Bloomfield board on record against school reform measures; board member abstains because of political nature of resolutions

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Bloomfield School District Board of School Trustees passed two resolutions Thursday night calling for the rejection of education reform legislation that is being supported in the Indiana General Assembly by the governor and superintendent of public instruction.

Superintendent Dan Sichting recommended passage of the resolutions to reject House Bill 1002, dealing with charter schools, and House Bill 1003 concerning school vouchers.

In making the recommendation on HB 1003 resolution, Sichting said "the use of public tax collections to subsidize private schools, often endorsed or sponsored by religious institutions seem to conflict with the constitution of the state of Indiana."

He noted, "The constitution clearly states 'no money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

"I want everybody to understand that I'm not bringing this (the recommendation) because I'm political in nature. This has nothing to do with being Democrat or being Republican or being liberal or being conservative. To me, there is an issue with this bill (HB 1003) that hasn't been told and I've talked to the Legislative Service Agency. They (the Department of Education) did a really good job of accounting for all students that were in private schools and all students that are in public schools and all students that were in charter schools. The group that they missed (in the bill) was our home-schooled students. As these bills pass, if home-school students come back into the system, then all schools -- charter, public, private -- will see a reduction in funding because of that. There is no allowances made for home-schooled students that are coming back into the system. My fear is that we are going to build a budget thinking we are going to have x-amount of money. I don't know and I don't think Legislative Services know or I don't think the legislators know how many of these kids are going to come back into the system. There may be none of them that come back. There may be half of them that come back. If half of them come back it's going affect not just us (public schools) but private schools and charter schools in a negative manner. We are going to receive less funds. So we build a budget and we employ people and we get into the year and then we hear we are not going to get what we think we are going to get. That to me is a problem. That's my issue with this bill."

In relation to the resolution opposing HB 1002 concerning charter schools, Sichting commented, "My issue with this bill is, it would require us, if there was a charter school in our area, it would require us to transport students or give them a portion of our transportation (tax) levy for them to get to the charter schools. As you well know, our transportation levy is one of our tightest funds. Right now, it's going to be very tight as long as gas prices continue to rise. The other issue is, it is a levy-driven fund, which means I can't increase it or mandate what the increase is going to be every year ... if there is a charter school that is located in our area or located anywhere in Greene County, we are going to have to give the students that are settled in our school district part of the transportation levy to get to and from the charter school."

Sichting also noted that currently programs to improve student achievement, including full-day kindergarten or pre-school programs are not fully-funded by the state.

However, the vote on both resolutions was not unanimous.

Both resolutions passed by a 5-0-1 vote.

Board member Steve Dowden abstained, saying he didn't think that as elected non-partisan board member it was right to get involved in partisan politics.

Dowden told Sichting, "I'd like to say I admire your passion for it and I think as a superintendent, I think your job is to educate the community and let the community know the issues that affect their schools. Aside from that as a school board, we are an elected body, not a political body. Personally, I don't think it is our job as a board to debate political issues or take a stand. We have to represent our constituents throughout our board area ... I don't think it's the board's job to get involved in political issues one way or another. From that standpoint, I will abstain."

After the meeting, Dowden expanded on his earlier comments and told the Greene County Daily World, "I just don't think it's the job of the school board to be discussing and voting on political issues. My personal stance on the House legislation is not even important as it relates to my functions and responsibilities on the board of education. School board members are elected as non-partisan and are not affiliated with a party for a reason. We're an elected body, but not a political body ... The board as a whole has no binding authority over political legislation, and shouldn't be passing resolutions that favor a specific political agenda, one way or the other."

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  • Gee this is shocking, a school is against someone doing their job cheaper and better.

    -- Posted by chevygleen on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 7:24 PM
  • Do your job and the charter schools will not be a threat. As it stands you are a monopoly that I am required to support and you think the only way to fix something is with more funding. How much smarter or prepared on average are kids today as compared to 30-40 years ago? What is the graduation rate, kids going on to college? Are there appreciable differences for the money? Teachers are first to say that reduced funding will result larger class sizes but I seemed to do pretty well in 101 college classes of 100-200 students in a single class room. Additionally, Mr. Dowden seems to be te only with enough respect for the taxpayers of the community to know that as a school official he has no right to endorse political issues. You can express your opinion as an individual but you do not have the right to use your position or a public meeting paid for by the taxpayers.

