TERRE HAUTE —
Northeast Sullivan School Corp. is spending more money than it is taking in, something that can’t continue, district officials say.
The district is dealing with declining enrollments and less state funding.
In recent years, the district has responded to budget concerns by cutting staff and programs, to the point where families are sending students to other school districts that have more to offer.
It has laid off 16 teachers. In addition, five who retired weren’t replaced. The district has cut art, music, physical education and band programs at the elementary level; the district doesn’t offer “shop” classes and only maintains limited career/technical programming in high school.
In the four elementary schools, there is only one teacher at each grade level, except for second-grade at Farmersburg Elementary, which has two teachers.
“There’s nothing else to cut,” superintendent Mark Baker said recently. The district must now consider a reorganization plan that would “get more kids into fewer buildings.”
A recent feasibility study, presented by the board Nov. 11, calls for closing both Union and Dugger Elementary. Two elementaries would remain: Hymera and Farmersburg. Shelburn Elementary would be closed, and instead it would become a 6/7/8 middle school, serving the entire school district. North Central would serve as the district’s sole high school.
What the board actually plans to vote on remains unclear.
On Monday, the board will hear from two groups, Save UHS [Union High School], which wants Dugger/Union schools to remain open, and Save NESC [Northeast Sullivan School Corp.], which supports the reorganization plan outlined in the feasibility study.
The board is expected to take action at its Dec. 2 meeting.
Nobody wants to close schools, Baker said.
“We’re at a point where something different needs to happen. The way we’re operating, we can’t continue to operate or we’re going to be out of money,” he said. “They [School Board] have a very tough decision to make.”
If the district does nothing, it won’t be able to pay its bills and it would be subject to state takeover, he said. “If that happens, you’ve lost control.”
Over the last five years, the district has lost 150 kids, representing more than $6,000 in state funding per student. Total district enrollment is 1,290 students.
During that same period, the Northeast general fund budget has declined $1.8 million — from $11.1 million to $9.2 million this year. The cash balance has declined more than $300,000.
The district can’t continue to spend down its cash balance, he said.
Also, the cost to operate Union High School is high, compared to North Central, district data indicates.
Union, which dates back to 1921, has 172 students this year and the cost per student by building breakdown is $9,170. North Central, with 484 students, has a cost per student of $5,891.
The district receives about $6,099 per student. Union is operating at a net loss of $528,212 this year, according to the school district.
The district takes out a $1 million temporary loan each year to meet cash flow needs, Baker said. Such temporary loans “are pretty common practice” for smaller districts, he said.
Compounding the problems is that cutbacks in programming may be prompting some students to go to other school districts.
A few years ago, the district had to cut its certified staff in art, music and physical education at the elementary level. Now, an instructional aide provides structured activities in each of those areas, under the supervision of the classroom teacher and principal.
Band and art teachers divide their time between Union and North Central high schools. The district has one media specialist, who oversees instructional aides in each of the buildings.
This year, about 90 to 100 students who live in the Northeast district are attending Southwest Sullivan schools. That represents more than $500,000 in lost revenue, Baker said.
The Northeast board hopes that by reorganizing, it will be able to save money and hopefully bring back some of the programs the district has had to cut, Baker said. It also hopes to add career/technical programs at the high school level and related introductory programs at the middle school level.
By strengthening programs, “We’re hoping we can get some of our kids back,” Baker said.
The district has focused on keeping all the buildings up and going, but to do so, “We’ve had to cut programs and staff,” Baker said. The district is now down to barebones staffing. “We can’t cut any more staff.”
In making a decision about reorganization, the board must act by next month, Baker said. If it decides to close any schools, those principals must be notified by Dec. 31 under the law.
If Union High School and Dugger Elementary close, the majority of people affected will probably send their kids to schools in Linton or Sullivan, which are closer but in separate districts: Linton-Stockton and Southwest Sullivan.
