Union Township seceding from Ringgold?

| Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

It may not lead to civil war in the Ringgold School District but Union Township officials and some Nottingham Township residents are looking to secede from the district.

Larry Sphar, a township supervisor in Union Township, said he has received a number of calls supporting the actions supervisors made at their meeting Monday.

"We did order our solicitor to begin researching the necessary legal steps we'd need to take to leave the district," Sphar said Thursday. "All the calls that I've received, even late this evening, have been in support of the move."

Sphar said there are three districts that border the township: Peters Township, South Park and the West Jefferson Hills school districts.

"I think it's safe to say that residents of the township are upset about the closing of the middle school," Sphar said. "A large portion of Ringgold's tax revenue comes from this area. I've heard from a lot of grandparents and young families with children. They've been enthusiastic in support of leaving Ringgold."

While the Ringgold School Board has not voted to officially close Ringgold Middle School in Finleyville, there is a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 29 to discuss the potential closing of the building.

The board voted Wednesday to direct the administration and its architectural firm, HHSDR, to develop the scope of work to house fifth through eighth grade students in Monongahela and Donora elementary centers.

Once the scope of work is defined and approved by the board, HHSDR is directed to develop construction documents and bid packages prepared.

Sphar said he has heard that residents of Nottingham Township have begun circulating a petition to secede from Ringgold as well.

When asked about the petition, Nottingham Township Supervisor Peter Marcoline Jr. said he has heard there is a petition circulating, but he expects residents of the township will attend the supervisors' meeting Monday.

He declined to comment on the matter without hearing from residents of the township.

Ringgold School Board President Chuck Smith said he just recently learned about Union Township's plan.

"Any time a decision is made, not everyone is going to be happy," Smith said. "We have a public school district. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

"It comes down to the question of how much are you willing to cut into your curriculum. That's why the board voted the way they did. We don't have the money to go and just build a new school."

Smith said he was discouraged by comments he heard from some residents after the meeting Wednesday.

"I heard a lot of nasty things from people saying they didn't want to send their kids to Donora," Smith said of the comments. "There were some slanderous and defaming comments made. I was saddened by some of the comments I heard."

Smith said he doesn't want to see either side of the district discriminated against.

"We, as a board, cannot do anything that may affect our curriculum," Smith said of the effect furloughs and program cuts could have on the district. "We're managing our resources and maintaining them."

When it comes to Union Township looking for a new school district, Smith said people are going to do whatever they want.

"You want to go pay Peters Township taxes, go ahead," Smith said. "I know our taxes are lower than those.

"Our decision was based on the fact that we have these facilities. We'll make them safe for our students and staff. Our goal is to continue to be one of the best districts in the state."

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