    -- Posted by greenetucky on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 8:50 PM
  • Greemetucky:

    I respect your opinions! However, you are a little short sighted. BSD received less than the state average funding per student of $5,600 per student. BSD graduated 97.5% of it's students.

    87% of the class of 2010 went to two year or four year colleges. Another 8% of the students made the military their choice. So don't say BSD is not doing it's job!

    -- Posted by Bekindrewind on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 9:36 PM
  • Amen Bekindrewind. Bloomfield Schools are very good schools and deserve our support. Mr. Dowden should have supported his school and not the Republican Party line.

    -- Posted by RLU on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 9:56 PM
  • ..good job govnr' ..ben davis high school

    gets to keep their ballet program but

    greene county kids have to cut ag/ffa.

    -- Posted by thunderoad on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 10:25 PM
    Response by Nick Schneider:
    I don't believe Ag and FFA have been cut in the local schools.
  • as a senior at bloomfield high school, i do not agree with everything that they are wanting to change. i dont think that it is right for them to take out programs and athletic. thats students way of having something to do to stay out of trouble and off the streets. yes i understand that it takes alot bit of their money but oh well. i think that it is crazy if they take away the school and combine them. how on earth are the students that need the help suppose to get help if theres more students in the class rooms? yea im a senior but still i have family and friends still in schools and even if i didnt its still not right at all...

    -- Posted by bennetthaley on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 10:37 PM
  • Hmmmm, leting parents control thier kids ed. money, whats wrong with that? Drifter

    -- Posted by drifterbob on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 7:57 AM
  • Once again, give me a break! Comparing high school students with college level classes is totally unfair! Besides, I for one would like to see a video of a public school teacher trying to teach 100 to 200 first graders! Now that would be a hoot! Have your brains forgotten what it was like to be a high school student? Couple that with the fact that today's students seem to feel so entitled and have no hesitation to talk back or disrupt a class. We knew what our fate was if we acted out at school when we got home. Kids these days are lucky to have someone there when they get home. You want it to all come down to the haves and the have not. Guess you don't have a problem with increasing drug use and an explosion of teenage births.

    -- Posted by truthorfiction on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 10:43 AM
  • I probably shouldn't make this comment, but the BHS senior's inability to spell, punctuate and construct a sentence is a good example of the lack of educational quality in our public schools. I don't know the young student, but his example is the rule, not the exception. I have seen this, and much worse, even by college graduates submitting resumes in applying for employment. Would charter schools do any better? I can't say, but either school should not neglect the basics of education. Back to the three R's. Maybe so.

    -- Posted by lintonian31 on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 10:55 AM
  • Shame on you! I applaud this student for voicing his/her opinion. After all, they are in the school system. I wish more young would get their opinions on here with regards to education. They could give more insight into these education issues. Kudos to you bennethaley.

    -- Posted by truthorfiction on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 11:39 AM
  • I'll not berate bennethaley as I am grammatically challenged and I believe the post may be a plant. That being said if indeed the post is real one point upset me.

    Bennethaley said - "i dont think that it is right for them to take out programs and athletic. thats students way of having something to do to stay out of trouble and off the streets."

    That about sums up my argument against athletics and really any extracurricular activities. It is not the job of the community or taxpayers to 'provide something for young persons to do to keep them out of trouble or off the streets'. The focus has been lost in education. Is igt not enough that taxpayers spend millions of dollars year after year to provide a free quality education. If we focused more on the benefits of a quality education and less on who is prettiest cheerleader or most athletic jock then perhaps young people would appreciate the opportunity they are being given or at least given a deep understanding of the penalties for spurning that gift.

    Trust me I know, I can testify. I did not appreciate what I was given that's why a forty five I am an office equipment technician driving back of forth to Indianapolis every day, driving junk cars and living in an old house instead of having a professional career, making a good living and being able to put away enough for a comfortable retirement.

