News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 16, 2014

Union/Dugger: Town makes push for new charter school

DUCSC seeks approval, former Dugger facilities, students to enroll

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

DUGGER — The “singular goal” of Dugger Union Community School Corp. is to open a school in August, its superintendent, Tom Peeler, said Friday.

Initially, that will likely be a charter school, if DUCSC receives state approval. DUCSC has sent a letter of intent to the Indiana Charter School Board and is now preparing a detailed application document that must be submitted by Feb. 24.

“We’re moving with that as aggressively, completely and professionally as we know how,” Peeler said.

The group won’t know until late April whether it is approved.

DUCSC was formed after the Northeast Sullivan School Board voted in December to close Union Junior-Senior High School and Dugger Elementary at the end of this school year because of budget difficulties and enrollment declines. The two schools have about 322 students.

Residents involved with Save Union High School incorporated with the Secretary of State to form DUCSC.

They hired Thomas Peeler of Small School Solutions LLP, a consultant, and earlier this month, he was named superintendent of DUCSC.

While DUCSC might start as a charter, the long-term goal is to become a more traditional public school district serving redistricted Cass and Jefferson townships, which now are part of Northeast Sullivan School Corp., Peeler said.

That option has financial benefits, Peeler said. In addition to DUCSC receiving tuition support money for students (something it also would receive as a charter school), it also would benefit from property tax dollars for debt service, capital projects and transportation, he said. The two townships represent about 43 percent of the Northeast Sullivan School Crop. assessed value, he said.

However, NESC superintendent Mark Baker says NESC “is not interested in redistricting” and giving up those two townships.

In keeping with state law, NESC is taking steps that would make the Dugger/Union facility available to a charter school after the two NESC schools close later this year.

When a school district has a vacant building, it must register with the Indiana Department of Education, Baker said.

The building will be vacant this summer, and as soon as the district removes items it needs for its other schools, it will follow the process outlined by law and register the building, Baker said.

If a charter school wants the Dugger/Union facility, the Northeast School Board must decide whether to lease, or sell, the building to the charter for $1, Baker said.

Memorabilia including trophies, plaques and athletic record boards will be given to the new DUCSC charter school, if it is up and going. If not, the items will be housed in the Dugger Coal Museum, Baker said.

As far as equipment and furniture in the Dugger/Union schools, the district will need some of it for its four remaining schools. Other equipment that it doesn’t need, but is still deemed by appraisers to have value, must be auctioned, in accordance with the law, Baker said.

The NESC board has indicated the vacated schools will be registered with IDOE no later than July 31.

Peeler says that if a charter school is to open for the next school year, “We have to be in [the facility] before Aug. 1 to get set up.”

He said he is reaching out to various organizations to provide vocational programs to the new DUCSC, which would be K-12 and possibly include pre-K.

Peeler said he’s had parents fill out enrollment intentions, and “we already have a significant portion of our projected enrollment, which is 250.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.