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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

School administrators want patience, consistency from state

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday's Farm Bureau education roundtable brought together school administrators and state legislators as so many around the state search for solutions for a struggling education system. As a guest from Farm Bureau spoke, (from left) Rep. Jim Baird, Eminence Supt. Murray Pride, South Putnam Supt. Bruce Bernhardt, Cloverdale Supt. Carrie Milner, Old National Trail Director Nancy Holsapple, State Sen. Richard Bray and Area 30 Director Lora Busch all listen to the input. [Order this photo]
In education, the goal is never to do less with less.

Yet some school administrators feel this is the outcome in a political climate that sees more demands placed on schools coupled with less help from the state.

Several local administrators shared these concerns with state legislators at Tuesday's education roundtable hosted by the Putnam County Farm Bureau. State Senators Connie Lawson (R-Danville) and Richard Bray (R-Martinsville) and State Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) discussed the state of the education system with a number of local school administrators at the Dixie Chopper Business Center.

With the 2012 legislative session approaching fast, representatives from South Putnam, Cloverdale, Eminence, Mill Creek, Area 30, Old National Trail and the Putnam County Public Library had the ears of the lawmakers.

"We're all in this together and I think we've all always operated on this assumption," Eminence Superintendent Murray Pride said. "But I think school people get the feeling that public schools have suffered quite a bit in the last few years."

Of concern to the administrators are the hot button issues of charter schools, vouchers for private schools and teacher assessment. But even more, the administrators expressed the difficulty of being asked to continue to improve, even as funding levels drop and less help is available from the Department of Education (DOE).

"The Department of Education has gotten so much smaller in terms of the staff they have there," South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt said. "It's really made it more difficult for the schools because they're not there to consult with."

"The Indiana Department of Education used to be a resource for school corporations. I believe it's (now) looked at as more of an adversary," Mill Creek Superintendent Patrick Spray said. "We absolutely do not get the support that we should from that department."

Much like the schools it serves, the DOE has seen its share of downsizing and consolidation. It now handles special education for the state. The director of Old National Trail Special Services worries it may be ill equipped to do so.

"When we seek information and I have someone who just got out of college answering questions, it's kind of alarming," Director Nancy Holsapple said.

The lack of support is especially alarming right now, as schools scramble to meet requirements for performance-based teacher pay and licensure. While most agree that some form of performance assessment is needed, the exact form it should take is unclear.

Even more troubling, though, is implementation. Schools are expected to base raises for the 2012-13 year on standards that haven't yet been laid out.

"The timelines have not been realistic," Cloverdale Supt. Carrie Milner said. "There is so much training that has to go into the new mandates. We'll make it work, but it's not always easy."

Further concerns are with the future that bright young students may (or may not) see in education. Pride said he worried that even the best-performing teachers may not see the new system working for them economically.

"We need young, bright, enthusiastic people. You can't look at that salary schedule anymore and think, 'I'll get there in 20, 30 years and have a nice life,'" Pride said.

Based on their comments, the educators' biggest concerns were not so much in having to change, but in having time to make the needed changes. They want consistency from the state.

"I just want to know that come February you're not going to change our funding (formula)," Holsapple said.

"It seems like this entire year it was, 'Here's a message.' And then three weeks later, 'Here's a different message.' And then, 'Whoops, here's what it really is,'" Pride said.

For their part, the legislators requested the same things as the schools -- time and patience.

"I guess I'm asking for some patience to work this out," Baird said. "I think our common goal is to turn out these students."

"There's a lot that needs to be worked out," Bray said. "Conceptually, I think what we did was a good idea. Realistically, do we need to work some things out?"

Furthermore, the educators asked the legislators remember their constituents in West Central Indiana and the small public schools that serve the area.

"The mandates have created a perfect storm for small schools because we don't have as many people there to handle these changes," Bernhardt said.

Regardless of opinions about the possible solutions, the goal of everyone at the meeting was to turn the tide of the grim pictures of what current conditions are doing to schools.

Pride described Eminence as a "proud community," but one that is now "struggling to keep the lights on and the doors open."

Spray described exactly what it's like to operate with more mandates and less assistance in meeting them.

"We are in a situation where I think schools are being asked to do more with less funding," he said. "The harsh reality is that we've been doing less with less."

And that's an outcome no one wants for education.

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They ask for patience, yet government already moves as fast a pond water. They created the mess our schools are now in; hold them accountable! Election time is here. Out with the old and in with the new!

-- Posted by RandyDKuhlman on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 7:36 AM

Wondering why Greencastle was not in attendance?

-- Posted by goodthoughts on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 7:47 AM

North Putnam was absent, too. I wonder why both NP and GC were not in attendance. There may have been scheduling issues. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. BTW, when did Murray Pride come out of retirement to go to Eminence??

-- Posted by rosco&ginger on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 8:26 AM

Murray Pride never went into retirement. NP Board did not renew his contract and the very next year he went to Eminence. North Putnam's loss was Eminence's gain! Murray Pride is a wonderful person, as is his wife.

-- Posted by interested party on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 11:47 AM

The school problems are a direct result of their spending with total abandon. They have over inflated salaries and expense accounts. Cuts need to start at the top and there would be no need to cut the bottom...the students.

-- Posted by River Rat on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 1:24 PM

Who in Education has an expense account River Rat... cite an example.

-- Posted by LitNup on Thu, Dec 15, 2011, at 7:51 PM

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