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Superintendent search, status of facilities among matters weighed by EACS board

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 5:37 am

The East Allen County Schools board on Tuesday covered a number of important topics in a lengthy meeting, including the status on its search for a new superintendent.

The board has begun the process of meeting with who it terms as "stakeholders" - administrators, teachers and support staff in the district - as well as set upcoming meetings with parents and the community about the search to replace the departed Karyle Green. Three members of the board - Christopher Baker, Terry Jo Lightfoot and Arden Hoffman -- have also met with a support team from Indiana University that will likely offer guidance and possibly serve as a clearinghouse for interested applicants from whom the board will draw its final selections for interviewing.

The district and the board, in a commendable attempt to maintain as much transparency as possible in the job search, will have a section on the district's website at www.eacs.k12.in.us that will feature the district's survey and results about what is desired in potential candidates as well as information about where interested applicants can send a resume and complete the district's application. That section on the website could be active as early as Wednesday and will almost assuredly be active by week's end.

The board also discussed how, if at all, individual recruitment of potential candidates by board members should take place, with regard to notification of other board members and also with hopes of not biasing themselves toward potential candidates.

It is likely that April 12 will be the final date that the survey will be available, and other items -- including the compensation package for a selected candidate -- will probably be discussed in a work session.

Facilities overview indicates pressing needs for district

Doug Roemer, the district's director of facilities, gave a detailed presentation about the makeup of the maintenance and custodial staff for EACS, and then went on to deliver honest-but-dire assessments of some of the district's properties, including what will likely be costly remediations at New Haven High School and the former Harding High School.

New Haven High needs HVAC and electrical work, as well as renovations to lockers and locker rooms that have not been addressed since the school opened in the late 1970s, while Harding also needs work to its HVAC system as well as its elevators, walls and fire alarm system, Roemer said, with no renovations taking place in that building since its opening in the early 1970s.

"These are issues that we can't take care of, as a maintenance department," Roemer said.

Roemer addressed the differences between preventative maintenance -- which EACS, like any other district, likely does consistently -- and the need to eventually replace items that technicians are simply continuing to throw money at in repair efforts. In discussing the preference to get new boilers at Leo Junior-Senior High, for example, Roemer quoted a price of about $600,000 for the needed replacement, acknowledging "I don't know how we're going to fund these," but also explaining that this work has to be considered and budgeted, "because if one of these goes, you can't just run down to Lowe's and pick one up."

This matters to those in the EACS district because while taxpayers defeated a referendum desired by the district in 2012, the need for certain types of work, including large-ticket replacement projects, hasn't gone away. Property tax caps have placed limits on districts' ability to increase their available funds - and are the law - but at the same time, Roemer explained that the money the district provides "are enough to maintain what I have," not pursue needed replacements and upgrades.

The board thanked Roemer for its presentation and acknowledged that it will have to consider whether to bond out some of the work that is required or issue another referendum and attempt to understand the wishes of the district better in order to get it passed -- a tactic successfully employed by Fort Wayne Community Schools, which suffered a referendum defeat years ago but got a revised version passed last year.

Roemer was also asked to submit to the board a priority list of needed repairs and projects in the district, as well as estimated costs.

Notes

The board tabled a vote to approve a timeline for its 2014 budgeting process, with multiple members of the board expressing concern that they haven't truly identified what it is they want to be in the budget. That measure passed 5-2, with Bill Hartman and Terry Jo Lightfoot dissenting...The board announced the hiring of Amanda Ricketts as its new human resources director...In response to prodding from an audience member, the board released preliminary copies of what was termed the "Executive Summary of Study of the Data and Ramifications of Disannexation in the East Allen County Schools." The report, as stressed by the board, is not meant to be seen as an attempt to dismantle the district but to serve as a base for understanding and discussion of the ramifications of the topic, should future circumstances dictate that action...The board will likely discuss on April 9, in a public meeting, whether it should pursue the authorization of charter school Timothy L. Johnson Academy. The charter made a presentation to the board during the March 5 meeting.