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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Parents stand up for South Putnam schools

Monday, August 20, 2007

South Putnam school board members Mike Rissler, Nancy Wells, David Bombei, Darwin Nelson and Steve Cash got pounded by the same group of property tax protesters from the Fillmore area that attended last month's meetings.

The group is demanding explanations for expenditures and explanations of how monies are being spent. Their complaint is that 82- 6 percent of property taxes go to support the school system.

"Every day, every decision we make is a balancing act. We ask two questions what kind of education can we provide and what does it cost," Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt told group.

But, parents and past graduates of South Putnam High School spoke in favor of the school and the education they received while attending there.

One audience member commented, "We moved away, got more education and moved back. We expect that for our children. If we didn't know our kids would get a good education we wouldn't have come back.

"So we just want the board to know that you do have support from the community. And, yes, we are taxpayers too," she added.

Property owners, most who no longer have children attending school, continue to ask what the board is doing to cut back. The board says they have cut everywhere they can.

"Cutting staff means slashing classrooms, making larger classes. It changes the level of education provided to students," reported Bernhardt. People with children in school don't want the education level to go down."

"We've cut just about as much as we can cut without hurting people," Wells added.

Board President Rissler answered questions about the large increase the school had three years ago.

"When the state decided to balance their budget, they put it on the schools backs. The state in order to balance their budget decided to cut money to the schools. They told us 'add that to your local taxes.' A lot of the increase was because the state was on the backs of the school corporations," he explained. "South Putnam received a $300,000 cut from the state."

Kenneth Gibson asked the board: "How many people are on your golf team? Is it true when they go to another school for a meet they take a 66-passenger bus. Why don't parents don't take the golfers to the matches instead of the school sending a bus?"

Wells commented, "You can't expect parents to take the kids to the matches. There are liabilities."

Bernhardt added that the school does not have a small bus. He also added that the small buses are only $10,000 less than the large ones. And, the cost to operate them is almost the same.

The high school football field was mentioned by an audience member.

Rissler asked, "Have you been on that football field -- not very much is spent on that field. We use to have Chemlawn, now we have volunteers."

Bette Bertram responded, "We're not trying to take away from education. We're not against education. It's not just this county we're concerned about. It's a state project. Every child deserves an equal education. And, every taxpayer deserves a break."

A parent in the audience summed up much of the discussion with her comment, "Let's talk about what's going on today. I don't care about what happened in 2004. I'm a parent. It seems to me you are trying to get teachers to leave by taking away their insurance. I am a township trustee of Putnam County. You should be complaining to the government not to this people here," Brenda Heavin said.

A Plainfield couple who just moved here commented they are seeing these same issues across the state. People are still moving out (of the school system) and into the community as well.

"We researched the schools before moving here and we know it is a good school system and provides a good education for the students," they claimed.

The meeting ended on a positive note when a parent of a first-grader noted, "I see this board every month. I see them looking for creative ways to save money. Whether it's buying gas or milk. You can go into the classroom and see a lot of parents are picking up things which the school can no longer do for the school. Many parents are doing those things. I'm pretty heartened by what I've seen at these school board meetings over the last year. It's a thankless job. They put in a lot of time you don't know about. Most of them are trying to do the best job they can."

In other business, the board:

* Approved resignations for Angie Wishmeier and Carrie Buttram at the high school and approved the hiring of Angie Clark at Fillmore, Robert Wasson at the high school; Jennifer Pannell, Earline Wood and Brooke Pike at the high school and Judith Foulke at Central Elementary.

* Heard a report from South Putnam High Schooler Morgan Cheatham who attended a Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Summer Experience in Anaheim, Calif.

* Heard about surplus equipment from the print shop which includes a 3M 1175 plate maker for a printing press which has not been used for 10 years; a paper folder which jams and ruins sheets and a Davidson Duluth Press which will work with the purchase of a dampening system. It was purchased 40 years ago. Bernhardt will get pricing for the items before they are advertised as surplus equipment.

* Heard from the superintendent that enrollment was now within seven or eight students of last year's numbers. The school system lost 40 students at the end of last year.

* Announced the high school will host an open house called a Taste of South Putnam Wednesday evening.

* Announced that Central Elementary will have a Meet the Teacher evening on Tuesday at 5:30 followed by a PTO meeting at 6:30.

* Reminded meeting attendees that all school reports are public record and financial records are available at the superintendents office at the Department of Education website at www.doe.state.in.us.

The South Putnam School Board meets on the fourth Monday of every month in the bandroom at Central Elementary School at 7 p.m.

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