Why does MCS need to change? Why is it imperative Muncie Community Schools must look outside the box? It seems obvious, the old standard way of running the district is broken, it is ineffective, outdated and MCS is labeled as a “distressed district”.
Here’s what we can glean so far. Ball State University would like to manage the school district. An appointed board of seven members, two which will be appointed by the Mayor of Muncie and Muncie City Council. The board will hire a superintendent. MCS may receive additional funds from the State of Indiana, but no funds from Ball State University will be used. MCS employees will still be MCS employees. Of course, this is only a short summary and more will be available.
Listen to the interview with President Mearns on Indiana Public Radio.
We don’t want to spend much time on how Muncie Community Schools became Distressed School District with a state take-over, but we do need to have a look at the history.
The chatter on social media sites is awash with opinions and comments.
One of the issues seems to be the loss of voting for school board members. However, we had five elected board members prior to the state take-over. Today the board has absolutely no power. At the most, they’re consulted by the emergency managers, they can’t vote on anything. The superintendent is powerless, too. He’s a lame duck. State votes to take over Muncie Community Schools
Less than two months past Muncie Teachers Association and others supported relinquishing that right. Knowing the State would make elected officials ineffective and all power removed and handed over to a hired company – the goal was achieved. What’s the difference?
Muncie Community Schools has never had a solid long-term plan.
Circa 2005 the district embarked upon an aggressive improvement plan. Bonding out approximately $50 million in debt. Despite all the economic factors, such as the loss of jobs, decrease in enrollment and population, businesses shutting down the board decided to move ahead with the bond.
In 2010 the Blue Ribbon Task Force presented the administrators for consideration a plan for the district. It collected dust until 2013 when the school board voted to consolidate the two high schools. This after the referendum was defeated.
Prior to the referendum, MCS held four Town Hall meetings presenting several proposals for the district, yet at the State hearing for busing, we found the district had no plan. No one from the City of Muncie, not the mayor, not the chief of police presented a safety plan although we were told there was one. NO PLAN – let this sink in.
Doing the same thing and expecting results.
The administrators and boards have used the same plans for decades. It consisted of shutting down schools or borrowing. That’s it. They ignored State Board of Accounts audits. Ignored repeated deficit line items. The newest school sold for pennies while keeping open deteriorating elementary schools. A short-term fix was all we were offered. The $10 million bond for school repairs dumped into the general fund and used for administrative purposes. No one can say for certain how that money was spent.
Original bond information: MCS 2014 Debt bond 1-27-18
Debt summary 2013 to 2017 MCS Debt Reports 2013-16 1-28-18
Having no plans, or limited plans have proven to not do a darn thing for moving Muncie Community Schools forward. If the label “distressed” isn’t a wake-up call for change, nothing will open your eyes.
A fresh new plan:
Partnering with Ball State University, community organizations, and individuals, the school board, the elected officials in a collaborative and healthy environment will do more for our children and school district. We must set aside our political ideologies, desire for control and stop thinking about our own wants over the needs of the most important people…the students of Muncie Community Schools. A good school district will do more for Muncie then all the economic development we spend millions to produce with very little return on our investment. Larry Riley penned a column several years ago similar BSU’s proposal. Incremental steps won’t help Muncie Community Schools
Accomplishing a working environment conducive to education and economic development may be the hardest thing the area has ever had to do. Simply because it’s not in our nature to put aside our turf wars and think outside the box.
Nothing else has worked.
Finally, Indiana has been on the list of States to watch during this primary season. Crazy, huh? Trump and Sanders cleaned up and we can expect heated debates all the way to November.
Here in Delaware County ,we saw some movement, an increase in voter turnout. Somewhere around 34%. The Republican ticket saw more votes than the Democrat ticket. And a relatively unknown candidate which never campaigned won the highest vote count and ousted a long-time sitting official.
We’re used to “ringer” candidates appearing on the ballot. You can spot them immediately. Mostly, it’s the brainchild of the local Democrat party. How do you spot a “ringer” also known as a “ghost” candidate?
First to qualify to be a ringer candidate on the Democrat ticket, there needs to be someone running who is despised by the local Dem leadership.
Second, the ringer candidate will alway appear before the unsupported candidate.
Third, the ringer candidate will not campaign, send out literature, rarely if ever have any signs. The ringer will not respond to any debate requests, phone calls from the paper, and not well known in the community.
Fourth, the ringer will have a sparse campaign finance report.
Sometimes the act of placing a “ghost” on the ballot does exactly what it was intended to do. Other times, it fails. Take for instance the ’08 primary when the Democrats successfully ousted incumbent John H. Brooke using a ringer candidate. Other candidates made it through the “ghosting” as we saw with Sue Errington in ’12 and Linda Gregory in ’15. The practice has been applied to several other elections.
In 2010, the Democrats upped their ante by getting ghost candidates to run on the Republican ticket. As far as we can tell, this was a first.
If you are up to reading the scary ghost story of 2016, please check out Larry Riley’s column.