    I am offended by the Bloomfield School Board passing a resolution to keep the status quo in place. Our education system hasn't worked very well for a very long time. Don't any of you on the board think perhaps it is time to try something different.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 12:05 PM
  • keninman,

    I have read some of your comments in the past, and I think you do stuff just to work people up. I am a non-partisan voter and I for one did not vote for Gov. Daniels (either time). Instead of trying to divide our county, we should be standing behind our school administrators, school board, and yes public service unions. Gov. Daniels put the hammer on IPL, and in his first year of office his favorite word was 'outsource'! He is always talking about jobs, but outsourcing Indiana jobs to outside companies. I believe this is a prequel to trying to bust the public service unions. All 3 of my kids and my grandkids have been educated in public schools, and participated in ECA's. With all that they have turned out to be very good well rounded kids. By the way not all of the ECA's were sports, some were, some weren't. Just remember, when they are doing their ECA's, we know where they're not! Mr. Dowden is elected via a non-partisan process, but he runs on a ballot voted by the people. It is time for the citizens of Greene County to stand up for our kids, their kids, their kids, ... etc, and stand together! It is a free country and you have your opinion, but if you cannot say something positive for our kids, stay off the internet! Say NO to this bill, say NO to busting our public service unions, and finally say NO to Gov. Daniels.

    I will sign my name,

    Jack Huffman

    -- Posted by baseballman on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 1:38 PM
  • To get back to the article. If I understand this attempt to give money for vouchers, charter and private schools, then money could be given to protestant and catholic schools. Go ahead and try it and see how long it takes to be struck down in court. I feel sorry for anyone who has to drive long distances just to find work. If more education would help, get on Mitch's website for Western Education University. I cannot help but feel that some of this opposition to supporting our public schools isn't coming from bad experiences in some individuals schooling. I know what it's like to be picked last for red rover but it didn't turn be against high school sports. Times are so much different than they were a short time ago. We are living in a time where a revolution can be started over the internet! I understand those who work and cannot volunteer at their local schools but if you have the opportunity to take a day off and go to the school and help out you would have a better idea of what our schools are up against. It is all well and good to have choices but do you really think the average middle class family can afford to pay to send their kids to private schools? If you want more disadvantaged youth than we already have, go for it.

    -- Posted by truthorfiction on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 1:50 PM
  • Charter Schools require only 50% of their teaching staff to hold a valid teaching license... is this education reform?

    -- Posted by Music Man on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 2:18 PM
  • Jack, I am standing up for kids. The system is broken, badly badly broken. Reform will hurt some may loose jobs, some kids may fall through the cracks and at the end of the day if all goes well our education system will no longer resemble the one in place now.

    Now to address your claim to be non partisan and then launch into a diatribe about our governor and Indianapolis Power and Light (I assume that's what you mean by IPL) and that we should be standing behind public service unions tells me that the well being of education nor the taxpayer is your primary concern.

    The union fight of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is being re fought except this time it appears the unions are the greedy bad guys.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 5:13 PM
  • The way I read the article the superintendent's concern is the impact on his school budget. He makes a good case for this and he has to juggle rising gas prices, teacher's union demands and so forth. I wonder if vouchers have been used enough anywhere to show they are good or bad idea?

    -- Posted by Tin_Man on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 5:49 PM
  • ..sorry about the recent post where i said

    ag was going away. it was the ghost of

    christmas's to come. things like this are

    likely though. keninman. my avg salary my

    first ten yrs of teaching was 18,000. during this period

    i was required by the state to get a masters

    degree to keep my teaching license. they said

    i would make this up in my last 10 yrs of

    teaching. the crystal ball didn't see mitch

    coming along.

    -- Posted by thunderoad on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 6:43 PM
  • I am very disappointed with the education my child is receiving at Bloomfield. I am not a religious person but given the choice of a faith based education over the social indoctrination my child is currently receiving; I'll take my chances elsewhere.

    Think about this. If 20 parents pooled the $5600 the State allows for their children's education, they would have $112K to contract with someone to educate their child for a year. As long as it met the State and my standards, I personally do not care if it was held at the 1st Baptist Church, the school, or West Gate. I think the teachers and their union and administrators all know that given the option, most parents would move their kids out of the public school system in an instant if they could use the money somewhere else and had a choice.

    A graduation rate of 97.5% does not equate to a 97.5% education rate nor does saying that 87% of the students going to college means anything conclusive since a lot of us believe they've simply dumbed down the overall graduation requirements to achieve 'no child left behind'. If you want to grade our schools, you need to look at how we compare to neighboring towns, States, and more importantly -- other nations.

    -- Posted by J0HN GALT on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 7:06 PM
  • thunderoad, I feel your pain but when you set out to get your teaching license I hope no one promised you a job for life. Educational degrees and professional certificates and licenses are great assets to have when seeking employment but they are not a guarantee of employment nor is a certain wage or benefit level. It just doesn't work that way in the real world and it shouldn't in the realm public service either. That old song about never promising you a rose garden comes to mind.