Linton-Stockton High School is about seven miles away, while Sullivan High School is about 10 miles away. For some living in the southernmost part of the Northeast district, North Knox school district is closer.
That also has implications for Northeast School Corp. If those students leave, so does the state funding — which may limit some of the program expansion at Northeast.
It also has implications for employees of the schools that close. If those students stay in Northeast, “Most people would keep their positions,” Baker said.
But if those students leave Northeast, the district wouldn’t have the funding to keep the same number of teachers.
Some residents have asked if consolidation with Southwest Sullivan School Corp. might be an answer to Northeast’s fiscal dilemma. “At different times people bring that up,” Baker said.
Fairly recently, Southwest was “informally” approached about the possibility. “At that point, they were not interested in meeting with us,” Baker said.
Chris Stitzle, Southwest superintendent, said that at this time, “I don’t think the [Southwest] board has a lot of interest.”
Southwest has had some financial difficulties of its own and has had to drop some programs over the years because of budget and enrollment issues. “I don’t think they [Southwest board members] see an advantage to joining forces,” Stitzle said.
The Southwest financial picture is improving, Stitzle said, and “we hope to end this year with a positive cash balance.”
State funding dilemma
Changes in the state’s school funding formula have not been kind to small, rural school districts.
The state’ philosophy and policy now is that money follows the child, said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.
Gone are guarantees in the formula that a district’s funding won’t decline from one year to the next.
Also gone is the so-called “deghoster,” which provided that even if a district lost enrollment, it didn’t lose all of that funding in one year. The funding loss could be spread out over several years.
“Those factors are no longer in there,” Costerison said. Now, “When you lose students, you lose money. It’s pretty simple.”
And many rural districts are losing enrollment. And funding.
Those forces might cause more smaller districts to consider consolidation, he said. They may find they can operate more efficiently and provide better programs if they do.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235.
TERRE HAUTE —
Northeast Sullivan School Corp. is spending more money than it is taking in, something that can’t continue, district officials say.
Justice system questioned
David Camm says that when he looks critically at the Indiana State Police today, he sees arrogance, ego and the desire for personal — even monetary — gain.
Death certificate delay angers Health Board
The Vigo County coroner is not signing death certificates in a timely manner as required by law, according to the Vigo County Health Department.
MARK BENNETT: The memories from a baseball mitt fit like a glove
Man hasn’t developed the technology for time travel.
The smell of your old baseball glove can come pretty close, though.
Former Parke County teacher arrested on felony charges
A former Montezuma Elementary teacher — who also had served as president of the Southwest Parke Education Association — was arrested Wednesday on felony counts related to alleged missing funds, according to Indiana State Police.
Bucshon has commanding money lead
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Larry D. Bucshon of Newburgh has a commanding lead in campaign funds over fellow Republican Andrew McNeil of Freedom for the May 6 primary election, according to election reports from the Federal Election Commission.
City’s first Arbor Day awards named
Terre Haute and its citizens were recognized on Wednesday night for contributions to the urban forest.
Turner skips House ethics hearing
House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner skipped a House ethics review Wednesday but claimed in filings submitted to the panel that he did nothing wrong when he fought legislation that would have cost him millions of dollars in profits.
Activity Fair is Saturday at park
Are you looking for fun, afterschool and summer activities for your kids? You can review options a the Greater Terre Haute Afterschool Network Camps and Activities Fair from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Vigo County YMCA at Fairbanks Park, according to a press release.
Children’s charity to conduct fundraiser this weekend
March for Babies — the March of Dimes premier fundraising event that benefits all babies — will step off Saturday morning at ISU’s Memorial Stadium on the east side of Terre Haute.
Villa Grove High School students win state anti-drinking PSA contest
The State of Illinois on Wednesday announced that students from the eastern Illinois’ Villa Grove High School won the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s statewide video public service announcement contest. The announcement ceremony at the Douglas County school also served as the statewide kickoff for this spring’s Your Actions Matter! underage drinking awareness campaign.
