By Rob Cox Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — GREENSBURG — At its regular meeting Wednesday night, the Decatur County Community Schools (DCCS) Board continued forward with plans to construct twin Fieldhouses at both North and South Decatur High Schools.
As part of those continuing plans, the board held a public hearing Wednesday night for public comment on the plan leases, which were signed by the DCCS Building Corporation earlier that evening.
When there were no comments, Doug Wilson presented the board with petitions filled with at least 50 signatures (the number required by Indiana law) of people approving the leases. The petitions, Wilson noted, both contained much more than 50.
The leases allow the board to move the project to the next step of accepting construction bids. The board also agreed to adhere to the Security and Exchange Commission requirement that, every year during the term of the bond, any information regarding changes to district finances be reported. The board will meet May 29 to accept formal bids on the twin projects.
In explaining the bidding process, DCCS superintendent Johnny Budd told the assembly that, although the design of the main structures are set, the board has designed a handful of alternate plans to make the most of DCCS dollars.
Keeping the project budgets at below $2 million apiece is key, Budd said, with any money remaining from construction of the primary structures being used to add additional enhancements such as extra locker rooms.
“It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together,” the superintendent said.
The board also recognized the recent accomplishments of the academic teams at both NDHS and SDHS. Both teams made it to the state finals at Purdue University in April, with the Chargers fielding two teams and the Cougars one.
The NDHS Charger Math team, comprised of students Eric Moorman, Winston Miley, Trevor Crites, Landon Phillips, and Zach Johnson, finished as runner up, while the Charger Science team, comprised of students Andrew Martin, Adam Hartman, Devin Nobbe, Landon Phillips and Derek Hocker, placed fourth. The South Decatur Cougar Math team, comprised of students Tyler Wamsley, Paje Smiley, Lexie Armand, Conner Polanka and Carlyn Johanningman, won fifth place.
Budd praised the students, teachers, coaches and principals involved with the academic team competitions. Although recent standardized test scores reveal an indisputable, district-wide need to improve math scores, the superintendent noted, the academic teams’ successes suggest that a quality education is available within the district to students who take advantage of available resources.
Also on Wednesday night, the board approved a significant change to the SDHS and NDHS handbook regarding unexcused absence policies at both schools. Present policy allows students 10 unexcused absences per nine-week grading period before a student grade is automatically lowered a single letter.
The board unanimously agreed that 10 unexcused absences per grading period – for a total of 40 per school year – is entirely excessive. Although the board formally lowered the standard to five per nine-week period, members expressed dissatisfaction with that number as well, labeling it as still “too high.”
Budd agreed that five unexcused absences per grading period is excessive, but that the new number represents a significant step forward in holding students and parents accountable for attendance. He also assured board members that the district is working with Greensburg Community Schools to develop a county wide standard, which they will use to partner with area prosecutors, truancy officers, Child Protective Services agents and others to enforce.
The board also discussed the difficulties frequently encountered in contacting chronically-truant students and student parents. They also sought clarification of who at each school is in charge of contacting such students and parents. Budd assured the board that the district’s currently-out-of-service automated calling system will be back on line with the launch of the new school year in the fall.
Newly-hired School Resource Officer Rob Duckworth told the board he’s legally permitted to visit the home of truant students and that he has already done so during his six-week tenure.
“We’ve gotten kids up out bed,” Duckworth said. “If they need that extra help or motivation, we drive out there and do what we need to do.”
Duckworth also gave a detailed report to the board regarding his first six weeks on the job and the numerous changes being made to district security, including a new surveillance system that enables him to remotely observe the inside of all four district buildings. Duckworth is also working in conjunction with the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department to monitor school entrance and exit ways during the day and parking lots at night. He’s also working on a major overhaul of the district’s radio-communications systems. The changes Duckworth is working on will be detailed more fully in a separate Daily News article.
Also on Wednesday, the board accepted a donation of $643.93 from a Westport sorority to the South Decatur Elementary School Drama Department. They also approved adoption of a new biometric thumbprint software to keep more precise track of hourly employee work time. The software, according to information provided Wednesday night, will assist in regulating which employees work 30 hours weekly and don’t, which is the threshold for the Affordable Care Act.
The board also approved NDHS’s participation in the Decatur Family YMCA’s upcoming Summer Food Service program, which assists needy children with getting a healthy breakfast and lunch during summer break.
The next regular meeting of the Decatur County Community Schools Board will be at 6 p.m., June 11, at the district’s Central Office.
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; firstname.lastname@example.org