LAWRENCEVILLE – Superintendent John Roeder had bad news for constituents at the Sunman-Dearborn Community School Corp. board meeting Thursday, Jan. 12. He announced that, the district’s general fund is $587,881 in the red.

At the December meeting, trustees voted to once again roll over a loan from the Indiana Bond Bank since Roeder was told the tax draw from the Dearborn County Auditor’s Office would not come expected Dec. 31.

According to the superintendent, the money from Dearborn County was received Jan 9. “Being behind in tax draws, you don’t know where you stand. As of Jan. 9, we know and it’s not where we want to be .... It’s challenging in the best of times. In the past three years, it’s been almost impossible to know where we stand …. We’re going to have to work toward getting in the black in 2006."

Roeder announced that professional development spending will not be approved this year, unless funding comes directly from the state. "This is the first step toward tightening our belt."

He reminded those present that staff cuts were made last year and many members of the public had expressed concerns over increasing class size. "As it stands, staff cuts will be necessary for next year. If (Dearborn) county council will reimburse the school corporation for the interest, it may not be necessary."

Approximately $690,000 has been spent in interest on loans the corporation was forced to take out as a result of property tax payment delays since 2003. This was a result of state-mandated tax reassessment.

Roeder stated that the corporation stayed within the 2005 budget, but the interest expense caused the shortfall. “That’s important to note .... Up until recently, the money came in and you moved forward. That hasn’t happened the past three years .... There are opportunities for us if we can convince county council to come forth with money that is due Sunman-Dearborn. It would go a long ways toward mending our financial woes.”

Daelle Woolwine, SDCSC special education teacher, asked if there was anything the public could do to help convince the elected officials to pay back the corporation. “The best thing you can do is to get the word out,” advised Paul Noble, board member. “Nothing works better with taxpayers than phone calls.” But he also warned of the possible outcome (in increased taxes). “They owe us $690,000 in interest. Guess where they’re going to get it?”

Despite the dismal financial news, the trustees were heartened by the report on Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) scores made by Lenore Hynes, administrative assistant. (See story on page .)

Hynes also told of the progress the corporation is showing toward gaining North Central Accreditation for every school in the district. East Central High School already has been working to meet NCA standards and educators are “very pleased with their results,” according to Hynes.

The board approved members for an NCA Leadership Team that will work to help meet the standards. Information is being gathered from test scores and surveys to be sent to NCA representatives. “We will use that data to make decisions to give our students the best education we can. We hope this will address students at all levels ..... So far we have met all of our benchmarks successfully, and that’s a good thing,” reported Hynes.

According to Roeder, another step in the right direction was made with the hiring of Jennifer Wilhelm to be the corporation’s new School Connect counselor that night. This position is being funded by a Lilly Endowment Community Alliances to Promote Education grant obtained through the Dearborn Community Foundation.

Called Project Connect, the program will pay Wilhelm’s salary, benefits, mileage and cell phone for three and a half years, according to Roeder. It will also fund Homework Connection, an after-school program still in development.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity. The hope is to improve the attendance and graduation rate,” said Roeder. Don Criswell, ECHS principal, said Wilhelm, an Ohio resident, has a lot of experience in this area. “We’re very fortunate to get her.”

The board voted to change the bus replacement contract for 2007-11. The current contract disqualifies any bus that was made before 1995. To save money, Kris Wilson, business manager, recommended allowing buses made as far back as 1995.

“Once a bus is 12 years old, it has to be inspected by Indiana State Police every six months, which I believe will keep them safe,” Wilson noted. He said he would notify contractors of the change. “I know it will make a difference on how they approach their maintenance.”

Debbie McIntyre can be contacted at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 114; The Herald-Tribune, P.O. Box 89, Batesville, IN 47006; or debbie.mcintyre@cnhimedia.com.

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