Updated: Apr 30
At this board meeting, the big items were the complexity report by Marcotte, referenced in my previous report on the executive session held this same day, the Alumni Plaza Update (Reith), K-6 Math Adoption (Noe), the legislative update (Kauffman) and the Responsible Bidder Policy (Kunstek). From minutes of this meeting:
Mr. Marcotte works from the Indiana Urban School Association and brought information regarding the Complexity Index. The association works within the most northern area of Indiana. He shared that the Complexity Index has gone down and stated the need to contact legislators for additional monetary support in school funding. Mr. Marcotte explained that there are three main fundings from the state. Foundation, which is the set amount per student received by the state, Special Education and Complexity Index. The Complexity Index is a number which coincides from every Indiana school system with students receiving TANF and SNAP assistance. The information shared shows Goshen Schools is not receiving as much funding as being paid out. Sadly, this is happening in all school districts across the state. In several graphs, it was shared that the least complex school corporations are receiving 2.53% funding vs. the more complex urban areas are only seeing 1.76% in funding and this is the big issue. Explaining more complex schools still receive more money, Mr. Marcotte said we still need to see an equitable amount for every school district. When talking to legislatures, he expressed that we need to request full funding for Special Education and need increased funding towards our English Language Learner grants.
It is true that funding has changed for Goshen Schools. However, it is my belief that if we focused on our core product, education, and reduced programing (or introduced fees for certain programing), we would have sufficient funding to do our core job. Further, if we did our core job of education well and provided a safe, orderly, and honorable environment for that to occur, there would most likely be a reduction in students leaving the district which reduces our funding when it occurs. This should at least be part of our discussions moving forward. A properly managed school district must modify its functions in light of present and future realities, and also real facts about education. It must not simply seek to live as though it was 10 or 20 years ago. Our most basic fact is that our first and foremost responsibility is education. We must do that and do it well, or nothing else really matters.
Mr. Bill Rieth and Mr. Ken Mirer gave an update on the Alumni Plaza. Mr. Rieth stated our goal is to have the Alumni Plaza complete in time to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Goshen High School. He shared the goal of raising $1.8 million in order to fund this project. Information can be found on the website alumniplaza.org along with brochures. As of January 31, 2023 the amount raised is somewhere in between $832,000 and $1,032,000. Many contacts are still being made to reach our goal. Mr. Mirer is very excited about this project and said this is a wonderful opportunity to make a great impression to possible incoming students and families along with the community. Alumni are very enthusiastic in seeing this project come to completion. Ms. Grant, Student Ambassador to the school board, said as a student perspective, it is great to see the enthusiasm. Dr. Hope feels the project is ready to move forward.
A vote was taken on moving this forward. One hundred years is a long time an a worthy accomplishment. However, in light of the current financial realities facing our district, I did ask what would happen if the funds were not fully raised. I was told at that point we would have to come up with the money. My assumption then was that the group was going to be funding this project and we would at most be backup. I did not like that, but I was not going to hold this up since they (presumably) firmly believed the funds were coming in and the anniversary was approaching. It also has value to present and past students of Goshen High School. However, this is not what occurred in the final MOU voted on in the March board meeting. In fact, as will be seen in my post on the March board meeting, this was reversed so that the school system is fronting all the money and the group pushing for this has 5 years to pay up and even then they are under no obligation to do so. Since this is a more than 2 million dollar project, I believe that should have been up front from the very beginning and a full accounting of how the funding was being done given to the board so I at least could have made a more informed decision. School funding is a complicated topic and I am still learning how it all works - but that is not how I want to learn. As of now, once the terms changed from what we voted on in February, I can no longer support the project from a financial accountability standpoint. Everything must be above board, clear, honest, and well thought out. The way this was brought to the board was not on those terms.
End of Part 1