By: Steve Lindell, Vice President / Director of Operations Woof Boom Radio, Host of 104.1 WLBC Wake Up Crew—
On January 17, 2018, BSU President Geoffrey Mearns made a presentation to State Legislators for an amendment to HB 1315 that would allow the University to govern the Muncie Community Schools. It was not expected, and came as a surprise to many. Woof Boom Radio has started an effort to inform the public about the facts of this idea, so that informed opinions can be made, shared and fostered in the best interest of the community.
J Chapman, president, Woof Boom Radio told me in an interview this week, “This is potentially a transformative moment in Muncie’s history, and I want the Woof Boom Radio Group to assist in any way possible for the best outcome for Muncie and Delaware County.”
One of Woof Boom Radio’s moto’s is “We Use our Voice to Build Your Community,” and this subject is a moment in time when local radio like WLBC, WERK, MAX, Blake, WXFN and WHBU can help share valuable information – and we will.
To view an archived video of the House Ways and Means Committee Hearing held on Wednesday, January 24th, click this link, then from the drop-down you will see, select the option titled: Wednesday, January 24-1:30pm. The video is 2 hours and 41 minutes in duration. Best performance will be obtained by viewing on a desktop computer.
From BSU President Mearns—February 1, 2018
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
I write to provide more information about the proposed legislation concerning the future of the Muncie Community Schools (“MCS”). You will recall that this proposed legislation provides that, on July 1, 2018, Ball State University may assume responsibility for managing MCS.
In my initial email message on January 17, I explained that I support this legislation because it presents an historic opportunity for our University and the community that we serve. Ball State is uniquely qualified to assume this important responsibility because, for 100 years, we have been preparing outstanding teachers and innovative academic leaders. And we already have a deep relationship with MCS.
In addition to being consistent with our core mission as a public university, this new responsibility is also consistent with our institutional interest in a vital and vibrant Muncie, which in turn rests on the quality of our public schools. And I reiterated my belief that the success of this effort lies in collaboration with the entire community – the MCS teachers, students, and families, and every member of the community who wants to partner with us.
Today, after several weeks of public debate, the Indiana House of Representatives passed the legislation by a substantial majority. The legislation now moves to the Indiana Senate, where deliberations will include a public committee hearing. Senate action is expected by March 6. If the proposed legislation is approved by both chambers, then it goes to the Governor for his signature.
Under the terms of the proposed legislation, our Board of Trustees must also approve our University’s involvement. That determination will be made if and when the proposed legislation is approved by the General Assembly. The Trustees support the proposed legislation because they understand that it is consistent with our mission and our institutional interests. They also appreciate that it is the right thing to do for a community that has supported our University for 100 years. Indeed, our Trustees are eager to demonstrate how our students, faculty, staff, and alumni can transform lives through education and service, and what can be accomplished in a spirit of collaboration and shared interests.
I would like to expand on the importance of community engagement to this effort. At our request, the proposed legislation provides a two-year period for us to develop a plan in concert with the community. The first year will be dedicated solely to listening to the community — listening to other people’s suggestions as to how to provide an excellent education for our children. This engagement process has made Ball State’s “Schools Within the Context of Community” a success and a model for engagement for educators across the country.
I have already begun to engage with the community. I have personally met with school board members, Mayor Tyler, members of the Muncie City Council, and the Collective Coalition of Concerned Clergy. We are also inviting people to share their ideas and learn more about the effort through social and traditional media and via our website. Our goal will be to develop a community plan, as we are all truly in this together.
Unfortunately, some people have claimed that this proposal is an implicit criticism of MCS teachers. MCS teachers are not responsible for the challenges facing MCS. To the contrary, I respect them, and I admire their professional and personal dedication to educating our children. We will engage MCS teachers to learn more about their ideas for the future. Simply put, dedicated, experienced teachers must be part of the solution.
I know some of you are parents of MCS students. We have been receiving input, mostly positive, from other parents of MCS students, and I am grateful for their support. They have questions, too. I understand the importance of any issue concerning our children, especially something as fundamental as their education. I encourage all parents to continue to get involved.
The Ball State community, of which you are a part, is central to this effort, too. Help us seize this opportunity. Make sure you are informed about the process by visiting www.bsu.edu/mcs. Please share the facts with your friends, your families, and your colleagues. And if you want to become more involved, I encourage you to contact us.
During my engagement with people on this issue, I share with them how impressed I am by the depth of the passion the Ball State community has for Muncie and for MCS. I am proud of their commitment to service. And I am optimistic that, working together, we will create a very bright future for Muncie and our children.
