MILES, Iowa — The appeal from East Central schools to overturn a judge’s ruling on allowing a public vote to merge Preston and East Central schools is scheduled next month before the Iowa Supreme Court.

The court has scheduled a hearing at 1 p.m. April 4 in Des Moines.

Oral arguments will be presented by East Central’s attorney, Andrew Bracken, and the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency’s attorney, Mikkie Schiltz. Each side will have 16 minutes and then East Central will receive a five-minute rebuttal, according to court documents.

The Supreme Court judges do not have a deadline in making a ruling.

A community grassroots group gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions in April and May 2010, asking that a public vote be allowed to decide whether East Central and Preston schools could be merged into one district to be called Easton Valley.

The AEA hosted a public hearing in June 2010 and declared a public vote could be held in the fall. East Central filed an appeal in Jackson County District Court, challenging the AEA’s decision.

District Judge Mary Howes ruled in August 2011 that the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency properly made its decision in June 2010 to allow a public vote on a proposed merger between Preston and East Central schools. East Central board members contended the AEA didn’t have the authority to allow the public vote.

After the judge’s ruling, East Central Board members voted 3-2 to file an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

East Central Superintendent Neil Gray has said the board wants to see the ruling overturned or the reorganization process placed back before the AEA for required study and assistance. The board believes the AEA did not do what the Iowa Code, Chapter 275, requires it to do.

Gray was out of the office Thursday and not available for comment.

In the meantime, East Central is now in a whole-grade sharing arrangement for middle school and high school students with Northeast Community Schools. There had been a three-way informal sharing of classes with East Central, Preston and Northeast, but that ended last year. This year, some Preston students are taking classes at Maquoketa High School.



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