Small independent school districts face enrollment challenges, but have the support of communities

09/30/2015 05:44 PM

As the number continues to dwindle due to consolidation, schools in independent school districts tend to give their students a different experience than their county counterparts.

Dayton Independent Schools Superintendent Jay Brewer has spent his life in independent school districts having been a student and teacher at Ludlow; he spent 8 years as an educator in Ft. Thomas and has spent the last 4 years as superintendent at Dayton.

Brewer says that one of the biggest challenges for his district, which currently has 890 pre-school through 12th grade students, is typical of many of the old urban river towns — people leaving the city.

“Probably 20 years ago, we had 1300 students,” Brewer said. “A lot of numbers along the river are down if you look at the 20 year trend there. Some of the districts have been forced to consolidate and close some of their elementary schools along the way.”

Southgate has the distinction of being the smallest district in the state with an enrollment of 180 students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

It is one of 5 districts in the state along with Anchorage, East Bernstadt, Science Hill, and West Point, which do not have a high school. But, unlike the other 4 schools where students go to the county district in which they reside, students from Southgate can choose to attend any high school they wish.

The district has struggled some years in state assessment rankings, but Jim Palm the superintendent of Southgate Independent Schools says that’s due mainly to its small size.

“There are years where we excel because of population of that particular class, but our community is educated at that and they know how to read those reports and know what’s important to them and what’s important to them is that there child gets a solid education,” Palm says.

The smallest K-12 district in the state is the Silver Grove Independent School District which has approximately 190 students. Superintendent Ken Ellis says faculty in his district tends to wear a lot of hats.

“You know, I have one teacher for every grade level,” Ellis said. I have 4 teachers in my high school teaching all subjects.


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