News and Tribune

July 1, 2008

Pine View parents speak out

Board listens to concerns; superintendent says public meetings will be held in future

By TARA HETTINGER

Parents, teachers and other supporters of Pine View and Silver Street elementary schools filled almost all of the seats and some were left standing at the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. board meeting Monday night.

Those schools are listed as possibilities for closure in May meeting notes from the Resources for Results committee, which has been working for two years to come up with ways to save the corporation money. The committee’s goal is to come up with options to present to the public for comments this fall, before making a recommendation to the board, which would make any final decision.

Many spoke up to the board, saying why they believe their school should be kept open. Most said they want both schools to be saved.

Jenny Hodge, PTO president at Pine View, was the first to address the board. She told the board she is ready to compile any information on the school that is necessary for the members to make an informed decision come October, when the final committee report is slated to be completed.

“We do love our school,” Hodge said. “We’re sorry we haven’t been here in the past.”

She vowed to continue to come to meetings to stay informed on the subject.

A number of other Pine View supporters also spoke out, talking about the benefits of keeping the school open. Many cited that there’s room for the school to grow, it is in good condition and it would cost a lot to bus children elsewhere.

One of those was Shelly McGaren, who took the microphone with her 10- and 5-year-olds by her side.

“It’s about these kids,” McGaren said as she held up her children’s hands in the air. “The future of New Albany is right here.”

One parent — who was moved as a child to Pine View when her school was closed — said being bussed elsewhere was not a positive experience for her. She said she didn’t want the same thing happening to her children.

Silver Street supporters also spoke, saying their school should be saved due to it being an exceptional school. Many also spoke of how many students walk to school, which saves the corporation money in gas.

At the end of the public comment section, Superintendent Dennis Brooks told the audience again about the public meetings that are set up for the fall to talk about the committee’s options. He said many will be small, informal meetings, so that each person can talk. Others will be in a larger setting.

“We will have as many meetings as it takes to disseminate the information,” he said, mentioning there will be many opportunities for the public to ask questions on the options.

The committee’s tentative timeline has those meetings taking place in September, with the final report going to the school board and superintendent in October for consideration.



Lunches to increase 10 cents

With a 6-1 vote, with board member Lee Ann Wiseheart dissenting, the board approved a 10-cent increase in school lunches.

Pam Wright, director of food services, spoke to the board about the increasing cost of gas, food and labor for lunchroom workers causing the price of school lunches to rise.

However, Wiseheart said she wasn’t wanting to vote for an increase in price of any amount until the group had “exhausted every avenue” elsewhere to save money. She talked about either decreasing entree selection, having volunteers instead of paying lunchroom monitors and collecting money from those who have failed to pay as ways to recover some of the costs.

Board member Patricia Badger-Byrd said those options should be looked at “so that we don’t have to do this over and over again.”

The increase will take effect this fall.

The new prices for students are: $1.45 for breakfast at all schools, $2.10 for lunch at elementary schools and $2.20 for lunch at secondary schools.



Gas drives issues with transportation

The board also talked in-depth on the cost of transportation. Fred McWhorter, director of business for the school system, told the board for years the transportation fund’s expenditures have outweighed its revenue.

He said it wasn’t a worry at first, since in 2005 the fund had a more than $3 million cash balance. The projected balance at the end of 2009 is $1.3 million.

“With that cash balance dwindling, it is becoming more and more of a concern,” McWhorter said.

He said when that fund was full, the board had voted to pay for more student services. He said now is the time to go through and see what can be cut back to save money, since the cost of diesel fuel continues to rise.

Ideas included raising property taxes, charging schools for all field trips, charging athletic teams and extracurricular groups for bus usage, reducing or eliminating summer school transportation and more.

“Most of these are great options for the kids, but all of these options cost money,” McWhorter said.

He said for fairness, the pros and cons of all options needed to be looked at.

The board also discussed ways of saving money with corporation vehicles.

After a lengthy discussion, board members agreed to submit issues they see to McWhorter and the director of transportation so that the two can get more facts to present to the board.

The board is set to talk about this further at its next meeting.



Chicago out, D.C. in.

The annual sixth-grade trip to Chicago has been eliminated and replaced with an eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.

The Chicago trip was always taken in the spring. However, state ISTEP changes will have students testing in the fall and spring.

Teresa Perkins, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that makes scheduling the trip in the spring difficult. She said moving it to the fall would not allow teachers and students enough time to bond before departing.

She suggested switching the trip to Washington, D.C., for eighth-graders. She said that would better align with their curriculum, since they are learning U.S. History then. Perkins also said the students would have more time to prepare and raise money to go on the trip.

The board voted 7-0 to switch the trip. For the next two years, no trip will be taken. This group of incoming sixth-graders will be the first to go to Washington. That way, no student takes a trip twice and every student gets a chance to go on one trip.

Also at the meeting

• Bill Briscoe, assistant to the superintendent for administration and operations, announced to the board that the next collective bargaining session is set for July 8. He said both sides showed “positive movement” at their last session in June.

• Rebecka Banet, assistant principal at Floyds Knobs Elementary, was transferred to Green Valley Elementary, where she will be principal.



READ ALL ABOUT IT

• To read detailed Resources for Results meeting notes, including options the group is considering, go to www.newsandtribune.com

Also, read past stories on the issue at our Web site.