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 Questions Persist Over How to Spend CAB Money

July 29, 2009 - Issues surrounding the Charles A. Beard School Board's use of $2 million on capital improvement projects at Knightstown High School and Knightstown Intermediate School continue to be raised by the public and board members alike.

Five citizens addressed school board members at their July 21 regular monthly meeting. The comments of all five were related to how the board planned to allocate the money between the two schools.

Aaron Fields, the first to speak, asked if the board had established any deadline for fixing the track at KIS, or putting a new one in at KHS. With a son who runs track, Fields noted that this is the third summer that CAB students haven't had a track for workouts.

"I feel like these kids are being slighted a little bit," Fields said. "I think they deserve the same as football players … basketball players … (and) baseball players." Board President Kevin Knott told Fields the board had already voted on how it will divide the $2 million, which was obtained by refinancing debt from the construction of KHS, between the two schools. However, he said final decisions and specific plans have not yet been made.

"I will tell you a track has been mentioned as a possible use for some of those funds," Knott said. The school board voted last month to spend $1.1 million of the funds on improvements at KIS, while the remainder would go toward athletic facilities at KHS.

The board next heard from Jim Hope. As he has done at prior meetings, he told the board he didn't think the time was right to be spending money on some of the planned projects.

Hope told the board that Knightstown is not growing, something that had been anticipated when the new KHS was built. Instead, he said he believes people are actually moving out of the school district.

"I think we ought to get back to necessities," Hope said. "These kids need a good education." He said he thought the board needed to give the matter more thought before they do any spending.

The next citizen to address the board was Abbie Wehr, wife of school board member Tim Wehr. She said she wanted to know why board members who voted to spend $1.1 million on KIS - President Kevin Knott, Vice President Wade Beatty, Leah Kopp and Tom Schaetzle - had done so.

While the money set aside for KIS would not go toward academic programming, Knott said the facility improvements that have been discussed will create a healthier learning environment for students. He also said he believed fifth and sixth grade students have performed better since they were moved in with seventh and eighth graders at KIS when the new KHS opened.

Wehr asked Knott, if the learning environment is so important - and she didn't disagree with him on that point - then why are CAB's three elementary schools still not air conditioned. Knott said that the money from the refinancing can only be used at KIS or KHS, but said he thought air conditioning at the elementary schools is an item on the board's agenda.

KIS Principal Don Scheumann told the board that student discipline at KIS has "improved tremendously through the years." He said he believed the mix of students at KIS was better than when fifth and six graders were back at the elementary schools.

Schaetlze, the only other board member who voted to spend the $1.1 million at KIS to respond to Wehr, said he hoped prudent spending would result in less being spent there. "For me," he said, "$1.1. million is not a foregone conclusion." If there is money left over, he said he thought it should be spent on priorities, one of which he said is athletics.

Steve Dalton, one of the three board members who voted against spending $1.1. million on KIS, noted that CAB's facilities director, Mike McKillip, had said CAB could have spent half that amount and gotten another 10 years out of the school. He said some of the planned improvements, such as an estimated $150,000 repaving of the parking lot, would have no affect on academic performance.

"Paving that parking lot is not going to boost those ISTEP scores one iota," Dalton said. "… Let's not parade that as something it is not." Dalton, along with Tim Wehr and board member Mark Fort, advocated studying the possible closure of KIS as a cost-saving measure.

Knott said he thought spending $1.1 million on KIS represented a fair split of the money. He said he supported continuing to look at ways to expand athletic facilities as time and money allow.

Tim Wehr noted that KHS currently has room for 650 students, but only has 420. "We've got more space here than we know what to do with," he said. Because the $2 million that came from the refinancing can only be used for capital projects, he said CAB will need to find money for academics elsewhere, such as the savings that would come from closing KIS. He added that he hated to spend $1.1 million on KIS when there's room at KHS for the seventh and eighth graders without the need for any new construction there.

Marsha Redmon told the board she didn't think CAB should close any of its schools. She also questioned what would happen to KIS teachers if that school were to be closed.

Dalton said he has not made a decision about whether he would support closing KIS. However, he said he believed board members should keep the promise they'd made in late April, to study all options before approving closure of any school.

Knott disputed claims that he had somehow gone back on his word to study all options, calling the allegation a "smokescreen." He said he was tired of people insinuating that he wanted to close an elementary school simply because he wants to spend the $1.1 million at KIS.

Dorothy Hatton encouraged board members to think ahead 15-20 years down the road, and to "just do the best you can with what you've got." She said that difficult issues, like whether to close schools, can take awhile. In the meantime, she said the board should work to spend money wisely, and not to spend so much that they can't change direction when, and if, that becomes necessary.


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