10-year plan revealed for Northeast Schools, keeping operations the same for now

During Monday's meeting, Superintendent Dr. Mark Baker presented his recommendations in a 4-step plan.

Posted: May. 14, 2018 10:37 PM
Updated: May. 15, 2018 7:58 AM

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - At North Central High School, it's home to the Thunderbirds, both current and former.

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"I was the principal of this school for nine years and at Farmersburg Elementary for 17," said Mike Bledsoe, resident.

Having worked in education for 30 years, he says declining enrollment at Northeast Schools is not surprising.

"It's happened all across Indiana in small, rural communities," he said.

Bledsoe was among several inside North Central's gym on Monday night. That's where Superintendent Dr. Mark Baker presented his 10-year plan for the school corporation.

"That's really the most important things are the schools and your jobs," Baker said, "so if they don't like those things, they're going to find them somewhere else."

That's why the focus is on bringing students to, and keeping them at, their schools.

Baker said they've been weighing their options over the course of a year and have been working with a focus group. They've also held public meetings and sent out community surveys to get a feel of what residents would like to see.

Baker presented his recommendations in a 4-step layout.

The first step would be to keep things the way they are for three years. That's because of the passing of Indiana House Enrolled Act 1009, which focuses on managing school finances.

"That's going to be favorable for our school corporation," Baker said, "but then after those three years, we'll have a couple of red flags, two financial and two for enrollment. If we start to hit those red flags, then we would go to a step two."

Step two, Baker said, would include closing the middle school in Shelburn, Indiana. 6th graders would be sent to the two elementary schools and North Central would house 7th through 12.

The third step would include closing all of the sites but North Central. The building would house all grades.

The fourth, and last, step would entertain consolidation with Southwest Schools. Baker said the community survey, which received a little more than 400 responses, showed interest in exploring consolidation with the other district.

So far, Baker said there's only been one informal meeting, involving two board members from both school corporations.

"The biggest question is what would it look like and how would we get there," Baker said, "So at this point, as we continue to go through steps one, two and three, however long that takes, that exploration of consolidation would be there until one side or the other side were interested, or were not interested, and that would be the end of it."

Baker's recommendations were approved by board members in a unanimous vote.

Some say it's a step in the right direction when it comes to preserving the future of the school corporation.

"They're on the right process, procedure, to go through," Bledsoe said, "Give it a little time, change in the laws, you never know what's going to happen."

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