Mostly kudos at end-of-the-year meeting
BOURBON — Triton School Corporation’s Superintendent Carl Hilling had mostly kudos to give and good things to share at the December school board meeting — that is, until the subject of school funding came up.
Hilling told about a CELL (Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning) meeting, created at the University of Indianapolis that he attended Dec. 7 and 8. Of the three keynote speakers, he said each one spoke about teacher evaluation being a main focus toward student success, and that evaluating the teachers was a “multifaceted production” that included clear, written expectations saying, “If isn’t in writing, it doesn’t happen” and “regular feedback for the students and the teachers is necessary.”
Indiana Department of Education Superintendent Tony Bennett also spoke at the event and was said to have “hit on the head” what it takes to make a “good teacher” — one that engages the student and gives them time to answer, “because some kids need a little more time to respond.” Hilling said the speakers also agreed that making contact with each student’s parents was integral as well as not only showing the children how to succeed, but supporting them along the way to be able to succeed.
“He (Bennett) said ‘every child can learn but if they think they can graduate and then go out and get a good job without any college or technical training, they’ve got another thing coming,’” Hilling said.
“He said that when it comes to making reductions, we need to look at seniority and start making cuts with the newer hires, not the more experienced educators,” Hilling explained. “When I began here (as superintendent) I made it to about 90 percent of the classrooms and I saw a lot of caring ... and educators that built relationships with their students. That takes time.”
Hilling then addressed the three school administrators at Triton: Elementary principal Jeremy Riffle, Triton Jr.-Sr. High School Principal Michael Chobanov and Triton Jr.-Sr. High School Vice Principal Robert Ross. “These three gentlemen are in charge of discipline, crowd control, curriculum, professional development and much more,” he said. “When you talk about people exceeding their job description, they go above and beyond. You have three of the finest administrators right here. They are in charge of 1,000 kids. I can’t say enough about them.”
School board president Dick Trowbridge also acknowledged the school administrators and added, “you make us look good.”
On that note, Trowbridge took the time to acknowledge outgoing board member Rodney Kreft who was attending his last meeting in the seat. He and Hilling offered Kreft a plaque commending him for the time served and Kreft in turn wished his replacement, Terry Barnhart “the best of luck” and the board “continued success.”
With the good wishes expressed, Hilling touched on something that he was less than pleased with, the unequal state funding of schools. He explained that he wanted to be on board with a written resolution that John Glenn Schools Superintendent Richard Reese initiated with a meeting of superintendents Nov. 29.
“He is taking issue with the discrepancy when it comes to student funding,” Hilling said. “He’s calling it a ‘funding disparity’. As it stands, funding for school corporations in Indiana range from $4,800 to $12,000 per student. Funding for non charter schools is about $5,724 per student. Triton gets $5,524 and the charter schools are receiving $6,637 per student. For us that’s a difference of about a million dollars a year. That’s funding we could use for technology, remediation...”
During a later phone interview Reese said he and John Glenn School Board President Michael Daube “felt like the kids in the rural schools weren’t being treated equitably.” “We wanted to make sure our kids could receive a dollar amount that was more fair,” he explained. “About 20 school corporations are on board.” Reese said he will send on the resolution and its many signatures to State Representative Tom Dermody (District 20) who is expected to present the resolution at the State House.”We are trying to get it all organized before the first of the year so Dermody can bring it up at the first legislative session,” Reese said. He also said that the only Indiana school representatives that did not show interest in supporting the cause were those that were receiving more funding than what the state’s public schools were receiving.
At the Triton meeting Hilling said that he agreed with Reese’s challenge that the “unfair funding denies students of equal opportunities” and that it was “in the best interest of the students that the state work to resolve the inequities.”
Board member Deb Shively, although not against Triton receiving more state funding, explained that the funding wasn’t based on personal opinion of the state superintendent or a bias toward one type of school over another. “There is a formula they use,” she said, “They say it costs more to educate this child than that one but they don’t just say, ‘this school gets this much but that one gets this much.’”
That said, the board elected to adopt the letter being sent to the DOE.