By KIETH PUCKETT,
South Putnam Principal
In these difficult economic times, I would like to take this opportunity to compliment our local school boards and superintendents on their efforts to stretch their taxpayers' dollars. Despite being a life-long Putnam County resident, a taxpayer, and a teacher for the last 28 years, I did not realize the extent that our four county school corporations work together to save money until I became a building principal eighteen months ago. Since then, I've gained a greater appreciation for the way our schools share services, conduct joint purchasing, engage in cooperative bidding, and combine their assets for the greater good. In particular, our school superintendents Bruce Bernhardt, Bob Green, Carrie Milner and Murray Pride realize that, until something can be done on the state level to relieve the burden on our local taxpayers, it is up to the schools to hold the line on their discretionary spending.
The following are just a few of the ways that Putnam County's four superintendents and boards, working closely together, have formed a variety of partnerships that allow our local schools to secure everything necessary for safe and effective schools at the lowest possible price.
* The West Central Educational Service Cooperative (WCIESC), under its director David Archer, saves our schools money by offering professional development training to all schools at a reduced rate and with no duplication of effort. WCIESC also serves as a warehouse for resources that schools may borrow instead of purchase and coordinates many joint purchasing ventures.
* Director Nancy Holsapple and her Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative (ONT), not only coordinates local efforts on behalf of students with special needs, they also help all county administrators navigate the waters of special education law in an attempt to prevent costly litigation.
* Area 30 Career Center, under Director Mike Walton, allows the county schools to provide career-oriented education in a central setting, eliminating the need for duplication of facilities and staff at each school and providing more opportunities than any individual school could offer on its own.
* Since 2006, the County food service directors pooled their efforts in attempts to buy goods in bulk to defray costs.
These are just a few ways that our schools try to share the financial burden of educating our county's students. In addition to these partnerships, each school enjoys relationships with local business entities that are very beneficial to its students. Also, every school works diligently to pursue any available grants to offset the cost of educating our children.
It is obvious that every school and administrator in Putnam County works to hold the line on spending while providing a good education for their students. Both as a tax payer and a school administrator, I applaud their efforts. As the Principal at South Putnam, I want to applaud our own students and teachers for their efforts in this regard. At South Putnam Junior Senior High School, we have adopted the philosophy of doing more with less. South Putnam has a very low assessed valuation and our student demographics prohibit large chunks of state funding from falling into our laps; however, our school has a history of excellence and a resolve to not only continue our tradition, but to expand on it. Although a family moving its children to Putnam County would do well in any corporation, I truly believe that South Putnam offers taxpayers an excellent return on their investment.
Here are a few examples of how SPHS' faculty and students have proven to maximize their limited budget.
* Eighty-four percent of South Putnam's general education students passed the fall 2007 ISTEP+ test.
*Among Putnam County schools, South Putnam's seventh through tenth graders ranked first in three of the four classes tested on the fall 2007 ISTEP+ test results for students who passed both language arts and math.
* For the second consecutive year, South Putnam leads the Putnam County schools in graduation rate.
* Putnam County high school graduating seniors compete for Lilly Foundation Scholarships each spring. South Putnam's graduates have garnering nearly fifty percent of the Lilly Scholarships awarded since the inception of the award.
* South Putnam boasts the reigning Putnam County DAR winner and is proud to have three of the last five winners of this prestigious award.
* South Putnam hosts a national pilot site for aquaculture education. Since being named a national site an average of over 1000 visitors each year tour the facility at South Putnam Junior-Senior High School. Visitors have included students from urban schools to governors, congressmen, and senators. The Aquaculture laboratory and facilities have brought worldwide recognition to South Putnam.
Obviously, as Principal, I am very proud of our school's accomplishments and our dedication to being fiscally responsible to our community. I applaud our faculty. Teachers coming to South Putnam have to take a leap of faith. They have to be willing to accept the lowest salaries in Putnam County, suffer through cuts in administration, transportation and athletics in return for a chance to work for a school committed to excellence despite these harsh financial times. As I have told our teachers, students and parents, there is never a bad time to be a South Putnam Eagle.
Although times are tough financially here, all Putnam county school boards work hard for their taxpayers. Along with our superintendents and administrators, they work cooperatively and for the good of all students. Their efforts make me eternally grateful to my parents that I've been able to be a life-long Putnam County resident.
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Kieth Puckett is principal at South Putnam Junior-Senior High School. He can be reached at email@example.com.