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Culver Community High School principal Albert Hanselman's talk to Culver's Kiwanis Club last Thursday was centered on the scholarship program the club offers to local high school students, and its results, but he also addressed several "big picture" matters concerning the school, both the good news and the challenges it faces.
ENROLLMENT AND FUNDING
Hanselman, who noted he's been 26 years with CCHS (from which he himself graduated), 14 of them as principal, discussed what is possibly the most pressing issue the school corporation is facing today: that of declining enrollment.
On the "good news" portion of the discussion, enrollment is not down from last year to this. However, Hanselman shared some indicative numbers such as the high school's enrollment of 334 students as of January, 2007, compared with this year's 261 students in the same building.
"I did an analysis to find out where we're going," he said, noting he's also on the committee working on Culver's comprehensive plan. "We were down 90 students from January, 2007 to April, 2013. I took those and looked by county of residence (since the Culver corporation serves four counties in all) to see what was happening. Seventy of the 90 (who left) came from Union Township in Marshall County."
Budgets for public schools in Indiana are "per student," Hanselman explained, noting the state has moved away from determining a school's general fund based on tax levy, but now seeks every school corporation to have the same dollar amount per student, referred to as attaining a foundation. Over the course of seven years the state aims to have reached that goal, he said.
As a result of this policy, Culver Community Schools' amount per student has declined by $116, "and that's been a part of our budget crisis," he added.
Asked to speak to the reasons behind the 70 Union Township students who left the corporation between 2007 and today, Hanselman said he believes the trend relates to young families and the lack of affordable housing in the Culver area.
Additionally, a lack of job opportunities for graduated students, particularly those who have earned college degrees.
"What opportunities do you have unless it's at Elkay or one of the two schools here? There aren't large employers for someone to work...so it becomes a bedroom community. They come here to work and they move (out of town). Mostly when we ask why families are moving, the parent says they're looking for a job."
In response to an audience query, Hanselman said he doesn't think the corporation has lost many students due to the much-ballyhooed voucher program approved by the state a few years ago, which allows students to use public school funds to attend participating private schools.
For one thing, not that many private schools within a reasonable distance of Culver are accepting vouchers, he pointed out.
Also, tax dollars, he explained, "used to stay in the community. The school used to be able to charge tuition when a kid goes out of town (to another school), but now the state doesn't care."
Asked if the school building has the capacity to comfortably expand, should the need ever arise, Hanselman said in 2002, students in the middle and high school combined numbered in the upper 500s, so he feels there's plenty of room.
He referenced a book he recently read, "Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America" (by Patrick J. Carr), a study of the "brain drain" phenomenon in small communities of which he said, "I would swear they did that study in Culver."
Former students, he noted, have indicated they would love to come back here and raise families, but "the opportunities for employment are just not there."
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES AT CULVER
Speaking of employment, Hanselman was quite positive about the expanded array of opportunities for current CCHS students in the area of vocational education, pointing out Indiana Governor Pence's emphasis on the importance of vocational education in public schools.
Hanselman, himself part of the Marshall County Industrial Association, said many employers have opportunities in the area of skilled labor, but lack a proper labor pool from which to choose. One employer, according to Hanselman, said he had some 100 openings, but most applicants either lack the skills to fill the positions or "can't pass drug screenings."
Vocational education director at Culver Jerry Hollenbaugh is expanding voc ed opportunities, said Hanselman, including working to train students to fill the stated need for trained welders.
A course available for CCHS students in machinist training, based in Plymouth, has grown out of a partnership between ITAMCO in that community and Ivy Tech college. Machinists can start at $40,000 to $50,000 salary, he noted, and Culver students who take the course can walk away with up to five certifications and potentially with an Associateâ€™s degree as well.
In many ways, employers are moving away from the longstanding model of a four-year degree, he explained, noting Hollenbaugh and Plymouth superintendent Dan Tyree took a trip to a new transmission plant near Kokomo where sought-after individuals were those who could collaborate in a team environment, rather than a four-year degree.
Hanselman also said the school takes students to Ancilla College and other places to expose them to a collegiate environment.
"Many of our students would be what you would call first-generation college students. For some of them, walking onto a college campus might be like for us going to the moon."
