More to know in discussion to possibily close elementaries

Editor:
Concerned Citizens of South Dearborn Community School Corporation-
With the discussion of the possible closure of the outlying Elementary Schools in our corporation, we have taken it upon ourselves to investigate the information that has been presented by South Dearborn School Corporation Administration.
We feel that parents need to understand the decisions being made and the information being presented is not factual.
After pulling state reports from the Indiana Gateway and looking at the initial PowerPoint presented by the corporation we went to work.
We compiled a list of questions that we thought needed to be answered from an accountability perspective. The corporation presented a graph that was called the PPE (per pupil expense) worksheet.
This worksheet was supposed to contain all expenses for each of the buildings and total enrollment for each building. The only income on the PPE worksheet was the reimbursement tuition revenue provided by the state in the amount of $6,100 per student that the corporation claims they are receiving. During one board meeting a board member questioned lunchroom expenses.
The question that was asked was, “I see lunchroom expenses but what about the funds that we take into the lunchroom? Mr. Lows was quick to respond that those dollars don’t matter because Moores Hill is 68.8% free and reduced.  
When we started our investigation, our focus was, to find the off-setting revenues for the PPE worksheet. What we found was startling.  
First, Title 1 funds, these funds are for the sole purpose of teachers and teacher aide’s salary and benefits.  According to the state website we are receiving $393,926.27 in Title I funds.  It was also stated that the only two locations that received funds for this was AES and MHES.  These funds were broken down with AES receiving $261,534.43 and MHES received $132,391.84.  
We also found out that the free and reduced kid’s lunches are reimbursed at a higher rate than our self-pay students. A huge issue that we also discovered was the reports that the Corporation provides to the state are not broken down by location. What we do know for sure is that our lunch room revenue is $130,000 more than the lunch room expenses.  
So why would these off setting expenses not be reflected. It has always stuck out to us that the revenue verses expenses should have been looked at side by side from the beginning.  Is no one else curious what our true Per Pupil Revenue is?
After, what seemed like endless hours we were ready to ask our questions, we researched what the appropriate channels to discuss with the school board or administration. What we found was by-law 9130. Public Complaints and Concerns.
“Any person or group having a legitimate interest in the operations of this Corporation shall have the right to present a request, suggestion, complaint, or concern relating to Corporation personnel, the program, or the operations of the Corporation.
At the same time, the School Board has a duty to protect its staff from unnecessary harassment. It is the intent of this policy to provide the means for judging each public complaint and concern in a fair and impartial manner and to seek a remedy where appropriate.
 It is the desire of the Board to rectify any misunderstandings between the public and the Corporation by direct discussions of an informal type among the interested parties. It is only when such informal meetings fail to resolve the differences, shall more formal procedures be employed.
 Any requests, suggestions, complaints, or concerns reaching the Board, Board members, and the administration shall be referred to the Superintendent for consideration according to the following procedure.

