Sunday, February 27, 2005

Lessons Learned

Community members met with Representative Heim and Senator Heinold last Saturday morning. We learned the following:

I. The state has a serious financial crisis.
II. The budget bill has passed the house and now moves on to the Senate where it will undergo changes.
III. The next budget agency financial projection will not take place until April 15.
IV. None of us, legislators, educators, patrons, parents, board members, etc. will be happy with the final budget.
V. Our legislators heard that education is a high priority in our community.
VI. Legislators stated that education was a high priority for them.
VII. While our legislators act as “the super school board” in the state of Indiana setting policy and budget limitations for local schools, they had no advice for program cuts when they become necessary as a result of their actions.
VIII. The budget bill, touted as a no tax increase bill, requires boards to raise property taxes for all school districts in Marshall County (Culver general fund property taxes will increase 8.9% and 9% over the next two years).
IX. Our representative did not contact local school officials to check the accuracy of budget projections and their impact on local schools prior to voting for the budget.
X. Legislation to change ISTEP from the fall to the spring was not based on scientific research. This is the standard the federal government requires educators to use under NCLB.
XI. Representative Heim will not vote for daylight savings time.
XII. The Plymouth community was represented by teachers, patrons, administrators, and parents. Thank you for your presence and comments .
XIII. Our work is not done. We must have continuous contact with our legislators until this session is completed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Miracle on South Michigan Street

Last evening the Board of Trustees heard a report on the school improvement plan at Webster Elementary. The population at Webster has changed over the years. Webster is now over 40% free and reduced, 14% Hispanic, 6.5% multi-racial.

On the 2004 ISTEP, 84% of the third graders, 92% of the fourth graders, and 87% of the fifth graders passed the math portion.

In Language Arts, 89% of the third grade, 88% of the fourth grade and 87% of the fifth grade passed.

The disaggregated data shows that free and reduced students passing the math portion of the ISTEP have moved from 48% in 2002 to 81% in 2004. Similar gains were reported in writing and reading.

In 2004, 88% of the ESL students passed math and 76% passed Language Arts. Two non-English speaking students who entered the second grade in October passed the ISTEP the following September.

Given the composition of the student body and the corresponding results, is it a miracle? The staff at Webster is highly focused in teaching reading, writing and problem-solving. It was reported to the board that instruction is adjusted based upon individual needs. The staff has set high expectations for the students. Discipline is not done to students; they are taught how to discipline themselves. All staff members are on the same page. Staff members think in terms of “what can I do to impact the achievement of students?” and not “what can students or parents do?”

The staff takes great pride in their student’s achievements. Was there a miracle on South Michigan? We think not. We think the results are the efforts of a dedicated, experienced, and devoted staff.

Some districts send staff representatives to Texas and North Carolina to see examples of diverse schools that achieve at a high level. In Plymouth, all we have to do is go south on Michigan street.

To the Webster staff, thanks for all you do for kids!

Legislative Concerns

House Bill 1812 began as a legal settlement bill. It changed the standard for determining when a student who resides with a person other than the student’s parents will be treated as having a legal settlement in the school corporation attendance area where the child resides rather than the school corporation attendance area where the parent resides in cases where the child is relocated for the purpose of attending a particular school.

Yesterday, an amendment to the bill was added on second reading without an opportunity for testimony. It requires each governing body of a school corporation to adopt and implement a school uniform policy. Each district must designate a school uniform students must wear at reasonable times when attending school. It says that if a student qualifies for free and reduced lunch that the uniforms will be provided at no expense.

House Bill 1812 as it now reads is an unfunded mandate. Uniforms have no impact on student achievement. The report given at last night’s board meeting is local proof that high achievement is not the result of wearing uniforms.

We ask that you please write or communicate with representative Heim, your opposition to this bill. When dollars are in short supply, diverting money for the purchase of uniforms is not a wise use of resources.

House Bill 1009, the voucher bill, passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday morning. As is written, we ask that you contact your legislator to oppose the bill when funding for public schools is at such a low level. It is not a good time to direct dollars that could be dedicated to public school funding formula, away from public schools.

