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 Social Worker, Air Conditioning Among Citizen, Teacher Concerns

September 26, 2007 - Issues affecting the school corporation's elementary students were at the forefront of comments made by several of the 11 people who addressed the Charles A. Beard School Board at last week's meeting.

"We need a social worker," Tom Crawford, a teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School and head of the local Classroom Teachers Association, bluntly told the board at the beginning of his remarks. Noting that new positions were being added at the central office and that student enrollment is up - which he said means increased funding from the state - Crawford urged the board to reinstate the social worker position they cut at the end of last school year.

"Has the board considered what the cost is to educate a student versus what it will cost to incarcerate him as an adult?" Crawford asked, reading from a prepared statement. "Why would the board not want to provide help and support our children by recalling our social worker."

Crawford ended his comments with the following statement: "We can help our children in our schools now, or you may have to deal with one or more of them, in the middle of the night, looking down at you in bed with a gun, knife or club in their hand."

Julie Anderson, a guidance counselor at KIS, joined Crawford in calling on the board to hire a social worker to work with elementary students. Noting that guidance counselors are available for KHS and KIS students, she said elementary students and teachers only had a social worker to help them, and now that resource has been taken away.

"The one concern I have is that when there's a crisis - and there will be - who is it that's going to take care of these kids?" Anderson asked. "When there are kids who are in need don't get their emotional and social needs met, nobody's learning in that class. And teachers are already being asked to do so much with their limited time and limited resources, and they now have to be counselors, too. I don't know how they do it."

The final person to speak about the need for a social worker was Susie Leonard, director of guidance at KHS. She said that a social worker can help give students coping skills that will allow them to deal with situations that would otherwise detract from a focus on schoolwork.

"If we looked at counseling or social work the same way we do mathematics or English, I do not believe that we would have eliminated it," said Leonard. Waiting until students enter the intermediate school to have a guidance counselor available was, she said, not acceptable.

"I do not believe we can wait," Leonard said. "We need to be proactive rather than reactive for our children. I believe with all my heart that we are not doing all we can to prepare our youngest family members for their next level of education, for the world and for society unless we have a social worker at the elementaries to help and support these teachers."

To better help patrons hear the proceedings of last week's board meeting, the room's noisy air conditioning unit was kept off. While this resulted in a room that was, to most in attendance, uncomfortably warm, this may have helped reinforce the need to address another issue affecting CAB's youngest students - the lack of AC at the school corporation's three elementary schools.

Wayne Township resident Dawn Wineman said that her daughter had been sent home sick from Knightstown Elementary with heat exhaustion on a day when the temperature outside had been in the high 90s. Saying her own researched showed that cost estimates of $3 million to $4 million had been "grossly overcalculated," Wineman said she was disappointed that there didn't appear to be clearly set goals as for when AC would be installed in the elementary schools.

"I really think we need to have a goal," Wineman said. "I don't want that to get away from everybody's mind, especially now that it's going to start getting colder. We need to fix this problem now." She said she would not be surprised if the lack of AC has a detrimental effect on student performance on the ISTEP-Plus exam, something she said would likely be blamed on students and teachers.

Board member Kevin Knott said that the school corporation is putting money away each year to eventually pay for installation of AC. By the end of the year, he said CAB should have about $300,000 in its Capital Projects Fund to go toward this.

Later in the meeting, Ripley Township resident Heather Koehler, who also has a daughter at Knightstown Elementary, continued to press the board for more specifics on when it would be able to afford to install AC in the elementary schools. "If we're at three hundred thousand now, and we've got estimates of three and four million, is our goal seriously that far out?" she asked. "I think that's what we want to know. … Do the math. Is it that many years? The climate's not going to get any better. It's not going to get cooler in September - it's going to keep on getting warmer."

Fruth repeated what Knott had said earlier about the school corporation continuing to save money for the AC project. If extra funds become available, he said they would also be set aside. He was unable to provide Koehler with any information about a second issue she raised - the lack of no fencing at Knightstown Elementary along SR 109, just west of where the playground is located.

"Nobody's here to give you a hard time," Wineman said toward the end of the public comment portion of the meeting. "We want answers. … We don't want to keep on being deferred to the next meeting and the next meeting. That's when you start getting stress in the community, when people start thinking you're being dishonest, and we know that's not what you're doing. But we want to work together as a team, and I think everybody in this room wants that. Please start providing open communication. That's why we put you guys there on that board."

While the board was unable to provide definitive answers about when AC will be installed in the elementary schools, it was finally able to provide Wineman with a response to another issue she first raised at a board meeting last fall. At that time, she had asked the board to reconsider its policy that prohibited school board members from visiting CAB schools unless they had notified the school and central office in advance of their plans to do so. In the time since then, Wineman said she had received no substantive response from CAB.

Board Vice President Wade Beatty advised Wineman near the end of last week's meeting that the board's new policy manual, which took effect September 1, now only requires board members, like any other member of the public, to simply check in at the front office of any school they visit.


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