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Election results show divide over district's future

by MACKENZI KLEMANN

mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

and ANDREW CHRISTMAN

achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Will incumbent MSD of Wabash County Board of Education members Matt Driscoll and Todd Dazey be able to heal the divide that has grown within the district and the community? The board members apparently hope so, according to a statement issued on Facebook Tuesday evening when the two learned they will retain their seats on the school board for four more years.

The rift over whether the school board should recommit to Phase II of the Community Foundation of Wabash County’s “Studies for Advancement,” or whether the study is too limited and should be avoided, has been the primary topic of public debate in recent months and in Tuesday’s election results.

Those results show the community is about evenly divided between keeping things the same and collecting more data, assuming votes were based primarily on candidate views of the “Studies for Advancement,” consolidation and the direction of the current school board.

Tiffany Haupert, Sandy Davis, Teresa Galley and Ryan Rosen, all of whom confirmed in last week’s candidate forum that they wanted to revisit Phase II, received a combined 4,783 votes, while incumbents Matt Driscoll and Todd Dazey received a combined 4,321 votes.

Where the board moves from here is not entirely clear. While Dazey and Driscoll have both stated that they’ve already moved on from the Community Foundation study and are unlikely to change their minds, both men have also issued statements on Facebook outlining the conditions under which they would be willing to talk consolidation with Wabash City Schools.

“I have been consistent with my stance since my first campaign for MSD Board,” Dazey wrote in a note to the Facebook page Citizens for Strong Schools, a local political action committee. “In 2014, I stated ‘... If consolidation could be done right and for the right reasons, I’m not sure I would be opposed.’ I would caution people however, to not believe that consolidation is the ‘miracle cure.’ MSD has taken the lead at being innovate. With 1 to 1 learning, eLearning and online teaching with our distance learning at Whites, we have shown we can think outside the box and can leverage these technologies to continue to be the leader in education.”

Dazey mentioned the two-high school option during last week’s candidate forum as well. And he talked to the Plain Dealer briefly that evening about other ways the two school corporations could share resources and operate more efficiently that are not currently being discussed, like online learning, distance learning and block scheduling. That’s why he didn’t want to participate in the Community Foundation study, which he believed was too limited in its scope.

“There are so many things we could do academically that we’re not taking advantage of now and I’ve been asking we look at as well as consolidation,” he told the Plain Dealer last Tuesday.

Driscoll told the forum last week that he doesn’t think another study is needed at this time, citing the board’s recent stakeholder survey and tax rate analysis completed earlier this year. And on the issue of consolidation, he said MSD needs to look “outside the box” for options, like using a collaborative school for dual-credit and STEM courses similar to what Heartland Career Center is for vocational programs. But he conceded that consolidation may become a necessity at some point.

The Plain Dealer was unable to reach either board member for comment on Wednesday. But on Facebook Tuesday evening, Dazey wrote that he hopes the community is able to “put the division behind us and work to make a better future for our students.”