Matters Regarding
the Superintendent
Should the matter be a concern regarding the Superintendent which cannot be resolved through discussion with the Superintendent, the complainant may submit a written request for a conference to the Board. This request should include:
A. the specific nature of the complaint and a brief statement of the facts giving rise to it;
B. the respect in which it is alleged that the complainant (or child of the complainant) has been affected adversely;
C. the reason that matter was not able to be resolved with the Superintendent;
D. the action which the complainant wishes taken and the reasons why it is felt that such action should be taken.
 The Board, after reviewing the request, may grant a hearing before the Board or a committee of the Board or refer the matter to an executive session.
 The complainant shall be advised, in writing, of the Board’s decision within thirty (30) business days. The Board’s decision will be final and not subject to appeal.”
 We reached out to the Superintendent on 7/14/19 and supplied him with our numerous finding and questions and asked for a one on one meeting. The initial meeting was scheduled 7/18/19.  During this meeting Mr. Lows was not able to answer many of the financial questions and he stated he would reach out to Mr. Spindler, the financial analyst, to schedule a meeting. We reached back out to Eric on 7/24/19 with a list of our questions and to schedule our next meeting. Our next meeting did not take place until 8/26/19, not one time did any correspondence start with them contacting us, we always had to lead the correspondence back and forth. We really feel that the administration was hopeful that we would give up our fight.
After our second meeting we left more confused than ever. At one point, we asked for them to repeat their same statement about five times, we wanted to be sure we could remember word for word what their statement was, “we are not closing a school for financial reasons, we are closing a school due to a building being underutilized to it’s potential.” We at one point had the financial analyst so frustrated that he hit his hands off the table and stated- “we have the money to pay our bills.” Can the rest of the community see why this has been so confusing, where is the transparency of the corporation.
The largest financial discrepancy that found was regarding to the tuition dollars being supplied by the state.  According to the initial school board meeting the administration stated we receive $6100 per child. The administration also stated total enrollment was 2321 children. By using the numbers that was supplied by the administration that is roughly $14.1 million dollars.  Again, much to our surprise according to the state report, we are receiving $16.2 million dollars.  We have called these discrepancies out since the very beginning, but we have received no answers.
Not one time has the administration used the correct tuition dollars until the meeting on 1/14/2020.  Mr. Spindler did do a presentation that showed on a graph that we are in fact receiving 16.2 million dollars in state tuition.  
In our second meeting we had a very specific list of questions to answer – first, all building expenses are allocated on the PPE worksheet – the answer from Mr. Lows and Mr. Spindler both answered yes.
Second, the PPE worksheet also includes all cost incurred by our special needs population and our students attending the career center, again the answer was yes.
Last, so state tuition dollars coming in are divided evenly between all students, again the answer was yes.  After the conclusion of our second meeting, we allowed well over a week’s time for Mr. Lows and Mr. Spindler to respond with the information we requested.  At that time, we typed a response to the school board addressing Mr. Willoughby, the then school board president, asking for our opportunity to meet with the board and Mr Lows due to receiving no response to our questions.  
According to Bylaw 9130, Mr. Willoughby was to meet with the board and make a collective decision as to if this meeting needed to take place. He was also to respond to us within thirty days.  Once again, no response as outlined in Bylaw 9130.  
We have had to reach out every single time to get any type of response. It also makes us wonder if the board president even talked to the rest of the board before a decision to deny our meeting took place.  
Our initial request for this meeting was sent on 9/4/19, we sent a second correspondence to Mr. Willoughby on 9/18/19 and received nothing until we attended our third board meeting after the request and started questioning some of the other board members what we needed to do. We received a denial for our meeting on 11/04/19, Mr. Willoughby asked us to have ourselves placed on a meeting agenda and discuss our concerns there. Confused with what we were supposed to bring to a meeting we initially hesitated. We then sent a request to be added to the agenda for the 1/21/2020 meeting and once again denied.
If our information is wrong, why would the administration not been quick to extinguish our discrepancies. It really makes us wonder if they even know where the $2 million in the tuition dollars has been spent. Why would anyone in our community think the board has the information needed to decide to close a school? We would be more interested in why there are some board members that feel they have the information needed to close a school and even more why do we have board members that state they will do whatever administration wants of them?
It is so disheartening that some of us in the community cannot see that this may be the total demise of our corporation. There has been much more focus on the fact that we have needed renovation projects that need to take place. I guess the community also has forgotten these improvements could have already been completed if the football program could have laid their wishes for a turf field to the side.  
It has been stated that the Moores Hill parents are being selfish, one man in the meeting on 1/21/2020 stated that we need to learn nothing is free in life, if we wanted smaller class sizes for our kids do what he done and pay to put them in a private school, he also admitted that he was some of the problem with the corporation as he had put his kids through private school. He wanted his kids to have a good education. We have so many disagreements with his statements. See, our school is one of the two schools in the corporation that is producing the highest test schools in the corporation.
Oh, and let’s not forget, our teachers at Moores Hill are working with 68.8% poverty children. This speaks volumes for what our teachers are doing. Just another fun fact to throw into the mix, do any of you know where the Class of 2019’s class valedictorian and salutatorian attended elementary school, Moores Hill Elementary. Pretty sure we all pay tax dollars for our children to attend public school, not for a small percentage of kids to play on a turf field.  Don’t get us wrong, we know our facilities need improvements, but I think we should all be able to agree those renovations need to be within the means of the corporation. Now we sit here and discuss the closure of Moores Hill Elementary knowing that you are also going to discuss a $10 million dollar increase in property taxes for an improvement project. Something just feels wrong that our educational program is not being put at the top of this list.
When we have administrators that are unable to answer questions regarding our revenues and expenses, or maybe they can answer the questions but refuse to, it really makes one wonder if we have the right administrators? We were directly told if the board wants to see a side by side comparison on revenues verses expenses that they could put those reports together themselves.  Why would we be paying the high salaries that we are, when an employee of our corporation even feels that this is acceptable. This directly makes us think that they have not done everything they can to save our corporation, makes us really feel like they do not care to provide the board the needed information to make an informed decision.
We have all seen the projected numbers and know that our student enrollment is projected with a continuous decline in enrollment. Why would we hinder these projected totals even more with closing a school?  We need our board to focus on how to fix problems at the top and how to market what South Dearborn Community Schools has to offer. This was the agreement when this discussion happened prior, have any of you seen any positive promotions to draw kids back into our corporation?  
Any business would decide what cuts could be made to safe their businesses before they close the doors of their business. Instead our administration continues to use scare tactics.
If the board does not side with what the superintendent is wanting, he will have no choice than to perform a RIF process. Did anyone else look at the numbers presented; the RIF process is about complete. Out of the $727,000 dollars demonstrated as a savings for the corporation $526,000 were from teachers retiring. Why can our corporation not pull together and come up with a way to fill those voids of those leaving?  
It has been stated that they have had savings by not replacing teachers leaving, however, not one time has our corporation completed a RIF process. Why do we continue to see our administration grow new positions when we have less kids than ever? I hope the board can lay all differences aside and look at the many important factors that need to be evaluated when deciding what is best for our children’s education! We know difficult decisions need to be made. We as parents need to understand those decisions.  
Our hopes are when we lay our littles down to bed at night that we can kiss them on the forehead and tell them that we gave it our all. Our children our worth it! We also hope the board and administration can tell themselves the same!

Lori Lanham and
Misty Russell
Moores Hill

The Dearborn County Register & Journal Press

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