Ten things Muncie school board has made progress on
Seth Slabaugh, Muncie Star Press Published 2:40 p.m. ET March 8, 2019
MUNCIE, Ind. — The Star Press sat down this week with local attorney Jim Williams, president of the Muncie Community School Board, to review progress made by the new board since taking over July 1.
Here are ten areas where the board has made headway toward financial and academic stability, strength and innovation:
School board education
Bi-monthly school board meetings often last hours because of the addition of in-depth informational presentations to the board’s agendas.
Talks have been given to the board by leaders of Ivy Tech Community College, Vincennes University, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, Youth Opportunity Center, Muncie Indiana Transit System, Chartwells (school cafeterias operator), Muncie Public Library, Special Education Cooperative, Back to School Store, Meridian Health Services, Muncie Area Career Center, school security and others.
The school board also has rotated its meetings between schools, where it has heard presentations from principals at Grissom, Longfellow, East Washington Academy, North View, South View, Southside, Northside and Central schools.
Funding has been secured for intensive professional development opportunities for faculty this coming summer on classroom management, Project Lead The Way STEM curricula and math/English instruction. Interim Superintendent Steve Edwards is interviewing prospective firms to conduct comprehensive audits of instruction and curriculum.
“We view the baseline audit as critical to academic innovation,” Williams said. “Having that baseline audit gives you a sense of where you are.”
$12 million state loan
The school district obtained a $12-million state loan and created a facilities committee to make recommendations regarding capital improvements. Prior school boards intentionally used $10 million of restricted bond funds to cover operating deficits. The bonds were issued in 2014 for capital projects.
“The vast majority of feedback we are receiving is to fix our roofs and HVAC systems,” Williams said. Edwards plans to recommend selection of an engineering/architectural firm to prepare bid specifications in the near future.
“Consistent with that, from a morale standpoint, it was important to obligate insurance money to button up the (storm-damaged) Fieldhouse and get it back to the point where it’s usable,” Williams said. “It’s a symbol in the community” expected to reopen in the fall.
Muncie school board members (front l-r) James Williams, Brittany Bales, Jim Lowe, and Dave Heeter; (back l-r) Keith O’Neal, Mark Ervin, and WaTasha Barnes Griffin (Photo: Ball State University)
Ball State and MCS are planning an academic innovation summit in September of this year. It will focus on state-of-the-art academic innovation strategies and be a day of professional development for MCS faculty and staff.
The hirings of two experienced, well-known and respected administrators: Bradley T. DeRome, as chief financial officer, and Charles “Chuck” Reynolds as associate superintendent.
DeRome, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in finance from Ball State, was hired away from Jay School Corp., where he had served as CFO since 2000.
Reynolds led Southside High School’s “Spirit of the South” to five State Fair Band Day championships before becoming a Muncie school administrator. He earned a bachelor’s degree in all-grade musical education, a master’s in educational leadership, an educational specialist degree and a doctorate in educational leadership from Ball State. He was hired away from Richmond Community Schools, where he was serving as assistant superintendent.
Academic innovation council
The law that turned governance of MCS over to Ball State calls for creation of an academic innovation plan for the district by June 30, 2020.
To help carry out the mandate, a Joint Academic Innovation Council was created.
Members are BSU Provost Susana Rivera Mills; BSU Teachers College (TC) Dean Roy Weaver; MCS interim Superintendent Steve Edwards; school board President Jim Williams;
From TC, education psychology department Chair Jerrell Cassady; special education department Chair David McIntosh; interim Associate Dean Sheryl Stump, and early childhood Professor Eva Zygmunt;
From MCS, special education Director Robin Peckinpaugh; secondary education Director Cassandra Shipp, and elementary education Director Dea Moore-Young;
From Ball State’s College of Communication Information and Media, Lecturer Kate Elliott; from the College of Health, Assistant Professor Shannon Powers; from the College of Fine Arts, Associate Professor Kevin Gerrity; from the College of Sciences and Humanities, Professor Bryan Byers and Associate Professor Lynne Stallings; from the Miller College of Business, Assistant Professor Kelsey Brasel; from the College of Architecture and Planning, Assistant Lecturer Jennifer Warrner; from the Teachers College, Assistant Professor Kendra Lowery;
From Ball State’s Clinical Practice Network, East Washington Academy Liaison Lynette Varner; Grissom Elementary Liaison Dixie Denton; Longfellow Elementary Liaison Eva Zygmunt; Central High School Liaison Cresta Hancock; Northside Middle School Liaison David Roof; North View Elementary Liaison Rebecca Brown; Southside Middle School Liaison Erik Shaver; South View Elementary Liaison Angela Stefanski;?and West View Elementary School Liaison Amy Leitze.
The council will also assemble a panel of national experts to advise the ongoing academic innovation process.
Students work on firefighter skills during a public safety class at the Muncie Area Career Center Wednesday. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)
Revitalize the MACC
The school board instructed Chris Smith, director of the Muncie Area Career Center, to work with Ivy Tech, Purdue Polytech and Vincennes University to partner all MACC programs with a college or university by the fall of 2019.
The MACC, which serves high school juniors and seniors from three counties and 11 different school districts, lacks a college or university relationship for three of its programs — early childhood, information technology, and public safety/fire.
Smith has told the board faculty retention is the challenge, with IT most at risk (five teachers in the past four years). Cosmetology is the most popular course (it has a wait list). Other programs include auto technology, dental career and welding technology.
Ball State is hiring a paid, full-time community volunteer program manager, to be funded privately, to oversee community volunteer functions supporting MCS. Hiring a development officer to seek private financial support for the school district is also planned.
The new Community Engagement Council is also supporting MCS through volunteer engagement efforts. The council has focused its early work on examining food insecurity among MCS students and on employee appreciation efforts.
Financial and academic dashboards
Starting in the fall, MCS administrators will present at each school board meeting dashboards measuring the district’s academic and financial progress.
At the top of Williams’ list of what the school board has done well is its “deliberate approach” to learning about the district, the issues facing the district, and the legislation putting the district under the control of BSU.
That approach ensured that “you don’t start cutting muscle and breaking valuable things ….. and one of the aspects of MCS that has been incredibly gratifying to discover from my standpoint is that there are a lot of really good things happening,” Williams went on.
As an example, he cited the recent school board meeting at North View Elementary School, where the session started with a welcome from five students — whose parents were in the audience — in their native languages: Persian Farsi, Arabic, a dialect of Hindi, Spanish, and English.
“You think about that diversity and what those folks bring to this community,” Williams said, “and it’s remarkable.”