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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

city education

No decision reached on redistricting, Childs-Templeton merger at MCCSC board meeting

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Despite a packed agenda, the Monroe County Community School Board of Trustees made few decisions at their meeting Tuesday night.  

Action items included attendance zone redistricting, a teacher bargaining bylaw and the controversial Childs-Templeton merger. The board discussed these topics, but nearly all major decisions at the meeting were postponed.  

The board officially decided to look for an interim superintendent for the 2024-25 school year rather than a permanent replacement for superintendent Jeff Hauswald. They reasoned that because 2024 is an election year, they’ll wait to see if board members are reelected to choose a long-term superintendent. In the past, they’ve formed a selection committee in late February or early March for the coming school year.  

Any decision on the interim superintendent will go in the board’s personnel report at the next meeting. 

Decisions on redistricting and a proposed split of students between Childs Elementary and Templeton Elementary were both tabled until the board’s next meeting April 23. In both cases, board members expressed they felt they didn’t understand the potential negatives and worried the proposed solutions wouldn’t solve the respective problem. 

Public comment largely focused on redistricting and the Childs-Templeton merger proposal. The merger was first proposed in December 2023 to balance socioeconomic status in the district. It would have put all pre-K through second grade students at Childs and Templeton in the Childs building, and Templeton would enroll all students from third through sixth grade. It also originally included a similar merger between University Elementary and Fairview Elementary, but this was eliminated at the board’s January meeting. 

In February, the board began discussing redistricting as another way to potentially balance SES. There’s been no comprehensive redistricting since 1997, and no redistricting of elementary schools since 2005. It’s currently unclear if the merger and redistricting would happen simultaneously or if the board would choose between one and the other. Both will be discussed, and solutions will be voted on in April. 

Michael Burris, an MCCSC parent, said Tuesday he supported redistricting, but not the merger, especially with a new superintendent coming in. Right now, Templeton offers multi-age classrooms, and Childs brings students of different ages together for different learning opportunities.  

“So many things will be basically destroyed by doing this merger between Templeton and Childs,” Burris said. 

Childs parent John Warner said he felt like the process behind the merger was backward. 

“What was missing, what is still missing, are steps B, C, D and E,” Warner said. “I’m no educational expert, but I believe starting at step F and working your way backwards is a flawed process.” 

Board members said they want to regain the community’s trust and for people to understand why they’re taking the actions they are. Board president April Hennessey discussed looking to IU and MCCSC teachers as experts in both processes, and members also planned to post research about school socioeconomic desegregation online for public access. They hope to increase transparency by doing so. 

Next meeting, April 23, the board will vote on potential solutions. Board members Erin Cooperman, Brandon Shurr and Ross Grimes will work on options, such as a backstop plan for the merger, to present for voting. It’s important for teachers and parents to have an answer to their questions about next year soon, Shurr said. 

Regardless, the Childs-Templeton merger will not occur in 2024; board member Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer said they don’t want to rush. Even though the decision was ultimately pushed, the board discussed aspects of the potential merger. It would end student transfers between the two schools, and superintendent Jeff Hauswald emphasized how it may lower teacher transfers from high-poverty to low-poverty schools in the district. 

Discussion on redistricting focused on whether it would be more helpful or harmful in the long run. Board members acknowledged that whatever plan they would put into place would likely cause unforeseeable problems, and any plan would have to have enough of a positive impact to mitigate those issues. 

A request for redistricting proposals was posted by the district in the Herald-Times and on the MCCSC’s website. Demographics consultants and companies have until April 12 to submit a proposed process, timeline and budget. After the deadline, the board decided Tuesday that board members Brandon Shurr, Ross Grimes and Ashley Pirani will review any submissions and bring their chosen proposals to the next board meeting. 

A bylaw that would strengthen teacher’s union bargaining rights by requiring, rather than suggesting, the district meet with the teacher’s union was set for a vote and adoption, but confusion over last-minute amendments meant they tabled the bylaw for the next meeting.  

Before the meeting officially began, the board held a hearing to appropriate over six million dollars to renovate and improve Templeton Elementary. The appropriation resolution was broad, raising board questions, but Director of Business Operations John Kenny said that was necessary to allow for variation in the funds’ use. 

The board heard a presentation on student learning equity as an update on the district’s strategic plan. MCCSC students are above the benchmark on literacy in an important year for it, and the district is working to increase reading ability in underprivileged populations.

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