Allen County schools team up to show educational pride, enthusiasm



August 27, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The 2011-2012 school year is shaping up to be the year of unity for the three school districts in Allen County.
All three school districts, Moran’s USD 256, Iola’s USD 257 and Humboldt’s USD 258, plus Allen County Community College, are in the midst of designing “Center of Education Excellence” signs to be placed in four locations at the county’s border, one on each end of Highways 169 and 54.
USD 257 Superintendent of Schools Brian Pekarek said educational signs will show visitors that Allen County and its communities are serious about providing children and young adults with top notch education.
“All three school districts have lost about 11 percent of operating budget with state cuts since 2008. Iola alone has lost over a million dollars,” he said.  “It just makes sense to be more efficient by working together and knowing that we have the same issues.”
At his last gig as superintendent for the Clifton-Clyde school district, Pekarek put up similar signs, resulting in a 7 percent increase in student enrollment over the course of two years.
“It wasn’t all because of the signs but I’m sure it had something to do with it,” he said. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Humboldt Superintendent K.B. Criss said increased student enrollment isn’t the motivator for collaborating with the other districts. Rather, portraying a culture of tolerance and working together is.
“There are a lot of other factors such as jobs and housing, but if nothing else, it will show some school pride,” he said. “It shows everybody that comes into the county that education is taken seriously and we have pride in our school districts.”
Pekarek said each double-sided sign should run about $600, with the funds coming from community donors and small appropriations from each of the school districts. The Iola Rotary Club donated $200 and the Iola Kiwanis Club will decide at its next meeting whether to donate $200 of its own.
County commission chairman Robert Francis said he’s pleased to see the districts collaborating for the better of the entire county.
“The education of Allen County students is imperative to the future of the county so it’s great to see them working together,” he said, adding that the commission might be willing to contribute to the cause. “I’m certain (the county commission) would be open to any approach that the school districts want to make.”
Final approval to go ahead with the signage will come from each of the three districts’ school boards.

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