There a popular jalopy racing format in some places known as Figure 8, where drivers of dilapidated cars race around a figure 8 dirt track that criss-crosses in the middle. Needless to say there are no stop signs.
In a way, the status of the Warren County School District seems a little like that.
On one hand, the Warren County School District, under the leadership of a new superintendent, appears to be at least somewhat serious about pursuing a plan that would turn Eisenhower and Sheffield middle/high schools into K-12 learning centers. On the other is a group that is determined to establish an Eisenhower Charter Middle/High School, an effort that was begun amid rumors that Eisenhower would be closed and its student population split between Youngsville and Warren.
Neither of these two hands show any outward signs of acknowledging what the other is doing.
While all of this is going on, time continues to tick away toward deadlines for the charter school application and the school district's fiscal picture, which still must emerge with some clarity from the fog of Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget.
The Community School Ownership Initiative (CSOI), which has spearheaded the charter school effort, has set a firm deadline to have its school open and ready for students by September of this year, meaning either the school board or the state Department of Education will have to approve its application by this spring. After two years of hard work, it appears unwilling to alter its course.
However, there appears to be a course change in the school district coinciding with a change in leadership since this time last year. A new face with new ideas is at the helm of the district's administration. Brandon Hufnagel also apparently has grasped the regional and political realities of a school district with four distinct attendance areas. He has charted a possible compromise that would preserve high schools in all four attendance areas, while at the same time providing long-term financial savings.
Before he took the reins of the administration there was only a K-12 conversion foreseen for Sheffield. Consolidation of high schools was the foregone conclusion.
Yes, it is clear that the K-12 conversions would cost several million dollars to complete, but there are reasons to believe that maintaining the district's current configuration or further fragmenting it with one or two more charter schools will cost millions as well. And, unlike construction loans, those costs would never be retired.
At some point, like the Figure 8 racers, these two forces will meet at that crossroads, and a very important decision will have to be made. That decision will determine what this county's educational system will look like for a very long time and should be made with great care and consideration of one question above all else: How can we deliver the best education possible to the children of this county with the resources available?