The dollars will go to private schools even if the private school never demonstrates attainment under No Child Left Behind and Public Law 221. The fiscal impact for the three-year period defined is substantial, 11.4 million dollars will be diverted in 2007, 17.1 million dollars in 2008, and 63 million dollars in 2009.

The funding source for this money was changed from direct school revenue to the state’s general fund. The state’s general fund provides revenue for public schools, Medicaid, corrections, and any other item within state budget. Please contact representative Heim and ask that he oppose House Bill 1009.

There are several bills that are being proposed in the legislature that appear to be designed to undermine public schools. We believe in public schools. They are the foundation of our democracy. For those of you who have read the 911 Commission Report, you will find a recommendation for the establishment of a system of public schools in Iraq to help rebuild that country as a democratic state.

In Plymouth we have staff that are dedicated and exert a great amount of energy to assist students and expect high achievement. We are proud to be members of the staff of the public school system. We know many of our graduates have been highly successful. We are also committed to continuous improvement.

Please communicate your opposition to attempts to negate the good work that has been done.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Adult Basic Education in Trouble

President Bush has proposed budget cuts that could impact Indiana’s Adult Basic Education Program up to 74%. The impact for Marshall County would be devastating. At this time we already have 115 adult students in the program, 15 have attained their GED, and 2 have gone on to higher education. These are people who are looking to better themselves through education.

You can help by writing an email to Indiana’s Senators and Representatives asking them to continue funding Adult Basic Education. You can access their web sites below and email them directly.

Senator Evan Bayh

Senator Richard G. Lugar

Representative Chris Chocola

I realize that Rep. Buyer is no longer in our district, but he used to represent us.
Representative Steve Buyer

The Show Must Go On!

This year’s play was great! Yesterday afternoon a patron dropped by the office and shared “All students should be required to watch the play.” Bill and Betty Lou Laramore’s letter in the Pilot News was very complementary. Schooling is truly more than preparing for ISTEP. Thank you Jane, Dave, and Charlotte for developing the talents of our students!

Construction Update

A construction meeting was held on February 24, 2005.

During the past two weeks:
The steel was installed at Webster. The masonry work is started on the perimeter walls and the block was laid along the new hallway. The installation of the underground plumbing at the Lincoln kitchen is still underway. The Lincoln kitchen electric rough-in is still in progress. The soil removal in the music and choir rooms at Lincoln is completed. The joists and decking is completed at Washington and has started at Lincoln. The roofing on the north addition at Washington is completed. The perimeter foundations on the music addition at the high school are sixty percent (60%) complete. The underground plumbing at Plymouth High School has been started.

During the next two weeks:
The installation of the veneer brick continues on the Washington north addition. The roofing will be completed on Washington south. Temporary heat will be started in both areas. The load bearing walls will be constructed at Webster. The veneer brick will be completed on the locker room addition at Lincoln Junior High. The roof will be completed and temporary heat will be started in the locker room addition. The slab on grade in the kitchen and choir room will be installed. At Plymouth High School, the installation of the interior foundations will begin. Contractors will take down the pre-cast on the west wall of the high school.

Power shut-off:
On Monday of spring break the power will be shut off for three to four hours at Plymouth High School. On Tuesday and Wednesday of spring break, power will be shut down at Lincoln Junior High. The power will be shut off at Washington during the week of spring break.

Project milestone dates:
Washington, Lincoln and Webster – new construction, including kitchens to be completed by June 15, 2005. The high school west addition to be completed by July 29, 2005. Washington and Lincoln renovations to be completed by July 29, 2005. The high school multi-purpose room addition to be completed by December 1, 2005. High School renovations begin May 31, 2005 and are to be completed by December 1, 2005.


Do you enjoy satire? is a satirical blog focusing on Indiana’s educational controversy. Please read and comment.

Crisis Brings Out the Best

Sometimes crisis bring out the best in us. During the state’s financial crisis you have been asked to assist in cutting expenses. When temperatures were lowered from 69° to 68° and a request was made to turn lights off when rooms were empty, some of you engaged students in energy conservation projects. When asked to share ideas to help buildings run more efficiently many responded quickly and often. When asked to write letters to your representative and senator, many responded within days.