January 28th, 2018—I asked Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler for a comment about his Thursday private meeting with BSU’s President Mearns. The words of Mayor Tyler: “President Mearns and I met Thursday morning to discuss our continued partnership regarding programs and projects to continue to move Muncie and MCS forward. Of course, the focus of our conversation was the potential Legislative takeover of MCS by BSU.
“I reiterated to President Mearns I believe there’s critical components of the Legislation that allows BSU to provide tremendous educational assistance and opportunities to our students. Those can go a long way to hopefully stabilizing and increasing enrollment in the future. However, there is nothing in the Legislation that specifically states how debt elimination is to be dealt with. I don’t read anywhere in the Legislation where the responsibility is on BSU. And, it shouldn’t be. They are a educational institution not a financial institution.
“Most people recognize and agree that MCS is a successful educational institution. Much better than many School corporations surrounding us. Which begs the question being answered why is that? I also shared my concerns about the Legislation addressing Teachers rights or the lack of addressing Teachers Collective Bargaining Rights. Will that be addressed and protected properly? That’s a distressing concern and question coming from Teachers across our school system. Many would like to blame teachers for MCS problems and that’s simply not factual.
“Our teachers and staff do an amazing job under extremely stressful circumstances educating and caring for our children. President Mearns agreed those are issues that must be addressed and answered as we try to move through this transition. I also emphasized that these questions must be addressed properly for many in our Community to have faith in and be able to support this Legislation I believe our entire community understands this Legislation is going to become law. But, it’s how it’s implemented and how we do this together. BSU is a great institution imbedded in our Community. It has the opportunity along with our great Community to make positive change in MCS. We agreed that it’s important to find answers and ways to do this together.”
January 28th, 2018—In no particular order, I wish to share some of the facts to consider as a result of my interviews and research so far as to HB 1315:
1) For those concerned with an appointed School Board – for all intents and purposes, there is no elected school board now, and will not be for many years to come under a State appointed emergency manager (Administrator Assistance).
2) 11 other traditional school districts in Indiana have appointed school boards.
3) According to all information from all resources so far – There are only two paths that can occur, and will be allowed by the State of Indiana: a) Administrator Assistance / the State of Indiana in total control of MCS, with an elected school board that has absolutely no say, no power, and no ability to determine any course of action for MCS, and b) Ball State to govern MCS, with an appointed – not elected school board.
4) According to BSU President Geoffrey Mearns, Steven Edwards with Administrator Assistance is supportive of either path.
5) According to BSU President Geoffrey Mearns, upon Ball State’s insistence, the proposed amendment to HB 1315 will include that all monies that would have been paid to Administrator Assistance would NOT be paid to BSU – but WOULD “be paid to MCS in the same amount, for at least a few years.”
6) According to Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler, he had a “very good” private meeting with Mearns on Jan. 25 at the President’s office.
7) As for the appointed Board – 5 members would be appointed by the BSU Board of Trustees. One member would be selected from a group of three suggested by Muncie Mayor, and one member would be selected from a group of three suggested by Muncie City Council – those selections must be approved by the BSU Board of Trustees.
8) This measure has the support of the business community: Delaware County Chamber President Jay Julian told me of the “importance of a strong public education system” as it relates to business growth and development. J Chapman, President of Woof Boom Radio, (and owner of MuncieJournal.com) noted the strength and stability that BSU support would lend to MCS. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb used the word “(neighbor) helping thy neighbor” when speaking to me about the reason for BSU being willing to participate. Scott Smalstig with Meridian Health Services wrote an op-ed for the Star Press that cited his support. BSU’s Michael Hicks said, “Students, their families, teachers and staff deserve the stability and opportunity HB 1315 offers” in an article for the Star Press.
January 25th, 2018—On this day following the Indiana Ways and Means Committee approving the amendment to HB1315, allowing Ball State University to appoint and govern the Muncie Community Schools, I was given an interview with BSU President Mearns.
Listen to the unedited conversation with President Mearns below.
Jay Julian, President of the Muncie Delaware County Chamber of Commerce told me, “The lions share of the conversation that I’ve had, has been really pretty positive,” about the notion of Ball State’s potential involvement with solidifying and growing our schools.
Listen to Jay Julian’s comments below.
Governor Eric Holcomb said, “This is, in my mind, helping thy neighbor, and what a partner to have with Ball State University stepping up saying, we can—and we will— help.”
Listen to Governor Eric Holcomb’s comments below.
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler seems supportive of the idea, too, but does want to drill into some of the details before lending his total support to the effort. In his words, “Ball State is a great community partner, and this could be a very positive concept for our students, our teachers, our school corporation and our community.”
Listen to Mayor Tyler’s comments below.
We will continue to seek information, and share it on MuncieJournal.com, as well as the entire Woof Boom Radio group of stations. If you have questions, or need us to seek answers – please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.