Closing Reelsville School might be only option

Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The South Putnam School Board may have to close Reelsville Elementary due to budget constraints.

As costs continue to rise and income continues to fall, the South Putnam School Board discussed a plan that could potentially eliminate the corporation's financial issues -- closing Reelsville Elementary School.

In what seemed would be a relatively short meeting on Monday, turned into almost two hours with an hour of parents voicing their concerns on the matter.

Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt started the discussion by explaining how the financial problems arose. In 2008 the state changed the general fund in the school corporation. In previous years, Bernhardt said, property taxes helped with the general fund now, only state revenues go into the general fund.

"Property taxes are a more stable choice of income," explained Bernhardt. "When (bad) economic times hit state dollars decrease and schools get less funding."

Bernhardt went on to explain that as no surprise to anyone, the economy decreased school funds in not only the South Putnam Community School Corporation but all over Indiana. Last year alone, the school corporation was forced to take a mid-year cut from the state of $350,000.

"Many school corporations ran into serious problems," Bernhardt explained. "We've been fiscally sound the last few years."

The school corporation has always made sure to spend within its means. As most school corporations ran into problems early, South Putnam maintained a higher cash balance in the general fund than most.

In 2009-2010 the corporation had a 12-14 percent cash balance while most school corporations had a balance of 8-10 percent. In 2010 the balance dropped a bit to 10-12 percent. As the 2011 school year is coming to an end, the balance is projected to be only 5-6 percent on Dec. 31.

"We're spending about half of our cash balance," Bernhardt said. "We're spending quickly, we had hoped the economic downturn would stop and level off at some point."

Not only did the board hope for the economy to recover but the members had also hoped the student population would increase. This year alone, the school corporation has lost 66 students. The previous year only 28 were lost. But, with the continued loss of students, this year alone the corporation lost $400,000 in state funding.

"We've had a continual decline of students and that affects our funding," said Bernhardt. "We're at a point now where we need to make some changes."

Bernhardt explained that after researching the facts, one of the best ways to help eliminate the increasing costs would be closing Reelsville Elementary, if it proves to be the best option.

"We have the space available at Central (Elementary School) with some changes to move the population here," Bernhardt explained.

Reelsville Elementary opened in 1954 and is currently home to 184 students. Fillmore Elementary has a total of 150 students with Central Elementary housing 245 students.

Closing Reelsville would help eliminate the rising costs by reducing staff as well as utilities and maintenance costs. Currently, the corporation is paying $95,737 a year for utilities at Reelsville. Closing the school would save more than $500,000 annually.

In order for the closure to happen, there would possibly need to be a transfer of all cooperative education classes to Fillmore Elementary.

The biggest concern for parents was that the sixth grade would be forced to move into the junior high as it is also combined with the high school. Many parents fear that the children are not ready to be exposed to the high school mentality at such a young age as well as fearing the lack of space available for the children to learn.

"These are issues we need to look at," said Bernhardt. "I understand clearly the emotional attachments."

The board listened to the concerns of the community and welcomed parents who wanted further information to contact them. However, Bernhardt along with the board explained that the fact of the matter is, the school corporation will be broke in a few years if spending is not drastically reduced.

"Anywhere we can conserve money we obviously want to do it," said Bernhardt. "These are factual numbers that we need to address, sooner rather than later."

Between all three elementary schools there are only four sixth-grade classes, which may be small enough to combine into three reasonable class sizes.

"We are attempting to work as financially lean as we can," said Bernhardt. "There's still a mountain of details that will have to be addressed."

After looking at the trends, it is known the corporation is graduating more students than it is bringing in. South Putnam has also not gained students in the last 10 years.

"We are concerned," explained school board president Michael Rissler. "We want to do what's best for our students."

At this time the board has not made any decisions. If this does pass it is unknown when it will go into effect.

The board also approved the hiring of four new coaches, Ben Latham as freshman boys' basketball coach, Ryan Gillman as eighth-grade boys' basketball coach, Anna Kendall as assistant boys' and girls' swim coach as well as Pat Pistelli as the assistant wrestling coach at the high school.

The board also accepted the resignation of Steve Ricketts as technology director. Ricketts' resignation will go into effect Friday, Dec. 2 as he plans on taking a position as the overall director of education for 5 Star Technologies.

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  • South Putnam's plan doesn't even take into account the students who will leave the system as a result of the proposed changes. Hey, at least the sports programs are intact and coaches are still being hired. "Balding Tiger Cub" has a nice ring to it.

