TERRE HAUTE —
In 2011, the Indiana Legislature passed a series of monumental school reform laws intended by proponents to overhaul Indiana’s education system.
Those measures — backed by State Superintendent Tony Bennett, Gov. Mitch Daniels and a Republican-dominated legislature — included private school vouchers, expansion of charter schools, high-stakes teacher evaluations and collective bargaining restrictions affecting teacher unions.
Several of the measures are already being implemented, although the full impact is yet to be determined.
One of the biggest education news stories in 2012 has to be the continuing changes brought about by that legislation.
Some view the changes as positive, but others — including Mark Lee, president of the Vigo County Teachers Association — object to the term “education reforms,” which he describes as a misnomer.
Instead, Lee describes those changes as “negative legislation and punishing policies inflicted upon public education.”
Lee says the definition of reform “is to make or become better by the removal of abuses, errors and faults in order to bring about moral, political and social improvement. The policies of the past eight years have little to do with reform.”
Instead, Lee states, “We have policies enacted to protect the most privileged in our society, cloaked in the guise of social conservatism.”
Others don’t agree with that stance. David Wulf of Terre Haute, who is now vice president of employment law and labor relations policy with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, supports private school vouchers, expansion of charter schools and the new teacher evaluation system, although he understands there are some “bugs” in that evaluation system that need to be worked out.
Vouchers benefit families who are looking for an alternative to public schools, he said. “We have a great school system in Vigo County. They try to provide educational opportunities for all students,” Wulf said, but some families want a different approach to education.
Taxpayers who choose private schools should be able to benefit from vouchers. “I don’t know why it’s anyone else’s business where that child goes for that education and why we would want to withhold support from someone who chooses to go elsewhere,” said Wulf, whose three children attended the former Sacred Heart School in Terre Haute and then attended Vigo County public schools.
He also believes that public charter schools have brought “huge benefits” in places such as Indianapolis and Gary. In the past, low-income families in those communities whose children were in poor-performing schools had no options, he said.
In Vigo County, a new evaluation system has been implemented for teachers and administrators. Also, preliminary discussions began recently with the Vigo County Teachers Association on a new contract that won’t take effect until August. That contract, by law, will be limited to salary and benefits.
There will be a separate set of administrative guidelines that deal with such areas as working conditions.
Some of the reform measures, including the new evaluation system, have caused much stress and added burdens, Superintendent Dan Tanoos said recently. “I think the Legislature sometimes punishes good school systems” because of the poor performance of a few, he said.
While he doesn’t agree with many of the changes, “You have to play the hand that you’re dealt,” Tanoos said. The district will abide by the new laws and policies and make the best of them.
But reform in Vigo County is nothing new, Tanoos said. “We feel like we reform every year. Reform is a constant in education.”
One thing hasn’t changed, he said.
“I’m seeing the same great things going on in our classrooms that I’ve always observed,” Tanoos said. “I see teachers and principals working as hard as they can each and every day. It didn’t take a law to cause that to happen. They do it because they are professionals.”
He believes that the election of Democrat Glenda Ritz as the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction will help ease some of the stress levels of public school educators.
Republicans still control the Statehouse and the governor’s office, and education reform laws won’t be repealed anytime soon. But with Ritz as state superintendent, public school educators are confident she “is going to stand up for us and she will listen to us,” Tanoos said.
Terry Spradlin, director for education policy at Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education, believes it’s important to give the new laws and reforms time to work “before we can fully judge whether they are effective or not.”
After Newtown, a new urgency
The Dec. 14 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 young children and six educators dead, prompted school districts across the nation to heighten security levels and re-evaluate their safety plans and procedures.
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary “has changed the whole game plan of school security,” Tanoos said recently.
As school resumes from winter break and a new year begins, Tanoos said new safety protocols will be established, security will be strengthened where necessary, and meetings with law enforcement related to school safety will continue.
“We believe we have safe and secure schools,” Tanoos said, but “we have to tighten up a couple of areas.”
Rose-Hulman president dies
On April 20, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology President Matt Branam died unexpectedly of heart complications. He was 57.
A Terre Haute native, he was the 14th president of Rose-Hulman, his alma mater. Before returning to Rose-Hulman, Branam had served as the first-ever chief operating officer of the American Red Cross and vice president of public affairs at UPS.