    I am afraid this is the basic theme I am hearing from all teacher's opposed to reform and I guess from those unionists also. Somehow you all have come to believe that nothing would ever change. That somehow your career was a straight line from point a to point b. Your future was neatly planned and packaged for you. I am sure there have been many a skilled and unskilled person who found their way of life uprooted and wondered how they would get by. I have heard that the only constant in the universe is change. In the last several hundred years there have been a lot of changes. It seems the changes keep coming faster and faster.

    I am sorry that you feel unappreciated, slighted and fear being cast aside but that is just the way the world works. We have to hold our heads up, keep a wary eye open and do the best we can one day at a time. In the end it's not about us. It's about the human race and in smaller part our national experience. My life has been easier than my parents, their's easier than their parents and so on. I want my boy to have a better life than me and not just him but all young people and the one's whom arn't even born yet. That's not going to happen without a lot of hard choices and thinking a little more about the future and less about me, me, me.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 8:42 PM
  • Those "unionists" as you call them are responsible for you to have a fair wage and decent working conditions. I will pray for you and all the other agnostics out there.

    -- Posted by truthorfiction on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 9:44 PM
  • Ken, it used to be when you got a job, you had a job for life. Why is that a bad thing?

    As far as the public schools being broken, I don't get that. I went to Bloomfield, and graduated with a full semester's worth of college credits over a decade ago. My cousin graduated last year, and had nearly a full year's worth of credits. When my parents graduated from Bloomfield over thirty years ago, they didn't even offer Calculus. These seem like improvements to me.

    As far as merit pay goes, I think it's a great idea. I thought it was a great idea when the federal government did the same thing. It needs to be implemented properly though, and NSPS did not do that, and was removed last year. Should teachers be rated on the performance of their students? Yes...sort of. Improvement (and lack thereof) should definitely be taken into account. However, some kids just don't care, and that also needs to be accounted for. They should not be rated by the students or other teachers. They should be rated by their supervisors, and should be provided the proper channels to appeal if they feel it is unfair. Supervisors should be held accountable for this.

    -- Posted by corbinsa on Sat, Feb 26, 2011, at 10:17 PM
  • corbinsa, first let me congratulate you on your cohesive writing. This is much better than the angry rants I have been reading here. Please bear with me as my reply is rather lengthy.

    As for your question "Ken, it used to be when you got a job, you had a job for life. Why is that a bad thing" Well it may not be a bad thing so long as it is based upon merit and coercion is not used to remain in that position. It may be good so long as a person does not become apathetic or complacent in their duties or develop a sense of entitlement. It may be a good thing so long as a person can adapt to the demands of ever changing circumstances and technology. So long as they embrace and help implement improvements in productivity and not become a hindrance to that progress.

    As I said in the post about the third grade reading test I think that sooner than you think students will start to be segregated by ability and hopefully somewhat based upon demeanor and their proclivity towards learning. I would also like to see charter schools start up that cater to students that are disruptive, apathetic or simply don't fit in well in the larger public schools. Will that be easier to do in Terre Haute and Indianapolis than in Greene County? Well, yes it will. The logistical advantage of a denser student body will make that much easier to implement.

    As for ratings by supervisors, I am not so favorable toward this approach as they often are not very objective. That is the reason for standardized testing. I also agree that students need to be held accountable with tangible rewards for good performance and immediate consequences like remedial education outside normal school hours for those found to be lacking in a particular subject. A student facing having to spend their evenings or every Saturday morning back in class because of a poor showing in math or english has a powerful incentive to do well on a standardized test.

    As for our public schools being broken, well several years ago my sister hosted an exchange student from Germany. He completed our version of the eleventh grade at South Knox. Do you know that even when he came he already knew that he would have to retake that year back in Germany because our eleventh grade school curriculum would not count there.

    In the end there are many changes that are going to have to be made to stop our decline in academic performance against the rest of the industrialized world. The teachers are being singled out in large part because their union has been one of the greatest impediments to comprehensive education reform. If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. The first step is to recognize there is a problem and I am afraid ISTA and indeed many in the democrat party are a large part of the problem. I think you know what doing the same thing the same old way and expecting a different result is a sign of.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sun, Feb 27, 2011, at 8:26 AM
  • You definitely see all kinds of people in teaching, as well as other professions. I had teachers at Bloomfield that were obviously phoning it in until retirement, and others that were very passionate about their jobs. If a boss/leader/manager/supervisor can not be objective in their evaluation of this person, then THEY need to be held accountable as well. Unfortunately, this places more work on everyone at all levels. I've seen this in my profession as well.

