By TARA HETTINGER
Two members of the New Albany City Council plus eight other community members addressed the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. board at Monday night’s meeting, urging the group to keep open Silver Street Elementary School — which was recognized again as reaching “exemplary” status.
More chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the more than 80 people who showed for the meeting.
Before announcing that Silver Street, along with Greenville Elementary and Highland Hills Middle schools, reached that achievement, audience members were given the chance to talk to the board.
Pat McLaughlin — who represents District 4 on the council — told the board the importance of keeping the school open. He said closing it would have a negative effect on area home values and the same success achieved at Silver Street is not guaranteed elsewhere. He also pointed out the walkability of the area saves money in transportation, its historic value and asking what would become of the building if closed.
Diane McCartin-Benedetti — who represents District 5 on the council — told the board members she knows that they have a hard job ahead of them. However, she said she is available to help in any way that she can.
“I know you are between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “But Silver Street is really a wonderful school.”
Silver Street parent Jennifer Grose said the school is so much more than a building.
“Silver Street is not just another school. It is a home for our staff and our children,” she said.
Grose said that she was alarmed to find out the other schools that would be options if Silver Street were to close are schools that are on academic probation, per Public Law 221.
“Don’t try to fix what’s not broken,” she said. “We’re fine. We’re exemplary.”
After more speeches and cheering from the audience, Neal Smith, president of the board, spoke to the crowd, saying every aspect of this issue is being researched.
“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t look at all the factors that go into our school system,” he said.
Later in the meeting, principals from Greenville, Highland Hills and Silver Street each accepted an award for their schools reaching exemplary status.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Superintendent Dennis Brooks told the board that he’s “very concerned about enrollment” for the 2008-09 school year.
Preliminary numbers — from Aug. 25 — show the district is down 133.68 students compared to last year. That adds up to $721,872 in lost revenue from the state, if that stays the same until Sept. 12. That’s the day the corporation gives the official count to the state. The state then gives approximately $5,400 to the corporation per student attending.
Fred McWhorter, director of business for the school system, said many of the numbers appear to be missing from New Albany High School, specifically 12th grade.
He pointed to last year, when the school had 604 juniors. So far this year, NAHS has 470 seniors. That makes a difference of 134, which would take care of the total amount the corporation is down if students returned.
McWhorter told the board he plans to continue spending his time until Sept. 12 finding out where each of those students went and trying to get them enrolled if they have not moved, decided to drop out or pursue their G.E.D., or something else that would prevent them from attending.
McWhorter said he believes the 133.68 can be lowered to around 50, but says he’s optimistic that it can go all the way to zero.
“We will make every effort to locate students,” Brooks said.
Last year, the corporation ran into a problem similar to this, with about 200 fewer students enrolled as of the first day of school. McWhorter said those were “all across the board” and not seemingly to be from one area. He said that number and more were found in time to make the count.
NA-FC SETTLES CONTRACT WITH FOOD-SERVICE WORKERS
The board approved a three-year contract with the International Chemical Workers Union, which represents 92 food service workers with the corporation.
That passed 5-1, with Lee Ann Wiseheart voting against.
The contract includes a 2.33 percent pay increase for 2008-09 and a one time lump sum of $75. It also includes that same percentage for 2009-10 and 2010-11, unless other bargaining groups — such as the teachers association — agree to something more, according to Bill Briscoe, assistant to the superintendent for administration and operations. If that were to happen, the food service workers would get the higher of the two percentages for the last two years of the contract.
Wiseheart said the part she disagreed with was the language allowing the matching of the raise to other bargaining groups.
“We are not comparing apples to apples,” she said. “They are paid from separate funds.”
She said the food-service workers are self-funded. She said the uncertainties of the future of fuel and food costs makes knowing if the corporation can afford this difficult. Wiseheart added that she didn’t want to have to increase the cost of school lunches again. They went up 10 cents per meal this year.
Briscoe said though he can’t be sure, he felt “pretty safe” in saying an increase on school lunches would not be needed during this term. He said the previous increase is more than enough needed to pay for the raise.
Briscoe said the contract already has been ratified with the food-service workers.
• The school board’s next regular meeting is Sept. 8.
WHAT IS PUBLIC LAW 221?
• Public Law 221 (P.L. 221) is Indiana’s comprehensive accountability system for kindergarten through 12 education. Passed by the legislature in 1999 with broad bipartisan backing and the support of the business and education communities, the law aimed to establish major educational reform and accountability statewide.
To measure progress, P.L. 221 places Indiana school corporations and schools into one of five categories based upon “improvement” and “performance” data from the ISTEP+
Performance is rated on the percentage of all students who pass the state’s English and math ISTEP+ tests — averaged across subjects and grade levels.
Improvement measures the change in the percentage of same students passing the test over a three-year period.
Also, schools not making Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for two consecutive years can place no higher than the “academic progress” category.
— information courtesy www.doe.in.gov.
Public Law 22 Placements
• Greenville Elementary
• Highland Hills Middle School
• Silver Street Elementary
• Floyds Knobs Elementary
• Galena Elementary
• Georgetown Elementary
• Floyd Central High School
• NA-FC School Corp.
• Grant Line Elementary
• Hazelwood Middle School
• Mt. Tabor Elementary
• Scribner Middle School
• New Albany High School
• Pine View Elementary
• Slate Run Elementary
• Children’s Academy
• Fairmont Elementary
• Green Valley Elementary
• S. Ellen Jones Elementary