School board discusses teacher cuts, elementary renovations

The Culver Community School Board met twice last month to discuss upgrades to the Elementary School and the much-discussed possibility of teacher layoffs.

The February 14 meeting started with discussion of Culver Comm. High School state champion wrestler Matt Hurford and his accomplishment on the mat and off.

School Board President Ryan Sieber said that, "This is not just an accomplishment for the athletic program but for the corporation as a whole. This outstanding young man is a product of this school, going back to the beginning with the teachers and coming up through the Culver school system. We are very proud of his accomplishments."

The meeting went on to discuss upgrades to the Elementary School building, with Bob Wede of Performance Services giving a short presentation regarding the building's HVAC system and window corrections. The estimated cost for the project will total $1,66,468.
Superintendent Brad Schuldt said he wanted to make sure everyone understood the importance of the project and the overall savings for the school corporation in energy costs down the line.

"This breaks down to a total cost of 17 cents to the tax rate. The money to do this comes from a building and maintenance fund which is completely different from the funds used to pay for teachers and staff," explained Schuldt.

The school board then discussed the one bid for two new school buses received from Midwest Transit for $181,814, with a trade-in value for two old school buses of $16,300. Board member Dave Cooper moved to accept the bid and board member Jack Jones second the motion. The vote was unanimous to accept the bid.

The following board meeting, on March 5, included discussion regarding the potential for teacher layoffs and an interest in the Monterey School Building.

Board member Ryan Sieber discussed the desire for a Christian-based school to rent the now-vacant Monterey Elementary School building.

"Have they raised the money and how much of the building would they require for their use," questioned Schuldt. "There are just too many unanswered questions for right now. It is not our job to answer those questions, but rather to protect our assets. We would love to entertain any and all ideas for use of the Monterey School building, but for now we just don't have enough information."

The superintendent then passed out numerous documents showing the school corporations' number of students, going back to the 1980s and following through to the present.

"We have lost an additional 40 students since the beginning of the school year," he said, "but history shows that we will pick up a few more before the end of the year."

Schuldt went on to explain the school lost 169 students in the last four years. In 2002, six teachers were cut, though two were subsequently invited back. Schuldt said many school departments are down to just one person, necessary in order to meet state curriculum standards.

"We cannot get rid of the departments because we will not meet the state standards," he said. "The athletic department has been cut by an additional 5 percent and I just don't feel comfortable cutting it further. In Indiana, a good sports program is a draw for students, and in some cases one sport can help pay for all the other sports program at the school. That’s just the way it is in Indiana schools."

The board will receive recommendations in April as to teacher cuts, and should make their final decisions by the end of April or beginning of May.

"I would just like to say that the number of retirements and the potential for more if the teachers that are eligible act on it -- we are already halfway there and may not have to RIF any teachers at all," stressed Schuldt.

Board member Ed Behnke said he hoped that if they had to RIF (Reduction In Force) any teachers that the teachers, administration, and athletic department would bear the burden equally. He also commented regarding the anonymous letters received by school board members. Ryan Sieber stated that he, too, had received unmarked letters and said that, "we are not a head-bobbing group...we would rather you come in to have thoughtful debate and conversation prior to the vote."

Board member Van DePutte, obviously very shaken up from the letters, said, "I, too, have received these letters and they have called me names and a coward, without the ability to defend myself. I also would like to know where these children (leaving the school system) are going -- they have to be going somewhere. I would also like to say that I do not envy the administrators that have to choose to lay off friends and coworkers. This is not easy on anyone."

Board member Dave Cooper commented that, "it isn't the people sitting at this table that are making the decision to RIF teachers. Rather, it's the legislature making the cuts to the school budget."