    The federal government started to implemented pay for performance across the board a few years back. The "worker bees" had to write goals for the year, and at the end of the year, demonstrate how they met/failed to meet those goals. Supervisors then had to evaluate the goals, and at the end of the year write a recommendation. Then, their supervisors determined the incentive payout to the employee. There was a finite amount of incentive pay, so it became a writing contest. Those that could not articulate well, what they accomplished were at a disadvantage. On top of that, the way the system was set up, theoretically, if the bar was set low (show up to work every day and try not to fall asleep), and you surpassed it (you actually did something), then you were an outstanding performer. However, if the bar was set high (eliminate cancer), and you fell just short of it (you only cured 95% of cancers), your performance was substandard.

    Obviously, my examples are extreme, but it shows how poorly a good idea can be implemented. Currently, that system has been tossed, and "they" are trying to come up with something better.

    As far as holding the students accountable for their performance, I think this will be hard to implement as well. For probably 75-90% of the students, it would probably work, but some just don't care, and neither do their parents. I've known kids that dropped out of school their senior year because they just couldn't be troubled to show up. I know elementary teachers who have students that have missed weeks of school in the first semester this year. I don't think I missed multiple weeks of school my entire 13 years at Bloomfield! Can you hold a second grader accountable for falling behind in school when her parents can't even make sure she'll be there?

    There are so many factors at play with this whole public education situation that I do not envy anyone that has to work in it or try to fix it.

    -- Posted by corbinsa on Sun, Feb 27, 2011, at 9:18 AM
  • Ah corbinsa, You raise some very valid points. I have never been a fan of self evaluation though sometimes you do have to try something just to see if you can make an improvement. I struggled whether or not to include parental accountability into my last post since I was already running so long. Sooner or later the issue will have to be addressed. Parents are going to have to be held to some acceptable standard. Of course we will hear the usual dribble about how women and minorities are hardest hit. The fact is though that some people are simply not qualified to reproduce. Sadly this is often discovered after it is already too late. Perhaps a good start is to require parents to sit through remedial education classes with their children, perform community service along with the convicts or sit in the graybar hotel while their wayward offspring play catch up. If this issue were to be pursued with as much zeal as delinquent child support payments were I doubt children missing too much school, being disruptive or antagonistic toward teachers, staff or other students would be much of a problem for long. Again exceptions would have to be allowed for students with medical conditions or parents with special circumstances.

    I also do not believe that students with widely accepted and properly diagnosed developmental or learning disabilities or recent immigrants to the US be included in standardized testing required for the larger student body. That is not fair to these students or teachers.

    At the end of the day none of these things will occur under our current educational system.

    -- Posted by keninman on Sun, Feb 27, 2011, at 11:02 AM
  • To the comments that were talking about how I wrote my comment above. Yes I'am a senior at these schools but just because, i didn't spell things correctly or put commons in the right places doesn't mean that the school isn't doing their jobs. This is a place for me to write the way i want and say what I want. This isn't an English paper that i have to turn in or even a job application. So therefore i wasn't worried about how i spell my words. But yes taking away the sports and all the clubs yes there will be more student out there doing drugs and getting in trouble. There was a comment earlier in this whole thing that says that one school gets to keep their ballet program when greene county has to get rid of their ag/ffa program.. How wrong is that? More than half of greene county is farm area, so why get rid of these programs? Oh wait it spends alittle bit of the states money! Well too bad.. we have to make compromises for the things that we love, well if we are wanting to spend less and less money on us students then nobody must love them..

    I may be a senior but yes when US students go out and buy things don't u think we have to pay taxes that goes towards schools these days.. And do we complain? umm no we dont..This is crazy all my life throughout my years in school have this gone so bad..

    -- Posted by bennetthaley on Sun, Feb 27, 2011, at 2:51 PM
  • ..while we are on the subject of testing. how

    much is the state paying for this? couldn't

    a group of educators get together about every

    two years and develop a state wide test for

    various grade levels? this test could be sent

    out and copied at the local levels. no! this

    can't happen ..the politicians don't trust

    educators. since many of the blogs decry

    the teacher union for sending money to dems..

    the money trail of the "testing" cult would

    be very interesting. i'm guessing the total

    price of testing is ridiculous.

    -- Posted by thunderoad on Sun, Feb 27, 2011, at 3:02 PM
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