will be losing but it can be beneficial at the same time and ease the over crowding.”
Theresa Ailes agreed.
“Yes! I am so for this! My neighbors and I have been discussing this and all want it,” she wrote. “We love our school here in Sturtevant but once kids reach middle school it’s either go private or move. Would love our own district and everything positive it would bring to our town!”
Separating from the district won’t be a short or an easy process. Under current state law, a majority of residents in the district have to sign a petition and then the current school board has to approve the separation followed by a voter referendum.
Dey and his fellow supporters, though, want to flip the process so the referendum comes first and eliminate the need for Board of Education approval. Those changes can only come at the state level, and Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, told The Journal Times it might be difficult to convince the Legislature and the governor to change the rules for just one community.
“If our citizenry decides they want to go through with this, they should have that right,” Dey told the newspaper.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, represents most of Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant, and he said it’s all about choice, telling the Journal Times that all options should be “on the table.”
“As I look at all of the options to improve education from more school choice, more charter schools, more accountability for public schools or another school district, I think all those options should be on the table, but I don’t want to say one is better than the other until I hear what the people of Racine County think,” he is quoted as saying.
Money and buildings is also part of the equation, of course. J.I. Case High School and West Ridge Elementary are both in Mount Pleasant and Schulte Elementary is in Sturtevant. How that would all shake out would be part of negotiations if the requisite number of signatures was collected and the process continued to move forward.