ANGOLA — No public comments were registered at Tuesday’s hearing on the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County’s 2020 budget.
MSD’s advertised budget totals $31.2 million. Prior to the regular monthly meeting Tuesday, the school board conducted the public hearing. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Pleasant Lake Elementary School.
The largest fund is the Education Fund, advertised at $18 million.
“The Education Fund is funded through state tuition support. We anticipate receiving $6,063 per student in 2020,” said Superintendent Brent Wilson. “This compares to $5,913 per student this year. The additional funding per student from the state is definitely appreciated.”
The Operations Fund is set at $8.1 million. It includes the capital projects fund, used for major repairs and remodeling, $1.5 million, and the Bus Replacement Plan — $360,000.
Other budgets funds include debt service, $3.2 million; rainy day, $1.3 million; and pension debt, $383,000.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent Ann Rice announced that the state had provided a discount of $144,000 to MSD from the state teacher retirement fund. During collective bargaining between the Angola Classroom Teachers Association and administration, Rice said there would be discussions on how to “reinvest” that money into MSD employees.
The board passed a resolution to accept the change in allotment to the Indiana Teachers Retirement Fund. The state has reduced the amount schools pay into the fund by about 2%.
In other business, the board renewed its Health Occupations Education contract with Cameron Memorial Community Hospital. Taught by Jennifer Sears, the Angola High School program has a record number of 16 students this year.
The board also heard about the ILEARN test, a new state assessment administered to students statewide this spring. There is no baseline for understanding student achievement on the test, which was adopted by the Indiana Department of Education after three years of ISTEP.
“They are testing more standards than they have before,” said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Cyndi Nusbaum. More students are also being tested, with all children in third through eighth grades taking the same test, including those that do not speak fluent English. The only exception is the applied skills class for physically and mentally disabled students at Ryan Park Elementary School, who will take a test called IAM.
Nusbaum said the governor and state superintendent of instruction have supported providing schools with the same letter grade rating as last year and “hold blameless” the districts for the appearance of the first-time scores.
“There have been plenty of comments and concerns expressed lately by public school educators on the recent ILEARN assessment scores,” said Wilson. “It is truly frustrating when you see scores drop 20, 30 and even 40% when you know that you have the same student population as last year and you also know that your teachers are working as hard as ever to educate our students.”
He said MSD’s teachers modify their instruction throughout the school year to meet needs they see in the classroom.
“It would be foolish to think that we would wait for the results from a one-size-fit-all test to tell us how we are doing,” he said. “While we are not afraid of being held accountable, we are not going to waste valuable time teaching to a test. Our students are more than just test takers.”
He said he considers ILEARN “another missed opportunity by our state to develop and implement a student assessment tool that is beneficial.”