Schools, staff ready to start new year at Whitko

PIERCETON — Preparations and activities are well under way to welcome Whitko students to the first day of classes this week.Whitko High School Principal Parrish Kruger reported to school board members that fall athletics are in full swing and going well, while the high school grounds and building are in great shape thanks to the custodial staff. Kruger announced a “Drive One for Your School” partnership with Trier Ford of Columbia City that will take place on Sept. 18. For every vehicle that receives a test drive from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day at Whitko High School in South Whitley, $20 will be donated to the school. Board member Roger Boggs asked Kruger how the pay-to-play athletic plan was proceeding and if any scholarships had been requested.Kruger said quite a few requests for assistance have been received and coaches were monitoring the program very closely. He added some coaches have granted scholarships themselves or worked to secure sponsors, and to his knowledge no student is not participating based on the policy.Middle School Principal Jerry Klausing reported the middle school is all ready to go noting schedule changes have been made and it will be interesting this year to see how the new co-mingling of grades works between classes.Interim SWES Principal Bruce Hansen thanked everyone in the district for the warm welcome and said one of his goals is working to improve the school climate and environment. Newly elected board president Terry Eberly welcomed new staff to the district, adding the board is excited to have the talent and caliber of people on staff.While uncertainty remains in regard to budget cuts, Superintendent Steve Clason reported that despite varying reports the need still exists for a referendum. Approximately $500,000 has been included in the proposed budget that would result from a tax levy referendum if approved by voters on the general election ballot on November 2.“We need the support of the community to maintain the level of expertise in the classroom,” emphasized Clason, saying that while it is still a giant crystal ball, any additional cuts could greatly affect the corporation. “In 2010 we’re fine, but for 2011 who knows,” he added.A public meeting regarding the referendum will be held on Tuesday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Whitko High School. Clason encouraged everyone to attend. Childcare services will be available.The business department did request and receive approval for a general fund appropriate reduction resolution, another resolution which allows the 2010 budget to be reduced further, a tax neutrality resolution and a transfer of funds resolution which allows the corporation to transfer 10% of monies from the construction and bus replacement fund to the general fund. Chief Business Officer Tom McFarland provided a detailed explanation of each resolution and also presented the 2011 budget for board review. McFarland stated they are hoping the revenue comes through and 2011 budget numbers were built on 20 less kids than last year.Board members approved the change in textbook rental at Whitko Middle School for the 2010-2011 school year. Due to an error at the July meeting, the amount was listed and approved at $4. The correct amount of the agenda fee is $6. Other board actions included approval of participation with the FRIENDS mentoring program offered by CANI. Clason stated this is a replacement of the SWES mentoring program and will allow the elementary school to continue providing mentors for students at no cost to the corporation. Permission was also granted for the corporation to advertise for latch key services for K-8. A resolution to support a return to the central time zone was approved by board members. Superintendent Clason detailed the request, stating a statewide coalition for central time asked the resolution be placed on all school corporation agendas. Clason added that while he has no estimate on cost saving factors, the change would offer more hours of daylight for transportation and it is a big safety issue. He added it may eliminate issues with fog and snow, resulting in fewer two-hour delays.“There is a lot of logic to it, but my research hasn’t shown a huge difference,” said Clason.Terry Eberly reported the Indiana School Boards Association has announced the Whitko School Board has completed all requirements and has achieved Outstanding status. The board will be recognized during the fall regional meeting to be held in October.Clason concluded the meeting with a review of the 2009-2010 board goals, detailing Project Lead the Way initiatives in progress. While the corporation hasn’t had the physical capability to address infrastructure improvements needed to reach some of the goals, Clason said he feels pretty good about where they are at currently.The next meeting of the board includes the budget adoption and will be a date change for September only. It will be at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Whitko Administrative Office in Pierceton.