    -- Posted by Balding Eagle on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 7:00 AM
  • When is South Putnam finally going to realize that their only way to survive is to consolidate with Cloverdale? It's going to happen either on their own terms or being forced by the state when they go bankrupt.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 7:39 AM
  • Another school closing! Why don't everyone that has a child pay school tax? Maybe that away all schools would have enough money!...Oh yeah you have to own land to pay school tax...I forgot about that..

    -- Posted by cato on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 7:54 AM
  • @hometownboy

    Why in the world would Cloverdale desire to consolidate with South Putnam? Hard to imagine that they'd want to take on even more debt.

    -- Posted by USAirman on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 8:46 AM
  • Its unfortunate that parents do not get the full picture of what is going on. I felt it was explained pretty clearly Monday evening.

    I see several advantages to moving the 6th grade to the Jr. High. Academically, they will have more advantages and opportunity than what is offered at the grade school. They will not be put into the HS population. I would prefer my 6th grader be at the JR High and not treated like they are in 1st grade. If you are opposed to 6th graders being at the HS then Kindergarten parents should complain about their students being with 6th graders. Bringing Reelsville students to Central also offers opportunities for those students. Its called pooling your resourses and being responsible with money.

    North Putnam has a larger population of students and more square miles and operates with 2 elementaries, Cloverdale has 1 elementary.

    If people move to Greencastle schools so be it. SP has the more students receiving Lilly scholarships than other schools, so if you are concerned about educating your child you should probably stay where you are at. As for the comments about sports teams and coaches it would probably be good for you to research how many Honor students SP teams have on them. Team sports offer life skills that are not learned in the classroom: Leadership, Discipline, Teamwork,and Time management.

    Get the facts parents do your research. Look at it like it was your household and you lost at least 1/4 of your income. What changes and cuts would you have to make? Close a school or cut programs you have to choose you can't have both.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:02 AM
  • @ USAirman. you are exactly right. when you consolidate you take on another schools debt and double your trouble.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:03 AM
  • I am not at all surprized by this. I know several children who know go to Greencastle that live in SP and NP school districts, because I guess there are no laws about paying tuition anymore. Not really sure why or how that works though.

    I still think consolidating the entire county is a good idea. One administration would save a huge amount of money.

    -- Posted by dcsaiht on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:31 AM
  • @USAIRMan

    Yes I realize that Cloverdale would be taking on some bad finances if they consolidated with South Putnam, but how long befor Cloverdale is in the same situation. The fact is that these two districts are just too small to survive on their own and need to combine to reduce costs.


    It's great that South has had success in coaching their students to receive Lilly scolarships but that's more of a reflection on the individual students than the school system.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:47 AM
  • Its called school of choice and the money follows the student. Schools get $6000 per student if they are there on count day in September. We lost 66 students. 66 X $6,000=$396,000 plus $350,000 cut from the state. Do the math. As explained the other night. Counties that have one Super also have larger administrative staffs so not much money is saved if any. Vigo county was referenced 1 super and 21 assistants.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:47 AM
  • This is a situation like the old Fillmore school all over again. Instead of saving money back then, the school decided that it was more cost effect to add on to the existing structure. Yea, construction and staffing is much more "inexpensive" than consolidating Fillmore and Central. Here we go again.

    -- Posted by SchnauzerMom on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:51 AM
  • @ hometownboy

    I guess that means SP has smarter kids then. SP kids receive them on a consistent basis. Ya I am sure its just the kids no teachers involved at all.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 9:55 AM
  • @supergirl

    My point is not that teachers aren't involved in shaping students who win Lilly scholarships. My point is that I don't think Lilly scholarship winners is a good way to judge the value of a school districts education. Every year each of the county schools produces multiple ACADEMICALLY qualified students for the scholarships and the choice usually comes down to extra curriculars and how the students do in their interviews, not their academic achievement. I would suggest that a more reliable measure would be to see where students are moving to based upon school choice and I've heard of a lot more students from all county schools moving to Greencastle than I have heard of Greencastle students moving, so on that measure it would appear that Greencastle offers a better educational opportunity.

    -- Posted by hometownboy on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:17 AM
  • I don't think that educational opportunity is why some have moved to Greencastle.

    1. Loss of home due to economy now in apartment or living with family.

    2. Lack of choice in teachers at Fillmore and Reelsville due to only 1 class offered for certain grade levels.

    3. Test scores from Greencastle and SP 3rd-8th are pretty much the same.

    Your Quote

    "Every year each of the county schools produces multiple ACADEMICALLY qualified students for the scholarships and the choice usually comes down to extra curriculars and how the students do in their interviews, not their academic achievement."

