Petitioners hope to remove Monterey from Culver school system

Last weekend, a group of eight in the Monterey area gained petition signatures from the crowds attending the town's busy Monterey Days Festival, to add to the more than 300 names it already had gathered in hopes of Monterey’s Tippecanoe Township de-annexing from the Culver
Community School Corporation and instead joining the Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation. If accomplished, the move could eventually signal the loss of hundreds of students from the Culver system.
Monterey town board president Jim Fluery says the group plans to go door-to-door in the township to add to the signatures, and will then present the petition to the Culver school board. He says he’s not certain yet what’s involved, on a state level, in making de-annexation a reality, but the group is looking at its options. And, he says, less than 10 of those asked to sign the petition, so far, have refused.
Fluery acknowledges that upset over the closing of MES launched the move, and that he hopes it’s possible Eastern Pulaski will at least look at reopening the building, if the effort succeeds.
Eastern Pulaski Community School Corporation Superintendent: Dr. Robert J. Klitzman says the school board agreed over the summer to the move, if all of the necessary legal requirements were met on the part of petitioners.
“But the whole burden,” he notes, “is on the good people of Tippecanoe Township, if they do all the legwork -- all the appeals and so forth. If you look at a map, Tippecanoe Township is in Pulaski County, and this would square up the district."
Monterey Elementary School has been part of the consolidated Culver Community School Corporation since 1968, when it was one of a handful of area schools redistricted into the Culver corporation. Ten years ago, more than $1 million was spent to renovate the Monterey school building, a fact many in the small Pulaski County community have pointed to among other reasons for their displeasure with the closing of MES. The Culver school board made the decision the building would close in June, after state legislative action and other factors resulted in massive budget cuts to the school corporation.
At the time, many families threatened to leave the Culver system for Winamac-based Eastern Pulaski.
In fact, says Klitzman, a "ballpark" number of 35 or 40 students from among the 130-plus former Monterey Elementary student body did transfer from Culver to Winamac. Those numbers haven't caused Culver school officials much consternation as of yet, says Culver superintendent Brad Schuldt.
"We have kids coming and going every year," he says, adding there "may be a few students going someplace else" besides Winamac as well. This may be all the more true since Indiana passed legislation allowing vouchers, under specific conditions, for qualifying families to have their children's tuition to a private school partially or fully funded. Further, legislation was already on the books allowing students to transfer to the public school of their choice.
Schuldt points out Culver's middle school enrollment has actually increased by around 20 students this year, though the high school is down by about 10 from last year. Enrollment fluctuation is a given from year to year, he explains, and it may range from just four or five students, to 15 or 20. This fall's numbers, he acknowledges, are "a little high."
Culver's corporation has been declining in enrollment gradually over the past 10 years in a row, he adds.
Schuldt says he's aware there's a petition circulating seeking de-annexation for Tippecanoe Township, but says he doesn't know the specific legal procedures required to accomplish the goal.
"As far as de-annexation, that's something for lawyers to work out."
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