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In a motion filed in U.S. bankruptcy court late last month, the district claimed that it could now deal with creditors on its own and did not need further protection under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code.

The district, which filed for bankruptcy protection five months ago, has since trimmed its staff and faculty. It also eliminated some of the elective classes established as part of its renowned, but costly, intradistrict choice program, state overseers said. ('See Education Week, May 1, 1991 .)

The state last year was forced to give the Richmond schools a $19-million bailout after the district threatened to close early for lack of funds.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has recommended that the Big Cabin school district be required to merge with a neighboring district

The district had until the end of last week to request a hearing on the dispute; Big Cabin Superintendent Wesley E. Watson said early last week that he would request the hearing.

If the state's recommendation is approved by the state board of education, it would be the first such action since last year and only the sixth since 1983, said Ed Winn, the department's administrator for voluntary consolidation. In a letter to Mr. Watson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett said her agency's recommendation was based on a "lack of harmony in the Big Cabin community [that] has affected the quality and effectiveness of instruction and the spirit of the school."

In July, the 110-student district was accredited by the state board with a warning about rancor in the community over whether to close the district, a state official who requested anonymity said.

But Mr. Watson said last week that he did not know what state officials meant, and had been unable to get them to elaborate.

This summer, Mr. Watson garnered national attention when he used his own money to buy land for a trailer park where he would offer free rent and hook-ups as a way to lure families to boost district enrollment. ('See Education Week, July 31, 1991 .) That plan has yet to gain final city council approval, he said last week.

In a separate action, the state board said last month that 199 of the state's 578 school districts should consider voluntary annexation or consolidation in order "to improve their students' performance" on standardized tests and to help reduce dropout rates, state officials said.

Vol. 11, Issue 02, Page 1

Published in Print: September 11, 1991, as News Updates
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