    Good interviews are a perfect example of a student being intelligent and well rounded. Extra curriculars are an excellent indicator that a student is more than just his report card. They are smart and can function in the real world. The don't get the interview if they don't have the grades to back it up.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:49 AM
  • Looking at the Indiana Dept of Education website:

    GHS C rating 9-12

    GMS D rating 5-8 *******

    GC Elementary Schools C rated

    SPHS C Rating includes 7-12

    Elementary schools 2 A's 1 C K-6

    CHS C rating 9-12

    CMS C rating 5-8

    Elementary D rating K-4

    NPHS C rating 9-12

    NMS C rating 5-8

    Bainbridge C rating K-4

    Roachdale A rating K-4

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 12:46 PM
  • Look at the 2011 graduating classes from Cloverdale and South Putnam and you'll see that Cloverdale graduated 92 students with 14 of those students receiving the Academic Honors Diploma while SP graduated 103 students with 37 of those students receiving the Academic Honors Diploma. I am proud to say that my child was 1 of the 37 from SP and while it was very competitive ACADEMICALLY throughout high school it prepared them for the dedication that college takes and isn't that what we all want as parents for our children, to get an education that will give them a better life? This should not be about the 4 school districts (which I've never understood anyway) but what is going to give the children of Putnam County the best education they are entitled too.

    -- Posted by freebird on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 5:43 PM
  • Some ten years ago school board had a choice to close fillmore and move the students to central there was a lot of hatred at the board meetings from fillmore residents not wanting to lose there school.(UNDERSTANDABLE BUT NOT JUSTIFIABLE AT THE TIME). Instead we spent a lot of money to bring fillmore up to code at taxpayers expense. School board was looking at keeping people happy instead of looking at reality. Oh and that was every township expense not just fillmore

    More students at Reelsville than Fillmore I say close fillmore leave reelsville alone.

    As far as SP and Cloverdale consolidating I Have said that for years, but our administrations do not want to work to make it happen, they are making large figure money why change?

    -- Posted by jearl on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 6:19 PM
  • One school district and 1 "super" isn't always good. Just last week the Terre Haute Radio Station Hi-99 gave a rundown of the Vigo County schools that are close to being taken over by the State due to poor results of the students on the standard testing. I'm not from South Putnam so I really don't have a vote but I will say tread carefully.

    -- Posted by Trying hard on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 7:26 PM
  • @jearl I agree wholeheartedly. We made the wrong choice a decade ago, and it's time to eat some crow. We're obviously in a bad financial position, and changes need to be made. Let's cut our losses, close Fillmore, and keep our sixth graders in the elementary schools.

    -- Posted by Balding Eagle on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:05 PM
  • Fillmore is the ONLY elementary school within the South Putnam district to receive an "A" from the state! I'm a proud parent of a Fillmore Elementary cardinal. To Mr.Hayes, teachers, and staff, keep up the great work! If Reelsville closes and the administration is forced to cut teachers I hope they stop and look at the ability of each teacher and not the number of years they've been in a classroom.

    -- Posted by countyresident on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:27 PM
  • If we had not allowed the kids to go to school in any school district we might not of lost so many kids to other county schools. Also doesn't the state require the superintendent to be evaluated every year?? When was the last time your superintendent was evaluated?? I think it's been awhile ago!

    -- Posted by yachtsman on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:27 PM
  • Correction, Fillmore is 1 of 2 with an "A."

    -- Posted by countyresident on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:50 PM
  • @supergirl Math class has at least as much relevance to the "real world" as do extracurricular activities. English class may have been even more pertinent for you.

    I do think that you have a point in calling for us to choose between cutting programs or closing schools. I would gladly forfeit ALL sports programs if it meant securing a better education for my child, or for yours.

    -- Posted by Balding Eagle on Wed, Nov 23, 2011, at 10:55 PM
  • If you cut all the sports programs and extracurricular activities you will loose more students. That doesn't fix the problem.

    If you are unhappy then move your kid to the schools listed above.

    Parents need to be part of the solution not part of the problem. If you are really concenrned about your childs education you will help be part of the solution. If people can't figure out that our budget is $746,000.00 less and that we as a school system have to make changes I feel sorry for your kids.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Thu, Nov 24, 2011, at 8:20 AM
  • Hello. I am an employee of the South Putnam School district and I work at Reelsville Elementary. I have a couple of comments. I understand financial difficulty. We all have them in this day and age. My question is this: Why have we not heard about all of this before now? This just didn't happen overnight. Reelsville school is in great shape. There was a problem with the furnace but that's over. No roof leaks...unlike the high school which leaks all the time. It has been well maintained. What will happen if the the school closes? Will it just sit empty and decay? Seems to me, it would be better to keep it open, attract more families to the school and area by advertising all we have to offer. As a long time employee, it makes me sad to see a great school close. There are lots of ways to save money...but it takes everyone working together, planning, and hard work. I certainly hope the Reelsville community, parents, former alumni, staff and friends come together to help save our school.

