Dustin, Graham voters approve school consolidation
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
A proposal to consolidate the rural school districts of Dustin and Graham won easily Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s unofficial results showed that 126 voters favored the proposal while 19 opposed it.
Under the plan, the Dustin facility will host prekindergarten through fourth-grade students, and the Graham facility will have fifth- through 12th-graders.
The new district will be Graham-Dustin Public Schools beginning July 1.
Wanda Mankin, director of online education for Graham, has been an educator in the school district for 35 years.
“Well, I thought I was happy about it; then I started crying,” Mankin said Tuesday night after learning that the proposal had been approved. “Graham and Dustin have always been big rivals, but a lot of that has been put aside in recent years.”
Graham and Dustin were basketball rivals. But Dustin’s enrollment had tapered off so much in recent years that its high school had closed. When its students were ready for high school, most of them were already starting to Graham.
Dustin is down to 52 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade.
“I have three girls in a leadership class that came out of Dustin because they lost their high school, and they’ve been great addition,” Mankin said. “I think the kids will combine and have no problems.
“A lot of the teachers faces will be the same. That will help make the transition easier, too.”
The two schools are only four miles apart.
Dustin’s school is in a town of 452 in northern Hughes County.
Graham’s school is located near Weleetka, a town of 998 in southern Okfuskee County.
The two districts encompass four counties, but the majority of voters were in Okfuskee and Hughes counties, where the proposal passed by a large margin.
In Okmulgee County, 6 people voted in favor and one opposed consolidation, and no one voted in McIntosh County, which has a small portion of the Graham district.
Dustin Superintendent Joe Cummings said previously that the consolidation would keep both campuses open, which is what residents wanted.
School leaders said consolidating schools would also increase funding, would no longer require educators to teach two grades to a classroom, and would give students more elective opportunities.
Graham has 110 students, plus 100 virtual students, and 2,400 students from across the state in Epic, a virtual charter school that the district sponsors.
With the consolidation, the cumulative enrollment for Graham-Dustin will be around 2,662 students.
Graham Superintendent Dusty Chancey said previously that the consolidation would not raise taxes. Cummings said the state will give the new district $600,000 for expenses associated with the consolidation.
Cummings said the current eight members of the two school boards will select a new seven-member board for the consolidated district.
The new school board will select a superintendent for the new school, which means Cummings and/or Chancey could be out of a job, at least as the top administrator.
Bond issues: Bond propositions for new construction passed by wide margins at Adair (Mayes County) and Preston (Okmulgee County) public schools.
At Adair, 82 percent of the voters approved a $5.995 million bond. In the Preston district, a $2.03 million question gained 82.2 percent approval.
World Staff Writer Rhett Morgan contributed to this story.