Swim by 7 program
Swim by 7 is a collaborative effort involving the United Way of the Wabash Valley and the Vigo County School Corp. As envisioned, all VCSC kindergarten students would participate in the learn-to-swim program once the new VCSC Aquatics Facility is constructed and ready for use at Voorhees Park.
Candidates file finance reports
The Democratic race for judge of Vigo County Superior Court Division 2 boasts the most fundraising of all campaigns for the May 6 primary election.
Mayor Duke Bennett leads community discussion on litter
Talking trash in the neighborhood can get down and dirty.
Public hears about grant to clean up E. coli in Otter Creek
Greg Dunham has known Otter Creek since his childhood. “I walked that creek. I lived in that creek and I was all the time fishing in it, so this was news to me” he said about the concern of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the Otter Creek watershed.
Lilly to buy Novartis Animal Health
Eli Lilly and Co. plans to acquire Novartis Animal Health for about $5.4 billion, a move believed to strengthen and diversify Lilly’s own animal health business, Elanco.
VIDEO: Indiana State breaks ground for $4.3M riverside track and field facility
Indiana State University officials, community leaders and donors broke ground Monday on a new, $4.3 million track and field facility on the Wabash riverfront, along North First Street.
Panel approves new school benchmarks
A panel of Indiana business and education leaders were met with boos and jeers from attendees after they voted overwhelmingly Monday to support new math and English standards set to replace the Common Core in classrooms this fall.
Man to face several charges in Linton shooting death
A homicide northeast of Linton is being investigated by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.
Board approves bond structure to fund central pool project
The Vigo County School Corp.’s $9.8 million aquatics center is “on schedule” and “the budget looks good,” Superintendent Dan Tanoos told the School Board on Monday.
Judge: Indiana hasn’t given good reason for same-sex marriage ban
A federal judge has said that attorneys defending Indiana’s gay marriage ban haven’t given a valid reason why the state should not recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom has a terminal illness.
Police: Death from natural causes for 2 bodies found in home
Death by natural causes has been ruled in the deaths of two people whose bodies were found Sunday evening inside their Pimento area home in southern Vigo County.
10 men, 1 woman added to Fire Dept. ranks
Eleven recruits joined the ranks of the Terre Haute Fire Department on Monday during a swearing-in ceremony at Terre Haute City Hall.
Mayor to host Earth Day event for children
Mayor Duke Bennett has partnered with Indiana State University and the Vigo County Public Library to invite children grades K-5 for an evening of hands-on, environmental learning at the City’s first Earth Day Extravaganza. The free event will be today, Earth Day, from 4 ot 6 p.m. at the library.
City to host Arbor Day award reception Wednesday
Terre Haute’s urban forester and Mayor Duke Bennett will host Terre Haute’s first Arbor Day Urban Forest Award reception at 6 p.m. Wednesday at The Ohio Building.
2 bodies found in Pimento home
Police were at the scene of a death investigation on Sunday in southern Vigo County.
“It’s a double death investigation,” Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark E. Cottom told the Tribune-Star at the scene.
BOSTON MARATHON: Not intimidated
One reason Mike Morris — and many runners can relate — has been a distance runner for 30 years is it’s restorative powers. Not to the body but to the mind.
VIDEO: Overcoming symptoms
Even when he was in grade school, it was obvious Justin Huxford was a special kid.
He was the first at Rio Grande Elementary School to walk 100 miles around the school grounds over the school year, one of just a handful of kids to meet the goal.
Answering the call
Static was the only thing on TV or radio. People were on their knees as they prayed. It was, as if for three whole days, the world stood still.
TH wins 8th Tree City USA ‘Growth’ award
Terre Haute was named a 2013 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management.
ISU hosts Ukraine panel today
In Ruth Fairbanks’ morning commute to work recently, she heard two news stories on the radio about Ukraine. Considering her drive-time is just five minutes, it demonstrates how unstable — and newsworthy — Eastern Europe is these days.
- More News Headlines
- Justice system questioned