The Duneland School
Board is planning to revise its policy on accepting out of district transfer
students by early next year.
The Board agreed on
two things at its meeting last night: taking transfer students isn’t and
shouldn’t be about the money, and the policy on accepting transfers requires
Last night was the
first time the transfer student policy was featured on a DSB agenda since
Board Secretary Ronald Stone suggested the Board discuss the matter at its
July 16 meeting.
Resident of the
Duneland School District Jennifer Gregoline spoke during the public comment
portion of the meeting before new business was discussed. She recalled when
the enrollment policy was changed to admit transfer students in 2014 and
urged the Board to be thorough this time around.
Gregoline said she
wanted to know why the matter hadn’t been discussed yet, and she wanted to
see “open transparent discussion” tonight. “I would like to know if you’ve
done studies,” she said. “What are the positives to the taxpayers and to the
students who go to the schools and live in the district?”
John Marshall said that each Board member would weigh-in on the policy, and
he began. Marshall said, “I like the fact that we have open enrollment.”
Marshall said he
supports open enrollment for out of district transfer students because
Duneland gives nearby students an option to choose a better education, and
it means a lot to him that Duneland’s excellence can be shared with those
who don’t live in the district. The money is not a factor. “The fact that we
give those kids and those parents that opportunity, it gives me a good
feeling. I look at the money that follows the student as a bonus,” he said.
“It means a lot to me; however, it was not supposed to be without some type
of control on the numbers. There are controls the board can put on those
numbers, and I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that.”
Stone said he’s on
the other side of the fence. Stone said he wouldn’t be opposed to a
compromise where open enrollment at Duneland had a limited scope, but he’s
been uncomfortable from the start with the lack of discussion and action to
manage the policy. He also expressed concern that the Board would ask for
taxpayer support for a student population with a lot of students who don’t
live in the district.
“I’m worried about
our kids, our teachers, and our facilities,” Stone said. “It’s not that I
don’t feel sorry if another kid has issues, but I’m a school board member
for this community, I’m not a school board member for Gary, Michigan City,
or LaPorte.” He added, “If we’re doing it for money, we’re doing it for the
Trout, for his part, said Duneland has had to compete fiercely with online
schools, and open enrollment is a way of being competitive. “I think we have
a damn good product here, so let’s compete. If we want to survive in this
environment here, we need to compete.”
Trout also agreed
that there are a lot of things that need ironing out, and emphasized that
the Board will make its decisions for changing the policy based on objective
Kroeger said that the issue isn’t about the money for her either.
“Curricular considerations are really weighing heavy on our minds right
now,” she said, and gave an example. If Duneland were to introduce a foreign
language at the elementary level, then taking transfer students in middle
school might not make sense. She noted that Duneland is forming a district
culture, and “If we have a district culture, and we accept kids who have no
idea what the culture is, that’s putting extra stress on our teachers” and
it isn’t good for the would-be transfer students either.
Kroeger brought up
class size, saying that the transfer student policy calls into question what
constitutes a full class, and Stone interjected. “If a teacher can get 14 or
18 kids, I think that’s just great. It’s great for me, it’s great for the
teacher. It’s great for everybody,” Stone said.
brought up a July Chesterton Tribune article featuring numbers that
Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Human Resources Monte Moffet
presented on how much money Duneland gets and loses from transfer students.
Kroeger said the finances are very complicated, but “to say that we’re
losing money on transfers is simply not correct.” Kroeger noted that the
Board asked Moffet to compile those numbers as a means of measuring the
impact of the transfer student policy, and getting more transfer students
doesn’t reduce funding anywhere in the budget.
She further said
that some of Duneland’s transfer students have turned out to be its most
accomplished graduates, and she cares about that over money.
“I think all of us
would agree that the policy, how its written today, the best way of
describing it is confusing. It’s a hodgepodge of the old policy and the new
policy,” Kroeger added.
Vice-president Brandon Kroft said he agrees the Board needs to rein-in the
policy, but that might not mean closing enrollment totally. “My personal
opinion is we’ve gone kind of far off from where we started, and we’ve got
too many kids now,” he said, adding that it should come down to what’s best
Stone clarified his
stance on children of staff coming to Duneland. “I want our teachers to have
their kids coming to our school. We don’t have to worry about that. If we
did close it right now, whoever is here stays here, along with their
siblings. We’re not denying anybody if we did close it tonight.”
Stone was the most
vocal of the Board members, saying he would vote to close enrollment right
A vote wasn’t the
plan, though. Marshall reported the Board is collecting research to decide
on how to change the policy. He reported those changes will likely be made
in January or February of 2019.
“There is one issue
that all five board members are clear on, and that is that we want what’s
best for the Duneland students and the Duneland community,” Marshall said.
“We’ll come back to you after the first of the year with a solid plan.”
Kroft also took a
moment to say he appreciated Gregoline’s comments. “We get inundated with
social media comments with what we do, and nobody shows up. So, I appreciate
you coming here to raise your questions.”