Wednesday night I had the opportunity to attend a public forum addressing blight in Indiana communities. Muncie was the third such forum held. Graciously hosted by Mayor Dennis Tyler at City Hall, the event saw a large and diverse group of citizens.
Indiana’s Abandoned Home program was presented by Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority overseen by Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, and spearheaded by Senator Jim Merritt in conjunction with State Representatives Lutz and Errington, and State Senators Lanane and Eckerty.
I’ll admit not familiar with the legal complexity of blighted properties, still one doesn’t have to look far to see examples of houses and how it affects the surrounding neighborhoods. Blighted properties are a magnet for crime, vandalism, squatters, arson and a variety of other undesirable elements. It’s not just an urban problem, it extends to the rural area, too.
In Muncie, circa 2010, blighted properties were highlighted weekly in the newspaper drawing the public’s eye to the problems and solutions. Often a property would be targeted, and the end result saw it either rehabilitated or removed. We had a deconstruction program praised by Joe Hogsett, Indiana U.S. Attorney, which utilized prison re-entry program as the source of labor.
We had some fantastic successes in rehabbing apartments and homes, but sadly, not every property is worth saving or fiscally feasible to rehab.
Somewhere along the line, the zeal for targeting blight has diminished, The weekly articles ceased, information and progress on the properties became a guest column now and then with ideas but no real progress has been made. Oh, we have had successes and hope of future successes to come, yet blight is still here for now. And it’s very real.
With funding and legislation expected, how can those monies be evenly dispersed among 92 counties? The State of Indiana has designated “Divisions” which groups together counties based on population. Delaware County is Division Three and includes Clark, Elkhart, Hendricks, Johnson, LaPorte, Madison, Monroe, Porter, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo Counties. Estimated amount of funds $19 million dollars. As presented, this will be a very competitive program. Municipalities will submit their properties and future reuse of properties. The criteria used for submission is point based and links to further information is listed at the end of this blog.
The program, is quite detailed and subject to change before it becomes finalized, just consider this as a heads up and something to watch.
I’m still trying to digest all the information, and certainly don’t consider this anything more than a basic source of information. Just keep your eyes out for further developments.
Muncie competing for state’s demolition dollars (Star Press article available for 7 days)
The deadline is looming and the candidates for Indiana District 34 are lining up at the starting gate. The race to the Big House is on.
Of course, the primary has taken a different path than one would have thought.
Now that Don Dunnuck has conceded his race before it began to Quirk-Hunter for judge we’ll be looking at District 34, it seems.
Filing late for the coveted State Representative District 34 is the newbie (or at least new to those who are on the outside looking in) Karen Brand. Not much of a bio in the newspaper. In fact there was no bio at all. Which brings back memories of elections long ago.
In 2010 we saw a nice influx of candidates filing on the Republican ticket. Some, including me, refered to these as “ghost candidates”. Very strange was the report the filing papers all appeared to be in the same handwriting. Gasp! None of the Republican candidates had ever voted in a primary, contacted the Republican Headquarters or even stepped one foot on the campaign trail.
That’s one way to save on campaign expenses.
John Tuttle who ran against Dennis Tyler that year had zero campaign expenses. He did have one sign on Jackson Street, and he didn’t claim it as an expense. Shameful! Nevertheless, Mr. Tuttle received nearly 38% of the vote. Not to be undone, Tyler in one of his glossy campaign mailers boldly proclaimed the newspaper’s endorsement of him over Tuttle. Good job, Dennis.
Before the 2010 primaries, Our View, the editorial wing of the opinion page, wrote a piece called “Voters must be able to tell who is real and who is not”. One sentence stands out:
Should any of these candidates prove to be ringers, that should be taken as an indication the party backing them considers voters stupid, unable to tell the difference between real and fake candidates. SP 2-28-10
Of course, the candidates were “ringers” and certainly not placed there by the Republicans. Normally, the Democrats stick to ringers in their own party here in Delaware County…so they were sort of “branching out” this election season.
Which brings up another great primary season.
2008 saw the Democrats recruit another “ringer” named Bilbrey. Couldn’t have Democrat incumbent John Brooke win another term…that would be wrong. So we lost Brooke and got Dunnuck. Now four years later, Mr. Dunnuck lost his district and party support…all within a few short months before the 2012 primary season even got off. the ground.
Of course, there are other elections and other Democrat candidates which got the shaft, too.
A few weeks a go, a concerned citizen penned a letter to the paper. Oh, she warned us of Errington not listening to her constituents, doing her own thing and so on and so forth. Funny, the nice lady failed to warn us of Sue’s poor record when she ran in 2010 for the senate seat. Then the letter writer went on to sing the praises of Dave Walker. How subtle.
Which brings me to the end of this woeful tale of the 2012 primaries. I’ll leave you to ponder this question….
Is Karen Brand a ringer?
Special note: Due to the county’s financial trouble resulting in the closure of the Delaware County Building on Fridays, the filing deadline has been extended to 2-13-12 Noon.
Disclaimer: Not paid for by anybody and not an endorsement of anyone,