Monday, March 30, 2009

Anderson's Schools

Coming late to the party, let me refresh what is going on with Anderson Community Schools.

"Ebbertt Education Center, South Side Middle School, Southview Elementary and Robinson Elementary will all be closed as a result of the 4-2 vote.

The Anderson Community School Corp. board members who voted in favor of closing the four schools were Tobi Jones, Philip Morgan, William Riffe and Teddy Bohnenkamp."

***

The panel’s recommendations adopted by the board included keeping the 9-through-12 grade configuration at the high schools. An early option would have changed the high school to a 7-through-12 configuration.

The board vote regarding middle schools strayed slightly from the panel recommendations. Originally, panel members indicated that North Side Middle School should be closed, but included a note that South Side could be closed if board members deemed the facility unsuitable.

South Side is 11 years older than North Side.

The recommendations presented by the panel indicated that 45 teacher layoffs would have to occur to get the budget balanced but Superintendent Mikella Lowe said Tuesday that the district could only handle losing 25 teachers immediately without violating terms of the teacher contract regarding the pupil-to-teacher ratio.

***

Before the vote, Stewart argued that the district should not close Ebbertt in order to save the historic Wigwam complex. “It makes little sense to me to dismantle a program with a utility cost of $174,000 and bring it into a Wigwam with a cost of $384,000.”

Stewart argued that the cost to move programs from Ebbertt to the Wigwam could top $1.5 million in addition to the increased utility cost at the Wigwam, which could top $500,000 annually if the facility is as busy as Ebbertt.

***

Stewart said saving the Wigwam, a sentimental favorite for many Anderson residents, was not worth the cost to education. “We cannot sacrifice the education of our children for the sake of pride. ... It cannot be saved on the backs of the next generation of kids.”

Stewart called on those who’d fought against closing the Wigwam to find alternative ways to keep it open. “You need to get up and do something instead of sitting there and pretending this is the most important thing we have in this community.

Lowe said the previously announced closures did not save enough money.

Others - like my wife - have asked where are they going to put all these kids. Others have noticed that the only elementary school on the south side is Erskine over on Madison Avenue. This comes from The Herald Bulletin's Closures: Parents: South side will suffer:

Simmons said the sudden lack of schools on the south side might cause frustrated parents to pull their students out of the school system altogether.

“Where else are those people going to go?” asked Simmons, who has two children at South Side and one at Southview. “They don’t even want to go to North Side or East Side.

“(ACS is) going to lose 700 students to the (Anderson Preparatory) Academy. They’re going to lose more money than they’re actually going to gain.”

Simmons said besides longer bus rides and problems finding transportation for students with after-school commitments, south-side families would lose an important part of their community with the closure of the schools.


This article raises but never pursues a point about how was this study done and who checked their findings:

“I don’t think they took a fair look at Southview,” she said. “They never came to visit. They didn’t pick anybody from the south end of town for the panel, and I think that’s how the south end is closing.”

Drechsler said the schools closing could spell bad news for south-side growth as well, with parents visiting businesses in other parts of town when they take their children back and forth to school.

Huh? No visits? No consideration of growth? Is this closing going to cost more in the future to reopen schools? Think people, there is a future to Anderson.

I spoke with one of the school board members before the meeting described above and I think I confused her. I asked what efforts there to find other entities that might help pay for the Wigwam. The idea that other might pay for use of the Wigwam seems not to have been thought of (and maybe someone can correct me here - but was there not a semi-pro team playing in the Wigwam during the Seventies?). I think it is safe to say that no one on the Board could think of any way of finding a way to make any money off of the Wigwam.

What I did hear clearly is that the City of Anderson is staying out of this. Which makes me ask why would the Parks Department not be interested in use of the facilities? Today's Herald Bulletin may the answer here.

Instead, we get sunk by a nostalgia for a long gone Anderson. Which may explain why not much was made about why we need to save the Wigwam facility by moving the Ebbert Vocational School which costs less to run than does the Wigwam.

The Wigwam closing caught the attention of The Indianapolis Star wiht Anderson's historic Wigwam in danger of closing and which has this "wonderful" quote:
"If they close this Wigwam, this town is done," said Kenny Reed, who has attended games there since it opened.

Now that is so much nostalgic, stuck-in-the-mud nonsense of the sort that does cripple this town. Much more to the point, and probably says more about the modern Anderson is this quote buried to the back of the story:
Though Anderson's schools will undergo cutbacks regardless of what happens to the Wigwam, Stacey Windlan, a mother of three young children, points out that the Wigwam's utility bills nearly equal the salaries of 10 entry-level teachers."How do you justify possibly laying off teachers while keeping open a building that doesn't educate students?" Windlan asked.
The Star's Beth Murphy has Remember the Wigwam on its The Board blog.

Ms. Windlan has it right. Did anyone question the cost of tearing down the Wigwam against keeping it? Cannot Highland or Anderson High School's gym handle the Sectional games? (I am not even sure if we have a Regional game here any longer). Can anyone justify keeping this barn open so long as we need to educate children?

Since then we have had more school news:
The Herald Bulletin - Killbuck recommended to close:
"On Monday, Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Mikella Lowe released a statement recommending that Killbuck be closed in order to help school officials cut the budget.

The school board has already voted to close Ebbertt Education Center, Robinson Elementary, Southview Elementary and South Side Middle School in an attempt to cut $5 million from its budget.

In closing Killbuck, Lowe said, ACS could save roughly $340,000."

Which also raises questions over the Mallard Lake landfill, but made my wife repeat her question: where are they going to place these kids? (Which hit home for us last year when there was not enough room at Southview for our kindergartner).

What remains unanswered for me is this: how does all of this affect the children's education? Maybe it will stir up debate about school funding in Indiana (I hope it does), but judge the ACS school board's actions against these words:

"For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America. The land-grant colleges and public high schools transformed the economy of an industrializing nation. The GI Bill generated a middle class that made America's economy unrivaled in the 20th century. Investments in math and science under President Eisenhower gave new opportunities to young scientists and engineers all across the country. It made possible somebody like a Sergei Brin to attend graduate school and found an upstart company called Google that would forever change our world.

The source of America's prosperity has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st-century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there's an Internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is now competing with a child in New Delhi, where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know -- education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it's a prerequisite for success."

And then we have this:
ACS superintendent resigns:

"ANDERSON -- Mikella Lowe, superintendent of the Anderson Community School Corporation, submitted a letter of resignation yesterday, according to school board president Teddy Bohnenkamp."

Feels to me that she is getting out ahead before the fan starts up:

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