News and Tribune

May 30, 2008

NA-FC committee head led another group that closed 3 schools, led to savings

By TARA HETTINGER

The New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. has released the list of names on the Resources for Results committee — the group that is considering closing one or two schools.

A little more than 60 percent of the names are on the corporation’s payroll, either part- or full-time.

Phyllis Amick’s name is on the top of the list. Amick — who is a hired consultant for the corporation — headed another Resources for Results committee in Ohio, where three schools were closed, according to an article from The School Administrator, dated December 2002.

That article said Amick’s work freed up $1.5 million in the first year and more savings were expected in the years to come.

The article quoted Amick as saying: “Everyone understood that tough choices had to be made, but that didn’t make the emotional part (of closing schools) any easier.”

Her committee had 35 members, which met for about a year and a half before giving their recommendations to the school board, according to Richmond Community Schools’ Web site.

The School Administrator quotes Amick as saying: “The board heard eight hours of emotional pleas over three meetings ... People are beginning to see we can go through change and can be better for it.”

NA-FC’s committee of 34 people was started in May 2006 by Superintendent Dennis Brooks.

Committee members here said they remember Amick coming into the meetings early on and becoming the facilitator.

Brooks said the goal of the committee is to come up with a few options of courses of action to better utilize the corporation’s resources and present those to the school board this fall. He said then the public will be asked for input.

Brooks said at the minimum, districting lines for the schools would be reworked. At the most, he said two schools could be closed.

“At the end of the day... there will be some very hard decisions to make,” Brooks said in a previous interview.

Recent documents from one of the meetings obtained by The Evening News and Tribune show financial analysis of how much it would cost to bring Pine View and Silver Street elementaries up to building codes and size requirements. Those papers also show how much money would be saved if those schools were to close, such as by not having a principal, custodians, food service workers and more.

Kathy Ayres, a concerned parent, is heading a community group trying to keep Silver Street Elementary open. She said she had been told nothing was final, though when she sees documents such as those, it makes her think otherwise.

“I think that means they’ve narrowed it down to what schools they want to close and I’m not happy about it,” she said. “I’m unhappy I wasn’t involved in the process, because I can see discrepancies in their data. I just don’t trust that they need to close any schools, especially an exemplary school.”

John Reisert, a member of the Resources for Results committee, says many options were looked at in the beginning and since have been narrowed down. However, he said he is still not sure whether a school closure will be among the group’s recommendations.

Reisert said he understands how people like Ayres feels. He, too, is connected to Silver Street. The now retired educator completed his student teaching at that school.

“A lot of emotion is tied to a building like that, but you’re going to have that at most of the schools around this area,” Reisert said.

He said he and the rest of the community members are trying their best to keep emotion out of discussions and just look at the issue objectively to come up with the best solution for the students and corporation.

As for rumors circulating Internet blogs that Amick came into this group with an agenda of closing schools, Reisert said he does not think that is true.

“She’s come in without bringing her own ideas in, but bringing in methodology,” he said, talking about how she has people break up into groups to research topics and share their findings. “I don’t think she did (come in with an agenda). I think she came in very open-minded. She’s never tried to influence the dynamics of the group at all.

“I’ve been pretty impressed with her. I think she’s done a good job.”

Meanwhile, Ayres’ group is not waiting until fall to have its say. Just last night, the group met for a second time to discuss ways to fight back and be heard, such as getting signs made supporting the members’ point of view.



Resources for Results members

The top 4:

1. Phyllis Amick, consultant

2. Ralph Dooley, co-chairperson

3. Peggy Carpenter, co-chairperson and parent

4. Dennis Brooks, superintendent

The rest:

• 5 teachers

• 7 administrators

• 5 support staff

• 2 school board members

• 5 parents

• 6 community members