News and Tribune

August 11, 2013

DIVVYING UP DONATIONS: West Clark still wrestles with how to spend $500,000 in given money

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

SELLERSBURG — Henryville students started their second school year in their rebuilt facilities last week. While they may not have noticed the differences as much as last year, teachers are still trying to replace what they lost in the March 2012 tornado.

And leftover donations are what the West Clark Community Schools Teachers’ Association hopes to use to reimburse teachers for what they’ve spent.

With about $510,000 — all in monetary donations — left in the coffers from the tornado, West Clark Community Schools is still wrestling with what to do with the remainder of the donations they got to help rebuild Henryville’s schools.

The district board at its Thursday meeting allotted some to programs at Henryville’s schools, but teachers’ association president David Knies said after the meeting that he hopes more comes back to teachers.

“We’ve been talking with [the board] since school started last year when they opened the building back up,” Knies said. “We’ve given them what we think the teachers ought to get and the board gave us a figure, but we’ve not talked about it since.”



SPENDING THE DONATIONS

At its meeting, the board spent $2,500 of the donated money to help fund a program at Henryville Junior/Senior High School that would give students dual credit at Ivy Tech for English.

Though the money hasn’t been used much, superintendent Monty Schneider said the possibility of getting money to teachers for what they’ve replaced or what they still need isn’t off the table.

“We’ve had discussions because teachers’ personally owned items were not covered by insurance, and that’s typical,” Schneider said. “They lost some personal stuff, they’ve been given a lot of donated stuff, but they’re still out a lot of items. We’ve had discussion with the teacher’s association with money going to individual teachers. We’ve come to no conclusion there.”

He said though insurance greatly helped the district rebuild Henryville’s schools in a reasonable amount of time and helped with replacing or renovating spaces, the district still had to pay a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.

Knies said many of the teachers who lost classroom materials had been teaching for  a long time. But he said regardless of their tenure at the school, those materials add up quickly.

“We need to reimburse them for what they spent,” Knies said. “The tornado caused them to lose their supplies and they had to go back out and buy them. I’m going to guess anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more for some teachers. Some of them had stuff where they’d taught for 30 years and lost everything they had.”

Schneider said while he hopes they can help teachers who lost materials, he has to make sure the entire district is cared for with what they spent out of the general fund.

“The corporation is still out some for things we paid that weren’t completely paid by insurance,” Schneider said. “It’s important that some of that money comes back to the district because it affects all the other schools in our corporation.”



OPENING UP DISCUSSIONS

At Thursday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved the payment of $75,000 out of its insurance money to pay the Mid-America Science Park in Scottsburg for housing its junior and senior high students as they rebuilt the schools.

John Reed, assistant superintendent, said the payment to the science park was one of the last outstanding insurance payments remaining, which should begin to open up discussions on how to spend money from donations.

But he said the general fund expenditures to make up for what insurance didn’t cost still have to be considered before the rest of the money is spoken for.

“That’s another area that will be considered,” Reed said. “The up-front, most important piece that the board has made very clear is that they’re going to be careful of releasing any money until the corporation is made whole again. It’s been a very long, drawn out process. It takes a long time to figure out everything that is missing and needs to be replaced. Insurance is just now settling up on the final details.”

Reed said though the district received a lot of donations in equipment and school supplies, those have already been divided up or given to other areas or organizations outside the district where there was a need.

The board also approved spending some of the donated money to build a digital display sign outside of the Henryville schools. Schneider said some insurance money will help fund it, but it wasn’t enough to fully cover the project.

Reed said the district also has to exercise caution on spending the donations because the money is one-time. He said once it’s spent, it’s spent.



IN OTHER BUSINESS

• The board gave the district permission to advertise for bids on an activities facility for Henryville Junior/Senior High School.

After the meeting, Schneider said it would house a weight room for use by all students, but hopes it would also be used for basic and advanced physical education courses.

• The board also approved an advanced manufacturing program for Henryville students. The Mid-America Science Park invited them to sign students up for the Ivy Tech course they’re offering on their campus. Though they’re more than a week into the school year, Reed said they’ll try to sign some students up.