While serving as the college’s president, he launched The Great Debate, a strategic planning process. Also, the college maintained its No. 1 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college ranking of specialized undergraduate engineering institutions.
Robert A. Coons is serving as Rose-Hulman’s interim president while a search for a new president is under way.
SMWC contests federal audit
In the spring, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College received a bombshell when a federal audit stated that it should return $42 million in loans and grants made to students between 2005 and 2010, something the college has challenged.
The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education said the college’s students, both on campus and distance education, should not have received Title IV federal financial aid.
The audit said the college’s distance learning programs did not meet the regulatory definition of “telecommunications courses” and should instead have been categorized as “correspondence” courses.
The college disagreed and says its accrediting agency has designated its distance programs as telecommunications.
The college “has always acted in good faith with full transparency, and the program has always been completely approved by the Higher Learning Commission,” college president Dottie King said at the time.
The college hired outside legal counsel.
“The final resolution lies with the Department of Education. These discussions are ongoing and we are confident that the Department of Education will deliver a reasoned interpretation,” King said in a written statement last week.
While the matter is still being resolved, the college remains accredited and students’ financial aid is not affected.
ISU enrollment reaches 12,000
In August, Indiana State University’s enrollment climbed to its highest level in nearly 20 years, officials reported.
Student headcount was 12,114, up 5 percent over last year — an increase of nearly 600 students.
Three years of significant growth among new students, as well as improved retention, were cited as major reasons.
With ISU’s student body exceeding 12,000, the university was two years ahead of its enrollment goals.
Now, ISU wants to increase its enrollment to 14,000 by 2017 as part of its updated strategic plan. “I think it’s realistic,” ISU President Dan Bradley said in August.
ISU hopes to achieve the new enrollment goal through a combination of more distance education students, improved retention and strategically growing the freshman class.
State funding for full-day kindergarten
Indiana’s decision to increase funding for full-day kindergarten has led to an increase in students enrolling in kindergarten programs across the state and more state dollars being doled out to local schools.
Earlier this month, the state distributed nearly $190 million in full-day kindergarten funding, more than double the $81 million spent last school year, according to the Indiana Department of Education.
The money went to 338 public school corporations and charter schools that collectively saw a 19-percent increase in the number of students enrolling in full-day kindergarten programs: from 66,401 in the 2011-12 school year to 79,110 students this school year.
Earlier this month, Vigo County received $3 million through the kindergarten grant program, said Christi Fenton, VCSC director of elementary education. “We’re thrilled about it,” she said. The district has been able to offer a free, full-day program at all elementary schools.
In the future, Fenton hopes to see the program fully funded, continuing year after year, as part of the state funding formula.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourth of five parts
TERRE HAUTE —
In 2011, the Indiana Legislature passed a series of monumental school reform laws intended by proponents to overhaul Indiana’s education system.
ISU unveils interactive Bayh Family Legacy Wall at school
A who’s who of Indiana Democrats paid tribute to Evan Bayh and several generations of the Bayh family Friday during a dedication of a new interactive display at Indiana State University.
Can you smell me now?
A contraband cell phone has been discovered by the Vigo County Jail’s youngest and most unique officer.
GIVING BACK: Steve Weatherford buys shoes for kids day before charity run
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford, punter for the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showed once again his generosity Friday by donating new athletic shoes to more than two dozen Vigo County kids.
N.Y. Giants honor Weatherford as ‘Man of the Year’
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, remembers the first time he saw Steve Weatherford as a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Sunday recital at The Woods
A recital featuring songs from well-known composers is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Police investigating rash of car window shootings
Terre Haute Police are investigating a rash of shootings that have shattered car windows throughout the city.
City hospitals get passing grades for patient safety
Two Terre Haute hospitals have been ranked for patient safety by an independent organization that assesses safety, quality and affordability of healthcare for Americans.
Three from Operation Turn and Burn sentenced in federal court
Three co-conspirators in a Wabash Valley methamphetamine trafficking ring were sentenced this week to several years in federal prison.
Skateboarders, BMX bike riders working to improve area of city park they use
The sound of small wheels rolling across smooth concrete fills the air, accented by the clacking noise of a wooden skateboard coming to an instant stop on a metal edge before rolling on again.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Overlay recommended for 812 area code
The state agency that represents Hoosier utility customers is calling for a ten-digit solution to southern Indiana’s vanishing supply of 812 area code telephone numbers.
