By: Todd Smekens
NEWS – To summarize the week, the board meeting on April 11th was supposed to send a clear message to state lawmakers, but the board failed to send a proactive message. If anything, the inability to pull the trigger sent the message that MCS isn’t capable of making tough decisions. MCS board must have realized this after the Tuesday meeting, so they scheduled a public forum and emergency board meeting for Thursday. The public forum allowed for community members to share their thoughts and concerns. Then the board received a motion from a school board member and a “deficit reduction plan” was approved 3-2.
According to a late night press release from MCS:
The School Board of Trustees…voted to close the three elementary schools, Mitchell, Storer, and Sutton. The Board decided to keep Northside Middle School open for the 2017-18 School year; this will give the community the opportunity to decide if we can support two middle schools.
This may well lead to a referendum later in the year where we can ask the community whether or not to continue a two middle schools’ solution for the Muncie Community Schools. We believe a group is forming for this purpose. A referendum would likely also include a new south side elementary school and funds to complete facilities upgrades long overdue.
As I previously pointed out, MCS unethically spent the $10 million in bond proceeds on payroll/health benefits/vendor payments setting up the school system to default on the bond issue. The potential default would cause serious consequences for the entire state bonding abilities which is one of the primary reasons the state included MCS with the Gary Community Schools takeover bill.
I have serious concerns about the viability of a referendum later in the year to raise money for two obvious reasons:
- MCS improperly spent the proceeds of the last bond issue; and
- School construction doesn’t make sense when you’re closing schools.
Also, if the referendum fails, where does that leave the school corporation in meeting its fiscal obligations. Superintendent Steven Baule once again reiterated that cash would be unavailable to meet June/July payroll. The financial situation for MCS is “dire.”
Meanwhile, area lawmakers are diligently trying to remove MCS from the state takeover bill. They are seeking a delay to October to maybe coincide with the proposed referendum.
Key issues to remember going forward:
- Muncie has an overabundance (52%) of tax-exempt property owners not contributing to the tax base.
- Selling Northside Middle School and Anthony Administration are ideal for Ball State University, but an awful idea for the community.
- A commercial developer would contribute toward the tax base in Muncie for much-needed improvements.
- The school board split 3-2 meaning there is a chasm so expect more obstruction from the folks affiliated with Muncie Teachers Association.
MCS administration wanted to emphasize:
It is imperative that the public understands that there will be NO changes in student programming. All academic and extra-curricular programs will remain in place. Muncie Community Schools administrators and staff are working diligently to assure that all aspects of these moves are considered. We have worked as a team when merging the high school and we will do it again as we move forward. All academic offerings would be transferred intact and expanded upon. New programs such as the Preschool will continue to grow with the needs of our community. The Dual Language Immersion Kindergarten Program will be housed at West View Elementary.