May 28, 2014

The City of Manilla has dropped its appeal against the IKM-Manning School District's March 6 vote to close its middle school building in Manilla.

Superintendent Tom Ward said that he received a call from the district's lawyer last week stating that the appeal had been dropped, but said that he was not given a specific reason.

The unanimous vote followed three years of discussion on how best to reduce stress on the district's general fund - the fund's unspent balance would have been depleted in two years if the district wasn't reconfigured, said school board member Scott Hodne at the same meeting during which the final vote occurred.

Ongoing declining enrollment and state funding cuts contributed to the district's financial straits. Closing the nearly century-old Manilla building was projected to save the district $4 million in reduced staff and utilities and nearly $1 million in maintenance costs over the next decade.

Public outcry from the Manilla community was great - Manilla Mayor Pat Wuestewald and Manilla Municipal Utilities supervisor Jeff Blum publicly challenged the projected-savings figures presented by the outside consulting firm hired by the district in the fall of 2013. Parents of 45 students requested applications to open-enroll their children out of the IKM-Manning district.

When the school board moved forward with their vote to close the building, the city and utilities company hired an attorney, Robert Holliday of the Law Offices of Sullivan & Ward, P.C., West Des Moines, and filed an appeal of the decision with the state board of education. The appeal process could have taken up to six months to complete.

Wuestewald and Blum did not return Daily Times Herald calls this morning regarding the change in action.

According to letter to the editor written by the pair and published in The Manilla Times, Holliday advised them to drop the appeal because continuing would prove "fruitless."

Manilla residents are invited to attend the next city council meeting next Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Manilla City Hall to hear previously undisclosed details regarding the legal process.

Attendees are asked to RSVP with the city office in case the meeting needs to be moved to a larger venue.