Elementary school saddened by student’s death
A 9-year-old Dixie Bee Elementary student died unexpectedly Wednesday evening as the result of pneumonia, said Vigo County Coroner Susan Amos on Thursday.
Vermillion CSX crossings undergoing maintenance
CSX maintenance crews are working on railroad crossings between Dana and Chrisman, Ill. this week and next, a CSX official said Thursday.
Beware of scams everywhere
Ever get a phone call in the middle of the night from a person claiming to be your grandchild, who unfortunately has been jailed in Canada and needs bail money?
INDOT to start work on Indiana 163 in Vermillion County
Maintenance crews will begin a pavement preservation project Monday on Indiana 163, between Indiana 63 and the Illinois state line west of Clinton.
Union Hospital community garden spots now available
Community gardening spots are now available at the Union Hospital Community Garden for Wabash Valley residents interested in planting and maintaining a garden but may not have the space. The garden is located west of the intersection of North Sixth Street and Seventh Avenue in Terre Haute at 1430 N. Sixth St.
Correctional officer remembered at memorial
Greene County native and Wabash Valley Correctional Facility Officer Timothy Betts was honored during a memorial ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Money donated for Dresser sculpture
100+ Women Who Care of Vigo County on Thursday awarded a $20,200 grant to Art Spaces that will help make the Paul Dresser sculpture, “A Song for Indiana,” a reality.
Powerball jackpot quickly jumps to $550 million
The Powerball jackpot jumped to $550 million on Thursday — the third largest lottery in history — as dreamers in all but the seven states where the game isn’t played snatched up tickets for the minuscule chance at a life on easy street.
About 200 channel catfish find new home in Dobbs Park pond
About 200 channel catfish transferred into a new home at the Dobbs Park pond on Wednesday, but it’s unclear how long they’ll remain there. That depends upon the people fishing.
GED grads turn the tassels
Michelle McClendon’s first child was born when she was 15.
She tried to stay in school, but it was just too much, so she dropped out to take care of her daughter.
MARK BENNETT: Local summer music series idea remains a good one
One-of-a-kind ideas happen rarely.
As the biblical adage goes, there is nothing new under the sun. We humans succeed occasionally, inventing electricity, automobiles, telephones and the Internet. Invariably, though, someone else insists, “Hey, my grandpa thought of that years before Edison.”
State to spend $2M to clean up voter rolls
Indiana’s bloated voter registration rolls, which officials say make elections more susceptible to fraud, will soon come under more scrutiny by the state.
Community tips lead to arrest on methamphetamine charges
Acting on community tips and other information, Indiana State Police troopers from the Putnamville District Meth Lab Enforcement Team were led to a rural Vigo County residence where they arrested the homeowner on meth-related charges and a female companion on a Clay County warrant for driving while suspended.
Historic National Road Yard Sale begins May 29
Bargains galore are expected along a 824-mile stretch of U.S. 40 as the annual The Historic National Road Yard Sale begins May 29 and continues through June 2
Woman arrested after selling relatives truck without permission
A Terre Haute woman faces a charge of auto theft after being arrested for selling a relative’s vehicle without permission.
Redevelopment Commission hears TIF districts in good shape
Terre Haute’s special economic development taxing districts, known as TIF districts, are in good financial shape, according to a report given Wednesday to the city’s five-member Redevelopment Commission.
Tribune-Star staff wins awards from IAPME
The Tribune-Star was well represented once again at the annual Indiana Associated Press Media Editors awards in Indianapolis Saturday.
Indiana’s 2013 Click It or Ticket effort begins Friday
As motorists take to the roads this Memorial Day holiday, the Vigo County Traffic Safety Partnership is urging everyone to buckle up as Indiana’s 2013 Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement effort begins Friday.
Giving back to the community: Day of Energy
Flowers and fresh paint. A new platform for handicapped seating. Spotlight replacement. And even a new utility pole and electrical service. About 10 different projects made positive improvements at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds on Thursday through a volunteer work day called “Duke Energy in Action.”
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- ISU unveils interactive Bayh Family Legacy Wall at school