A new program aimed at improving student performance on the state's ISTEP test will be implemented next school year at Greencastle High School.
Principal Jim Church asked the Greencastle School Board for permission to set up a new after-school program to tutor next year's sophomores who failed all or a portion of this year's ISTEP test as freshmen. As sophomores, they will take the Graduation Qualifying Exam, and any student who fails it must take it again as a junior or senior until the passing the test, or receiving a waiver.
The new program will be conducted during the regular Cubs Tutoring times after school, and it will begin with the start of school, rather than a couple weeks later when Cubs Tutoring starts.
Forty-three students have been identified for the program, Church said, and he wants to get those students and their parents informed about it before the end of the current school year.
In the past, students who may have low scores on ISTEP have been targeted for a Jump Start program prior to the star of school. But, Church said, it is hard to get high school students to give up two weeks of their summer vacation to study for a test. In fact, only one student participated in the program last year.
But by making this an after-school program, and providing transportation home, the program should work better, he said.
School board members Jack Berry, Mike Dean, Monica Fennell, Barry Fisher and Mark Kannowski agreed with the plan, and voted to approved the proposed academic improvement program for the high school. Jump Start programs for other Greencastle schools will be conducted prior to the start of school as usual.
In reviewing the school district's finances, the board saw that four funds had negative balances at the end of March.
GCSC Supt. Robert Green said he compared the finances to the same point a year ago, and saw that expenses are about the same, but revenue is down. That is due in part to the state pushing some of the revenue onto the local tax burden, and that money won't be disbursed until June or July.
If that revenue is down, the school corporation may continue to struggle financially, Green said. And if 2008 is another tight year, the board may be faced with laying off staff or cutting programs.
"I'm not preaching doom and gloom," Green said, "but I want to be ready if that possibility exists."
It is still unclear if state legislators will increase school funding for next year, he said.
At the end of March, the general operating fund is $228,000 in the negative, while the debt service fund was $65,000 in the negative, the capital projects fund was in the red by $460,000 and the school bus replacement fund was negative by $121,900.
Green said the debt service and capital projects funds had lower revenue than expected at the end of last year, so they will carry a negative balance until the tax draw is received. The school bus fund has a negative balance due to the recent purchase of new buses.
Even with those negative balances, the superintendent said the school corporation can continue to operate due to the cash balance in the bank. At the end of March, that amount was $391,000.
"We still have enough cash to have positive cash flow," Green said. "These funds will be back in the black as soon as we get the local tax draw. The thing is, how much will that draw be. That's what I'm worried about."
If it becomes necessary, Green said, the board has already granted permission to borrow from the Indiana Bond Bank to continue to pay bills. But that is not a good situation, he noted, because taxpayers will then have to pay interest on that money.
In other business, the board:
* Approved Policy 5610 to allow the board to hear appeals when a student is expelled.
* Accepted the new student conduct disciplinary code for the high school that shows the guidelines for student violations of conduct. The offenses accrue for a year, and each school year, the students start with a clean slate.
* Approved the recommendation of the district curriculum committee's language arts textbooks for grades 4-8.
* Accepted the summer school education programs.
* Granted approval to advertise for dairy bids for the next school year.
* Learned that GHS students Savannah Provine and Emma Hazel have been accepted to the Indiana University Honors Program to study foreign languages in Europe for eight weeks this summer. Provine will study in Brest, France, while Hazel will study in Cuidad Real, Spain.
* Established rates and terms for instructional assistants for next school year. Since the North Putnam school district will no longer handle the personnel issues of the Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative, each school district that has special education classes will be responsible for providing instructional assistants for those classes. The board approved a base pay rate of $9.50 per hour, with an additional 25 cents for those who have completed the Praxis program and another 25 cents per hour for those who have been employed five years or more.
The Greencastle School Board regularly meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Miller Education Center, 522 Anderson St.
The meeting is open to the public.