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School board recognizes achievements

However, $572,709 budget cut by state major concern

January 27, 2010
It was mostly good news for the Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees last Tuesday night, but the bad news that was sprinkled in could have some lasting impact.

The meeting, at English Elementary School, opened with Dr. Mark Eastridge, corporation superintendent, playing video of a segment that aired on WHAS-TV earlier that evening that featured the new special education area at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School.

Dawn Lee, president and CEO of the WHAS Crusade for Children, which provided a $55,000 grant that helped pay for the project, had toured the area and visited with teacher Ginger Barton's students earlier that day.

The good news didn't stop there, however, as Eastridge recognized Leavenworth and Milltown Elementary schools, for each being named a Four Star School by the Indiana Department of Education. The honor, based on test scores and attendance rates, is the highest the state DOE gives, he said, adding this is the second time in three years that Milltown has been named a Four Star School.

The announcements come on the heels of English Elementary becoming the latest school in the system to be nominated for a federal No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools award. Leavenworth was named a Blue Ribbon school this past fall, while Milltown received the honor four years ago.

The recognition wasn't limited to just the elementary schools. Crawford County Junior-Senior High School Principal Greg Moe said his school graduated 84 percent of its seniors last spring, up from 66.5 percent the previous year.

Moe said that, according to statistics released by the DOE earlier this month, Crawford County, which was above the state average, had the second largest percentage increase in the state.

Moe, in his second year at the school, said students, parents and staff, as well as the CARES and PACK after-school programs, the alternative school and the school's community partners, are to credit.

"Kindergarten through 12, folks. It's not just the high school staff that helps them graduate," he said.

Eastridge, while admitting more work must be done, praised the high school for the achievement and for recording its best ISTEP scores and said all of the good news is illustrative of the "systemic improvement" in the school corporation.

"Within the last month or so, I'm confident there's no school corporation in Indiana that has been recognized as much as Crawford County," Eastridge said.

He added that corporation officials will make a presentation to the Indiana State Board of Education at its Feb. 2 meeting in Indianapolis.

The news, however, isn't all good, Eastridge said. Because of $297 million in cuts to state education in 2010 announced by Gov. Mitch Daniels, Crawford County expects to operate with $572,709 less in its General Fund when compared to 2009, which was almost $11.7 million.

"If you look at our funds report, you can see we're not broke. We're not even close to broke," Eastridge told the board.

However, he said, a funding cut that large is hard to swallow.

"If we would not have had to endure this cut of funding, we'd be fine," he said. "As I say, we built a cash balance, we've got things in place, we've got a rainy day fund set up, but whenever you start seeing cuts of $572,000, what are you going to do?"

Even more troubling, Eastridge said, is that the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents has advised schools to anticipate the cut being permanent.

"If it's a one-year cut, we weather it. We'd plan, we'd save, we weather it. A permanent cut, action is required," he said. "And that's the thing as superintendent of schools, we built a wonderful functioning organization here. Now, do we have to start dismantling some?"

Eastridge said the situation locally isn't nearly as dire as for some school corporations, which may have to do away with transportation or layoff tens of teachers, but it will mean trimming some things.

"I realize that economic times are tough — I realize that in the state — and we'll do our part, but it's going to be tough, especially when the size of the cut is larger than about all of our discretionary spending," he said.

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