In the area of computer-based technology, Hanselman noted each student is issued his or her own iPad portable computer which is used in one degree or another daily during classes.
This year is the third in a three-year lease with the Apple company, which will sell the entire fleet of iPads to the school, should it choose not to upgrade to the next model, for only $1 total, he said. He also reported the iPads are "holding up quite well for being in the hands of teenagers."
Hanselman himself traveled to Apple's world headquarters in Cupertino, California a few years ago to speak to Apple representatives and envoys from various public schools around the country.
In addition to computer use in the school building, more focused training opportunities for students are based in Plymouth as part of the voc ed program as well, he added.
Two voc ed avenues are centered in Knox, including the ongoing beauty college training, a two-year program popular enough to generate a waiting list at CCHS. After completing the course, students "can take the state-level tests (in Indianapolis) and walk right into the industry and be employable," Hanselman explained.
Also ongoing in Knox is the SKIL Center, which offers a longtime automotive training program which facilitates up to two years of classes and the possibility of dual credit and some certifications.
Culver's high school, one of several area schools participating, currently has seven students enrolled in the program, which Hanselman said has graduated some who today work for NASCAR (though none of those were from Culver). The current teachers of the program are two former students, he added.
The principal acknowledged transportation to off-site voc ed programs "can be a problem" and is the responsibility of the students themselves, though he said many carpool and share gas expenses.
Now more than three decades old, CCHS' first vocation ed program was its building trades class, today taught at Culver by Kyle Elliott, who Hanselman says does "a fantastic job."
The home currently under construction, he noted, will belong to the Kevin Shidler family and is being built on State Road 117 near Mystic Hills golf course, not far from another recently-built house belonging to the Berendt family.
Building trades, he said, has built rural, country homes, a house on Bass Lake and near Lake Maxinkuckee, and homes adjacent to golf courses, "so the opportunities they're exposed to are wonderful."
The waiting list for a building trades home currently extends to 2036, Hanselman said, though most on the list don't end up taking advantage of the program after all.
Based in Plymouth, besides the computer and machinists voc ed courses are courses in welding as well as a certified nursing program through Miller's Merry Manor there.
While the regional voc ed cooperative to which Culver belongs is not unique in the state, he said, many such cooperatives are based in one facility such as a small college campus, though this region lacks the proper space to do that.
One helpful development under the administration of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was Daniels' requirement that certified colleges in Indiana must allow credits to transfer from one to another, which alleviated the frustration of students' voc ed credits not being valid at some institutions. In fact, some branches of the same school, such as Purdue, refused in the past to recognize some credits earned at other Purdue branches.
Hanselman also noted CCHS has around three or four students per year who enter the U.S. Armed Forces, though he pointed out the military is trying currently to improve its image by applying some more stringent requirements such as forbidding tattoos.
Addressing the work of the Kiwanis Club specifically, Hanselman thanked the club for its work in providing scholarships to CCHS students each year, reading a lengthy list of universities to which Kiwanis scholarship recipients have gone on, ranging from state universities to private colleges and vocational schools.
Majors have ranged from physical therapy, teaching, speech pathology, nursing, engineering, agri-business, and radio-television communications, to architecture, music, guidance counseling, and aviation mechanics, among others, he said.
He also expressed appreciation that the club has expanded its scholarship program to as many as four years for some students.
Hanselman discussed some of the other scholarship opportunities available to students, including some local and regional examples in which individuals place funds in a trust still paying out over years and decades, and which have been helpful to many students.
Some scholarships, he explained, are based on students' GPA, while some focus on the field a given student plans to study. One scholarship actually requires its recipient be a "C" student, said Hanselman, though an "all around good kid," to give a chance to a student who otherwise might fall through the scholarship cracks.
The school has a scholarship committee, he added, which reviews applications, which are given to all seniors to encourage them to apply.
Some scholarships actually go vacant from time to time, said Hanselman, such as those oriented towards the geographic region a student resides.
He pointed out all the students who received scholarships from the Kiwanis Club -- one of several provided for local students from various service clubs and organizations in Culver -- are still in school and "doing well." He said the decision by the club last year to make its scholarships renewable for students in good standing, puts the Kiwanis scholarship alongside roughly 15 percent of the total available to students which are renewable.View more articles in: