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Whitko emphasizes need for referendum success

September 16, 2010

Post & Mail photo/Kelley Sheiss South Whitley Elementary second grade-students were special guests at the Whitko board meeting, listening intently to “Princ Ipal” portrayed by SWES Principal Steve Hansen. Hansen read a short book and demonstrated reading comprehension and making predictions with the students.

     Future educational efforts within the Whitko School Corporation could be severely compromised if a referendum to increase the property tax is not passed at the general election in November.
     Superintendent Steve Clason informed board members they are moving forward with the ballot initiative.
     According to Clason, the referendum is very necessary and needs to pass in order to ensure future funding. While the corporation’s current financial status shows a balanced budget for 2011 and Jobs Bill funding in the amount of $347,485, declining enrollment combined with no rainy day funds have placed Whitko in a challenging situation. Current and future plans include meetings with civic organizations and the general public to inform them of the need for a yes vote. The first public meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Whitko High School auditorium.
     A government class at the high school will be conducting survey and polling work.
     Clason reported that fulfilling the mission of delivering a differentiated curriculum to students this year is extremely difficult. Class sizes have increased and a loss of instructional assistants makes individualized attention much more difficult, noted Clason in a written report. He added volunteers have been a bright spot; however there are many areas where highly trained individuals are needed.  The superintendent stressed the five-year instructional plan adopted last year will be hard to implement based on current financial constraints. Without additional funding, equipment and training for Project Lead the Way would be limited, professional development for staff may be unavailable, and funds would not be available for software that supports remediation and enrichment. Clason said another concern is the challenge to meet state mandates regarding achievement and reading without additional funds.
     “We need to get back to where we’re providing future education for our children,” said Clason. “We need to be able to do some good things for our kids.”   
     He complimented the administrators and teachers on picking up the slack and providing a good start to the school year.
     Board members approved the adoption of the 2011 capital projects plan and the bus replacement plan. Both are property tax-based funds that cover the maintenance of facilities and technology and allow for the purchase of buses.
     If a referendum is approved, those additional monies collected would go into a referendum fund and be used to pay teacher salaries, according to Tom McFarland, Chief Business Officer.
     In school news, South Whitley Elementary Principal Bruce Hansen started the meeting with a story he read to his second-grade students. Hansen reported the student council has been selected, with 5th graders serving as officers and 4th graders serving as representatives. He added having a Crisis Prevention Team in place at the elementary school has greatly helped to deescalate several situations since the start of the year.
     Parrish Kruger, Whitko High School Principal, encouraged everyone to come out this Saturday and “drive one for your school” in partnership with Trier Ford. Kruger reported that even with larger class sizes, things are going smoothly. He announced Whitko won the TRC all sports for the boys 2009-10 season.
     Board members recently participated in a work session to discuss the board goals for this year.  Steve Clason overviewed the first goal of communication, stating the board plans to adopt a communication plan that will be implemented by Jan. 1.  Clason stated they need to do a better job of getting the word out to the community about what makes Whitko special, emphasizing the positives of what the corporation has to offer.
     The second goal targets the instructional plan with special focus on grades K-3.  According to Clason, this goal is massive, looking at how to use and where to allocate funds along with more resources at the elementary level.
     Clason said they need to ensure kids are on grade level by grade 3.
     “Research shows if kids pass ISTEP in third grade, they’ll pass it forever,” said Clason. “The goal is to move Whitko forward and that’s where we need to go.”
     The board goals will be formally adopted next month at the regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration offices in Pierceton.

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