SANDY While transition teams representing the freshly split east and west Jordan school districts outline their disagreements in separate reports and prepare for arbitration, at least one lawmaker believes the dispute can still be settled by the two parties.
Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, says attorneys on both sides have been talking and there is still hope for a resolution.
"I think there is still a possibility to avoid arbitration," Walker said in an interview with the Deseret News on Wednesday.
Walker sponsored legislation that gave the green light for Jordan School District to split and also provided rules and guidelines for that action. In November, east-side residents voted to leave Jordan district and form their own school district.
"I feel so deeply and strongly that this division is the best thing for both sides and for the children," Walker said. "There has got to be a way to make it work. I have high hopes."
Walker added that she believes smaller districts the optimum size being 36,000 students serve the patrons better. "Smaller districts are more responsive and more effective," she said.
Meanwhile, required documents detailing the conflict between the east and west transition teams are fanning the flames of contention between the two groups.
The separate reports, due by law before Aug. 1, are to include a timeline of past negotiations but could also explain how each side feels and what they want, as well as agreements, disagreements and reasonings for their arguments. The documents could contain future arbitration processes.
The reports are to be given to the boards representing East Jordan District, West Jordan District and the original Jordan District.
If no agreement can be reached regarding splitting assets and liabilities, the east and west transition teams are to choose an arbitrator by Sept. 1. The two arbitrators are then to select a third arbitrator by Sept. 15.
From there, the arbitration process would ensue. The arbitrators act much like judges. Both sides would present their case.
Chairmen of east- and west transition teams told the Deseret News on Wednesday they believe there is no hope for mediation at this point and arbitration is likely.
East transition team Chairman Steve Newton said they would like to discuss issues but the west transition team won't accept their proposals. Mediation is useless if one party doesn't want to participate, he said. "It takes two to tango. And their position is they aren't going to tango," Newton said. "How do you agree when they won't tango?"
Ralph Haws, chairman of the west transition team, said, "The key issue is what is fair and equitable. We have yet to come to a point we feel is fair and equitable."
West Jordan District officials don't want their bond money going to the East Jordan District. This would result in the west district having to tax its residents, Haws said.
"We are not going to agree to something that will impose a tax," Haws said. "I don't believe this was ever the intent of the legislation."
The west transition team met Wednesday morning in an executive session to review its report. The meeting was closed to the public because the document has "potential implications for litigation and arbitration" and therefore falls within the parameters of the Utah Open Meetings Law, Haws said.
The west transition team plans to deliver its report this morning to the president of each of the three school boards.
The boards aren't required to vote on the reports. Board members are to simply review the documents.The east transition team plans to meet at 4 p.m. today to discuss its report. Newton said the finalized report will be sent electronically to the board presidents by the end of the day.
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