    -- Posted by Countryguy on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 10:43 AM
  • First off if South putnam years ago hadnt put them selfs in debt making all those upgrade to the building and parking lot when it was not even needed ,South putnam wouldnt be in debt,they spent close to a million on upgrades why,And as far as movong the 6 into the JR HIGH school,whats wrong with that they will have to go there in the 7th grade,If you look at schools in indy or mount vernon ,The six in already in the jr high,My kids lost it when we moved out here many many years ago and they had to go back to a grade school ,Cause when they left the city they where in the JR high in 6th grade ,Do you know how that makes a child feel to have to go back to grade school when they where in JR high.

    -- Posted by katjr1010 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 3:49 PM
  • I would just like to say I went to Reelsville and so did most of my family and my father works there. I'm proud to say I went to Reelsville it is a great little school that really works hard to teach their students how to be successful in life and how to be an all around good person. And one thing I noticed is when I got to high school I was more prepared for it than the kids from the other elementary schools. I also agree that Filmore should have been shut down several years ago since it is technically part of the Greencastle/North Putnam districts. Also for those of you who don't live in the district and it doesn't even effect you don't know what your talking about. The superintendent is actually doing a lot better than the last one so don't go bashing him saying he needs to be evaluated. For your information when he became superintendent we were already in debt and he has had the task of straightening it out.

    -- Posted by SoldiersGirl on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 3:58 PM
  • If there is anyone that can fix South Putnam budget go ahead. I'm sure the school system is trying to do the best with what they have to work with. Stop bashing the administration if you can do better then you apply for the job.

    -- Posted by comment1234 on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 6:44 PM
  • Maybe there can be cuts made in the administration and be one board run the schools instead of paying so many to do the job. I just think they should all go by state standards and be evaluated.

    -- Posted by yachtsman on Fri, Nov 25, 2011, at 7:09 PM
  • what time are these kids waiting for the bus if reelsville is closed. that means getting up sooner and getting home later. even if its not much, it will still impact students.

    -- Posted by pukee on Sun, Nov 27, 2011, at 6:37 PM
  • to pukee. the kids would probably get on the same time they do now, maybe a little later. central doesn't start until 8:20am and gets out at 2:50pm. HS kids get off the bus at South them buses go to Central to drop Elementary kids off.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Mon, Nov 28, 2011, at 7:30 PM
  • Wow, I am impressed this thread is still going I guess people care about what is going on in our school system. I am pleased with that, keep up the good work!

    -- Posted by jearl on Mon, Nov 28, 2011, at 7:49 PM
  • As a parent of two children that transferred from SP to GC a couple of years ago, I think I can offer some perspective about why. I really liked Reelsville school until you got into the higher grades and then you ran into problems with certain intstructors. My older child was a recipient of this problem and I did not want my younger child to get behind the curve in the same way and when they changed the rules to transfer and you didn't have to pay thousands of dollars, we decided it was time to make the move. Another reason is because the school is so small and limited in resources, kids at either end of learning spectrum were getting the short stick. Meaning, if you were too smart you were bored, bored, bored because the class had to wait for everyone to catch up, but if you might be a little slow you would get extra help no matter. It is not that GC is that much better than SP but that they have more resources to spread around and help the most kids.

    They had talked about combining Central and Reelsville years ago and I was hoping they would do it because we would have stayed in the district. I really have never understood why there are FOUR school districts for ONE county??? Something is so wrong with that picture, why does Putnam County need FOUR school administrations? Well the same reason that our country in in debt up to our chiny, chin, chin.....TOO MUCH "government/administration, but no one wants to be the one to go, "Here, take my job, I realize it is redundant and wasteful and it would benefit the County and schools"..Nobody wants to say that. Truth Hurts and the children will be the ones to suffer.

    -- Posted by Lwolf on Sun, Dec 4, 2011, at 4:18 PM
  • As a parent of a reelsville child. I am very upset that they would even thing of closing our school. There are not very many schools like reelsville left. Schools that give personal attention. And teachers that care. I'm not saying that they don't do that at Central but there would be to many kids to get personal attention. There are other thing they can cut. Don't let out children pay the price for your budget problems.

    -- Posted by hopfulmom on Thu, Dec 8, 2011, at 5:23 PM
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