Recruitment & Retention

Tiny Iowa District Trolling for Pupils

By Jessica L. Tonn — March 13, 2007 1 min read
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Officials from the Manson Northwest Webster Community School District in Manson, Iowa, expected to upset some people in neighboring counties by sending out a mass mailing encouraging the counties’ residents to transfer their children to the 700-student district under the state’s open-enrollment policy.

And school district leaders say they won’t stop sending such mailings.

According to Superintendent Mark Egli, several families have expressed interest in transferring their children—and their roughly $5,000 apiece in state aid—to the district after the mailing went out last month.

None of the families lives in the Pomeroy-Palmer Community School District, the small nearby district worried that it would lose some of its fewer than 225 students.

But the three-page mailing has drawn a busload of controversy—including a rebuke from the state department of education saying that the district gave the appearance of trying to rob Pomeroy-Palmer of its share of state resources.

Under state law, parents can enroll students in any district, regardless of where they live. State aid follows the student to the new district.

Manson Northwest Webster’s promotion included a letter from its school board touting the “many positive attributes” of the district and warning that “the future for education in this area of Iowa likely holds mergers and reorganization of our school districts.” It also contained an open-enrollment application and instructions.

“Including the application was probably the mistake,” said Mr. Egli. “We knew [the mailing] would make some people upset, but we thought it would probably just hit the wastebasket.”

Although the district did not violate state law by sending the materials, a lawyer for the state education department sent an e-mail to district officials shortly after learning about the mailing expressing the department’s disappointment. In a public statement, the department cited the importance of districts’ being “good neighbors that collaborate and cooperate in the effort to provide quality education to Iowa’s students.”

But Mr. Egli says that his district does not intend to stop promoting open enrollment.

“We’ll just do it a little differently next time,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2007 edition of Education Week

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