MUNCIE, Ind. – Just a few years ago, community schools in Muncie were facing the deficit district was taken over by the State in 2017. Now it is starting to show progress.
In 2018, a law was enacted by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Eric Holcomb to put Ball State University at the helm of the MCS. One of Ball State’s primary responsibilities was to appoint the school board, and in turn for the school board to hire a new administrator.
The district also implemented the innovation and strategic plan, which covered stabilizing enrollment, establishing strong governance, launching new university programs and services, strengthening community partnerships, and improving performance. professional development of staff.
“I can say that we have made tremendous progress on each of these guiding pillars and foundational principles,” said Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, director of public education and CEO of MCS.
During the Ball State board meeting on Friday afternoon, MCS officials shared their progress so far, with positive reports on both enrollment and finances. Here’s how officials say the partnership is progressing as it enters its third year:
First increase in registrations in 14 years
Like some other districts, community schools in Muncie have had their share of declining enrollment. However, on Friday, MCS board chairman Jim Williams was able to report higher numbers for the 2021-22 school year.
In 2019, Williams said the district average daily enrollment for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students was 4,865. In 2020, that number declined slightly to 4,807. As of 2021, the official number of The District Falls, which is about to be finalized by the Indiana Department of Education, appears to be around 4,924.
“That’s an increase of over 100 students,” Williams said. “This is the first increase in Kindergarten to Grade 12 enrollment for Muncie schools since the 2006-07 school year.”
Muncie Schools has also worked to develop its pre-K curriculum, a task that is included in the partnership’s strategic plan. This school year, the district added two new pre-K classes, one in South View and Grissom Elementary Schools. When adding pre-K students, MCS enrollments will reach approximately 5,094.
There is now a pre-K class in each MCS elementary school, and currently the district’s curriculum is at level 3 with Paths to Quality standards, as defined by the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) .
The highest level is Level 4, which Kwiatkowski hopes to achieve by the end of this school year.
“We hear our parents tell us how grateful they are to have neighborhood schools where they can put their first students into our program,” Kwiatkowski said on Friday. “We also know it’s a good way for us to recruit and retain families.”
Williams also spoke about teacher retention, which remains high at 83%. He attributed this to teacher increases that were implemented at the start of the school year, which increased starting salaries from $ 34,600 in 2018 to $ 42,000.
“We again implemented advance increases this year in April to help MCS and its recruiting efforts over the summer,” said Williams. “We started the year very well and we hired amazing educators from Ball State and other places, and our retention continued to stay strong.”
Start Covering the Financial Ground
Upon entering into the partnership with Ball State in 2018, Muncie Community Schools had a deficit of several million. But now he’s starting to make headway on paying off a $ 12 million interest-free loan from the state.
Williams reported to BSU administrators that the district experienced a balanced budget from 2018 to 2021, with revenues continuing to exceed expenses this school year.
The district was also able to add $ 12 million to its “rainy day” fund, the same amount as the state loan. With both short-term and long-term rainy day funds looking strong, Williams said the loan could be repaid much earlier than its 2028 maturity date.
“We started paying back $ 50,000 a month,” Williams said. “We are working with our financial consultants to pay off some or all of this sooner, maybe next year.”
External funding has also remained secure, with the district at around $ 7.6 million, with $ 4.5 million in philanthropic investments and $ 3 million in competitive grants.
“I would applaud all the senior staff, Dr. Kwiatkowski and his team, as well as the folks at the university, Kendra Lowery and Dean Marri, who have been aggressive in finding and securing a grant for the ‘MCS business,’ Williams mentioned.
Continue to prepare students
As the MCS-BSU relationship continues, Williams has proposed a new program to the Ball State Board of Directors; a program that could help better prepare MCS students for college and also boost Ball State enrollment, which has experienced a decline this year.
Williams asked the board to consider implementing a program that puts in place a more formal pathway program for Central High School students. This would begin their freshman year, and upon graduation they would be directly admitted to Ball State.
The proposed program would include a variety of opportunities for the center’s students, including an introduction to life at Ball State, extensive summer bridge programming, credit enhancement, attending special events on campus, the mentorship during high school by a Ball State undergraduate student, Preferred Dorms and Suite
“This, in our opinion, would be beneficial both for the partnership and for forming a natural tool for recruiting admissions for the university,” said Williams.
While no votes were cast on Friday and details of the proposal still need to be worked out and finalized, some board members were already in favor.
As remains under review, Kwiatkowski and Anand Marri, Dean of Ball State’s Teachers College, shared other ongoing initiatives, including a new YMCA facility planned for the Central High School grounds, and a new loss program. learning during implementation, The city connects.
Marri also provided an update on a new teacher mentoring program, whereby a master teacher works directly with MCS teachers to support their classroom practices. Marri said this can be of tremendous benefit to new teachers who have just graduated from college.
Master teachers also provide professional development to classroom teachers once a week, which Marri says can have a positive impact on teacher retention and student learning.
As Muncie Community Schools prepares its next report to the state, due October 30, officials in Ball State have nothing but praise for the district.
“I am encouraged to hear the presentation from Dr. Kwiatkowski and Mr. Williams to our Board of Directors last week. Since our University and Muncie Community Schools embarked on our historic partnership in 2018, we have seen significant improvements in academic achievement, teacher compensation and retention, and the overall financial health of the district, ”said Geoffrey Mearns, president of Ball State University, in an email to The Star Press. “And now we are increasing the number of registrations. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in unprecedented ways to inspire and empower the next generation of students and families, as well as teachers and staff at MCS. “
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Charlotte Stefanski is a reporter for The Star Press. Contact her at 765-283-5543, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CharStefanski.