Collins-Maxwell School Board hears concerns from Collins mayor and others about the future of the district

Marlys BarkerNevada
Journal Editor

Collins Mayor Brett Comegys held nothing back when he told members of the Collins-Maxwell school board Monday that Collins has felt marginalized in their partnership in the Collins-Maxwell School District, and they are going to do what’s best for their kids.

Comegys, who spoke at the regular board meeting of the C-M board, said he was speaking out for a group of people in his town who are concerned about the future of the school district.

Comegys said that Collins people have been more supportive than Maxwell people of the bond issues in recent years that would have moved the district forward with better facilities if they had passed. “We believe that we would be in a far different position if we had made better decisions … We don’t feel our voice has been heard,” he said.

Blaming a vocal group in Maxwell for ego-centrism, Comegys said a group of community members in Collins now believes it’s time to make decisions that are best for its community. “I think Maxwell has made a bed for us, and we just can’t lie in it anymore.” Comegys added that there is a group of people in Collins with the resources, interest and desire to explore every legal option they have to if necessary to make the split from the school district.

“This has been something that’s been brewing a long time, and it’s hurting our town,” he said, and Comegys said he’s willing to pick a fight if that will get something going to move the district forward.

“If Maxwell doesn’t wake up, any options we’re going to have … are going to be gone… If we don’t get everybody on board, Collins is no longer going to be along for the ride,” he said.

As a followup to the board’s meeting last week with Baxter, Comegys indicated that Baxter feels they cannot talk to Maxwell, and he said Collins feels the same way. “But they (Baxter) can talk to us, because we want to talk to anybody who will help secure a future for our students,” he said. He indicated that the people of Collins are also willing to talk with West Marshall, in terms of area districts they’d consider sending their kids to.

Scott Girard of Collins spoke next, asking for the Collins-Maxwell school board to make a formal apology to Baxter for how they have treated the Baxter school board. Girard said he liked Interim Superintendent Dr. Tom Lane’s idea about a regional school … but said the reason Baxter isn’t interested in listening to that type of discussion is “we’ve ticked them off so bad. People have said, if they hate us so much in Maxwell, why would I want to send my kid over there?”

Girard said he knows that a lot of people will say the Collins-Maxwell board did nothing wrong, but whether it’s “real or perceived,” he said, “there’s an issue… something hasn’t gone right.” He wants the C-M board to offer some type of apology to at least get conversations moving forward.

“We’re about a week away from severing ties (with Baxter), and if there’s no reaching out from Collins-Maxwell, I think they’re no longer going to be on board (with any type of partnership),” he said.

Sonya Staudt of Maxwell followed the two Collins men and said she didn’t believe the Collins-Maxwell school board had abandoned Baxter. “They (the C-M board) gave a viable option to Baxter … Let’s not only have one friend over to play, let’s have four. It’s not going to be a big school,” she said about what she understood of the regional school idea (see story on the joint Collins-Maxwell/Baxter meeting to better understand this). “It’ll be the size of Nevada … I don’t feel like you shut the door,” she said to the Collins-Maxwell board. And as far as mistakes, she agreed some had been made in the past, but they need to forget that and move on.

Comegys said he isn’t holding the C-M school board responsible for the sour relationship with Baxter, because he knows there’s been cooperation in some ways. He thinks the problem is trust. “There’s a real lack of trust they have with our intentions.”

The last speaker in the audience was Collins-Maxwell district teacher and coach Wes Stover, who said his take on CMB is what he hears from the kids. “I gotta tell you, I wish it was the kids making decisions, because adults are really screwing it up.”

Stover said he has real concerns that Baxter, when their board meets, is going to vote to end the sports sharing agreement. And he said if that sports agreement ends, Collins-Maxwell will really see the open enrollment out of the district as its student-athletes look for programs where they can play. He said some sports, if it’s just Collins-Maxwell, won’t be able to field teams, and he thinks a good portion of kids will open enroll to Baxter to play sports with their teammates there.

Stover said he likes the idea of the regional school maybe a few years down the road. But, he said, “We’ve got to get married as CMB first… We’ve got to get healed first.”

He hopes to see Collins-Maxwell and Baxter repair their relationship by setting egos aside and making the right decision for kids and families that are invested in these communities.

In answer to the comments made during the public forum, Lane said the joint meeting at Baxter was a hard night for him. “I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I walked away feeling sad.”

Lane said he’s not a big ego guy. He didn’t come in thinking he has all the answers or that he needs to win. “My job is to serve the people who reside in this school district.” And Lane said he wants to figure out how to be sure that every kid, no matter what district they’re in, can get the best education.

Our focus, he said, “needs to be on everything. The education they get is JOB 1. Sports, music, social skills … are secondary to making sure these kids have great education and can get a good job when they leave here,” Lane said.

Lane also emphasized that officials at Collins-Maxwell have made no overtures with anyone else to share sports. They have never talked about ending their sports relationship with Baxter.

They have talked with Ballard about operational sharing of central office staff, because it would be a significant savings for the C-M district, which is trying to “right size” itself and cut $350,000 from its budget next year.

Lane said he has two meetings with representatives from Baxter this week. He also has a meeting with Collins-Maxwell’s freshmen, sophomore and junior students to explain to them the things that are happening, and to especially let them know that Collins-Maxwell has never talked about ending the sports agreement.

As for residents in the Collins-Maxwell School District, Lane announced there will be another community forum on May 24 at the school in Collins. Like the first forum, it will be 90 minutes in length, and Lane will present information about the district and give residents plenty of time to ask questions.

Lane thanked those who spoke to the board at the meeting, saying all the comments are very helpful.

Comegys asked to make one final statement. He wanted everyone to know that when he made comments about the people from Maxwell, it was about the portion of Maxwell that has kept the district from moving forward.

At that point, a Maxwell woman in the audience said loudly that some Maxwellians are just as frustrated with certain Maxwellians.