The North Putnam Community Association held its second meeting last week and is determined to help find a way to improve issues at the school for the benefit of students.
"We would like everyone to come together in the best interest of the children," said one of the group's founders Christa Fuhrman. "We want to put all the negatives behind and just look at what is best for the kids."
Her father Roger Cook is a retired North Putnam teacher who strongly believes that cutting teachers is not in the best interest of the children.
"It's very important that all staff members pull together. We need to work as a team and work together," he told the group.
The NPCA is also interested in how the board is pursuing the possibility of creating academic centers at the schools. These are similar to what the Greencastle School Corporation has with grades kindergarten, first, second and third in one school, an intermediate school with grades four and five then middle school with grades six to eight. The remaining grades would then be high school.
They also want to look at the transportation issues the North Putnam school board is looking at by changing routes and the number of students in the elementary schools.
"We don't want things to be divided with administration on one side and parents on the other. We're not coming after them with pitchforks," said Julie Wilkins.
The group wants to know where the school board stands on the issue of looking into academic centers. They want to form a task force comprised of board members, parents, teachers and administrators to visit schools that have centers. Some of these in addition to Greencastle are Crawfordsville, North Salem and Batesville.
"The academic centers were tabled at the last school board meeting. We need to be looking at these and at other options. If they refuse to look at options besides redistribution of students, we may have to come after them with pitchforks," Wilkins said with a smile.
Another important issue is a clear explanation of the school's budget. They want to know how much money is in the budget, how much is owed and how the school corporation got into this situation.
And they want the explanation is easy to understand terms.
An important issue to them is the purchase of smart boards and discovery software that was bought and installed with a grant from Old National. The grant money was delayed and when it arrived, the board found it would be distributed over several years. The company who sold and installed the boards was demanding payment of the $186,669.52. The board approved borrowing the amount from Covenant Financial Services.
Members of the group wanted to know why the only board member who suggested the boards be returned was Carl Blau.
"We want to be sure they are questioning things, not just going along with the crowd," said Wilkins.
According to the minutes from the Nov. 19, 2009 school board meeting, the only explanation given was that it was not beneficial or cost-efficient for the corporation to return the boards or software.
Several people present added their concerns that teachers and administrators are afraid or have been told not to attend the community meetings.
"We've been told they can't discuss things outside the building and that building administrators won't talk to them about the reduction in force and other issues," they said.
School board member Charlie Boller attended the first meeting the group had, but people in the crowd stated that Boller was reprimanded by other school board members and by school superintendent Dr. Mary Lovejoy. According to these people, Boller was told not to attend any more of the group's meetings.
"I don't know if it's true, but that's what we've been told. And, we want the board's input. We want them here," said one parent.
The group plans to ask questions at the next school board meeting this Thursday.
In addition to concern over 17 teachers having their contracts canceled at the upcoming board meeting, the group wants to know if non-certified people are being let go. If so, they are asking when will they be notified.
"We just want answers to our questions. The school board members are elected by the community. They work for us and they need to answer our questions," said another group member.
The next meeting of the North Putnam Community Association will be May 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Christian Church. All community members are urged to attend this meeting as well as the school board meeting.
"Again, we don't want things to be divided with administration on one side and parents on the other. We want everyone working together for our children," reiterated Fuhrman. "We need to come together for the them."