If Governor Daniel’s budget proposal becomes law there will be a $160,000 shortfall and an additional reductions of $529,000 will be made in the 2006 budget. If the house budget is enacted $159,000 in reductions will be required in the 2006 budget. Both these scenarios will present us with great challenges. During the past four years $588,000 has been cut from our budget. Please make continuous contacts with Representative Heim and Senator Heinold expressing your concerns. Better yet, talk to them in person at the Plymouth Library this Saturday morning at 9:30. Thanks to all of you who have responded.

Warning: Blogging can be surprising

In the upper right hand corner is a "next blog" button. Pressing that button will retreive a blog at random. Bloggers write about all types of topics. If you are adverse to surprises, please observe the button and do not press. Thanks go out to Bob for the warning.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What Happens at an Administrative Team Meeting?

Have you ever wondered what happens in a principal’s meeting? Today the members of the administrative team met for approximately three hours. They spent a few minutes with Linda Finn, the new clinical director of Plymouth Madison Center. Linda explained the services that are being offered. Jon Shultz updated the team on the activities of the technology department. Administrators asked questions and shared concerns. The majority of the meeting was spent critiquing the first draft of the documentation reports due to the NCA. The administrators read one another’s reports and used the NCA rubrics to evaluate and make suggestions for revisions. Time is always set aside in each meeting for each team member to express their contributions and/or concerns. The team then spent time discussing confidentiality issues and the importance that all share in our responsibility to keep confidential the actions of the individual students. The team meets twice a month with time set aside for professional development. We feel privileged to work with these dedicated individuals.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Future is Clearer, or is it?

The Indiana House of Representatives passed its version of a budget yesterday.

Some highlights: The budget is balanced between fiscal years 2005 and 2007. It ends the structural deficit in fiscal year 2007. There are no tax increases. There is no additional borrowing, delays or use of other dedicated funds. The budget is silent on previously incurred payment delays.

The K-12 formula has the following features: The funding follows the student, not the corporation. Declining/increasing enrollment adjustment was made. Increased use of complexity index to support disadvantaged students in schools. Property tax keeps the whole property tax burden consistent while providing additional funding for education. Two percent (2%) existing capital projects account funding for insurance and utilities is maintained. It maintains the foundation grant per student. It funds the fiscal year 2005 deficiency which is $20,000,000. Tuition support and property tax replacement dollars are funded at $155,000,000. Local funds have a $71,000,000 increase. Total increase in this budget for education is $264,000,000. It also restores a transportation funding authority.

I called our representative’s office last week to ask for a computer print-out of how the budget would impact Plymouth schools. As of today I have not received that print-out. On Saturday morning, I asked the head of the Superintendent’s Association if he could provide a print-out; within two minutes I was provided a print-out of every district in Indiana. Our representative did not seek local input regarding the impact on Plymouth schools.

Projected impact of the proposed budget on Plymouth Schools is as follows:

Total regular school dollars: There will be an increase of 1.4% in fiscal year 2006 and .6% in fiscal year 2007

Special Ed: There will be a -2.1% support in 2006 and a positive 2.7% in 2008

Vocational Ed: This budget projects an increase of 34.9% in 2006 and 17.9% in 2007

Primetime dollars: 7.5% increase in 2006 and 7.5% increase in 2007

Academic Honors Diploma: -4.2% in 2006 and a 10% increase in 2007

When added together, total dollars, the budget is projected to be 1.9% greater in 2006; 1.4% greater in fiscal year 2007.

Pundits predict the Senate version will be somewhere between the Governor’s proposal and the House budget. More details are available at:

Concerns: I am greatly concerned that our vocational enrollments will not produce the projected increase because the individual reimbursement amounts remain the same. This projection also assumes that our district will grow by 34 students in calendar year 2006 and an additional 20 students in calendar year 2007. If we assume no pay raises and increases in insurance and utilities, we will be $150,000 short of projected expenses.

Please write Representative Heim and Senator Heinhold and express your concerns. Your dedication to our students is greatly appreciated.

There is a lot of time left in this legislative session. At 9:30 on February 26th, at the library, both Representative Heim and Senator Heinhold will be available. A large turnout is needed to let them know how people back home feel about education.