Chesterton Tribune

Late registrations boost Duneland School enrollment

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By VICKI URBANIK

The Duneland Schools may end up with 100 or so fewer students than last year, but could still come out ahead with the official count that determines school funding.

At a special school board meeting Monday, Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer said that since the start of school last week --- when the first-day enrollment count showed a drop of 213 students -- about 50 more students have returned to school. More are expected now and after Labor Day, he said.

Baer said he still expects to see the final enrollment with a decrease of about 100 students compared to last year. But the number that’s used to determine state funding, known as the Average Daily Membership, could end up higher than last year by about 50 students, he said. The ADM counts each kindergarten student as one-half student, and the half-day kindergarten program saw an increase in students while other grades, particularly at the high school, also had increases.

A higher ADM figure would be good news for the otherwise austere Duneland School Corporation budget.

The school board continued its review of the proposed budget Monday, holding the required budget hearings on the Capital Projects Fund and Bus Replacement Fund and granting permission to advertise the other school funds.

The budget is virtually flatlined over the current year’s and reflects the loss of 14 staff positions that were left unfilled after retirements or resignations. With all funds considered, the total school budget comes to $61.3 million, compared to the $65.5 million advertised at about this time last year.

The largest school fund, the general fund, last year was approved at $39.6 million, but the state cut back the fund to $35.5 million. For next year, Duneland is advertising a very nominal increase, putting the general fund at $35.8 million. The general fund is now paid for by state revenues, not local property taxes.

Baer said it’s hoped that the state won’t make any additional education cuts for next year’s budget. While Duneland was able to adjust its general fund this year without significantly impacting classrooms, Baer said if more state funding cuts are required, the parameters now are much tighter and the impact would be more severe.

Not only are no further state cuts projected, but also Gov. Mitch Daniels has announced that the state will accept federal stimulus funds for education, Baer said. The federal funding could result in about $1 million for Duneland through 2012.

In addition to discussing the general fund, Baer outlined the other school funds, which are supported by local property taxes. As always, the budget as advertised includes higher than anticipated tax rates and lower than anticipated assessed values. The budget reflects an AV of $2 billion, lower than this year’s actual AV of $2.4 billion. Baer said he expects the final AV to end up at about $2.5 billion, which would have the impact of lowering the advertised tax rates while preserving the tax levy.

The Capital Projects Fund will be advertised at $10.6 million. Some of the larger ticket items include $1.4 million for building improvements, including roof work and a new maintenance facility; $1.6 million for rental of equipment; $649,801 for utilities, an expense that had been paid out of the general fund; and $436,723 in insurance, another expense that had been paid out of the general fund.

The bus transportation fund totals $649,800 and includes the replacement of eight vehicles. Baer said that planning the transportation fund has become more challenging, now that the state is requiring a 12-year plan. With 92-square miles, Duneland buses cover much more area than many other school systems and are more prone to damage during the northern Indiana weather than school systems to the south.

The debt service fund for next year totals $8.9 million and includes the debt payments for Chesterton High School, the new Liberty Elementary School addition, and the state loan dating back to the Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy. This fund also includes $17,438 in unreimbursed textbook rental fees. Baer noted that Indiana remains one of the few states that do not provide school books for students and that schools are allowed to levy local property taxes to cover shortfalls in the book fees not paid for by families.

During the public hearing portion of the school budget discussion, only one audience member commented: Maureen Hurst, a candidate for the at-large school board seat in this year’s election. Hurst asked questions about the original LES bond issue and its repayment schedule. The other candidates in this particular race are incumbent Michael Trout and Kathleen Downey.

The school budget reviews will continue on Sept. 13.

Board Commended

Baer noted that the Duneland School Board has once again been designated as an “exemplary” board by the Indiana School Board Association as part of its Certification Awards Program for school boards.

In addition, board member John Marshall has received the master board member designation, while Ron Stone has moved up to Level II in the CAP program. The designations are based on the amount of continuing education that school board members achieve.

Head Start Approved

Also Monday, the school board approved the contract with the Head Start program to continue to use Westchester Intermediate School for the early childhood education program. Baer noted that Duneland contracts with Head Start only on a yearly basis, in case the school finds itself in need of the four classrooms occupied by Head Start.

The board unanimously approved an extension of the program. “Great tenant, great program,” said board member Nick Jurasevich.

Personnel

In personnel matters, the school board approved the hiring of Nancy Lee as the 7th grade volleyball coach.

Also hired were the following:

Patricia Krewett will teach German at Chesterton High School. A 1987 CHS graduate, she attended Indiana University and the University of Virginia. She has been teaching for 12 years in Fairfax, Va.

John “Tyler” McCreary will teach fourth grade at Jackson Elementary. A first-year teacher and an IU graduate, McCreary was a Big Ten Academic All-Conference athlete for six consecutive semesters and assisted the state championship track team at Lawrence Central High School.

Amanda Scully will teach kindergarten at Jackson and Bailly. An IU graduate, she worked at Yost Elementary last year on a temporary contract.

Marcia Arnold will teach Spanish at Chesterton Middle School. A retired Valparaiso Spanish teacher and former department head, she will teach four periods at CMS.

Ted Delariva will be a guidance counselor at CMS. A graduate of Purdue Calumet and a former Hammond officer, he most recently worked at East Chicago Central High School.

The school board also accepted the resignations of Brighitte Snemis as a CMS Spanish teacher and Kimberly Davis as a Duneland bus driver.

The board also approved the following aides: Dawn Fauser, Michele Olson, Janet Thornton, Julie Wright, Chelsea Wolanyk, Michelle Mercon, Mariann Chapman, DiAnn Dunn, Janice Ferris, Margaret Faenza, Linda Ford, Kelly Randazzo, Tiffany Hawkins, Tammy McEuen, and Kelly McBride as well as Keith Underwood as the 7th grade boys basketball coach.

Also appointed were the following bus drivers: Kelly Fancher, Amy Berdine, Chris Reno, and Sue Smith.

 

 

Posted 8/31/2010