Muncie Community Schools (MCS) now knows what its future holds. For at least the next two years, the district will be under full control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
The Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) voted Wednesday afternoon to declare MCS a distressed political subdivision. That label puts the district under full government control. Starting Jan. 1, a state-appointed emergency manager will have the final say on all financial and academic decisions for the district. DUAB member Paul Joyce said the job is not done.
“Progress has been made. Great effort has been made by the school corporation, but we’re not there yet,” Joyce said.
He summed up what the rest of the Distressed Unit Appeals Board felt when it came to deciding on a full takeover of MCS: Progress was made in the last six months, but it was just not enough.
DUAB made its decision based on three factors:
- Did the district put a deficit reduction plan in place?
- Did the actions taken from that plan make progress on the district’s financial situation?
- Would a full takeover be beneficial to students in the district?
DUAB chairman Micah Vincent focused on the third factor and referred to the district’s outstanding $10 million general obligation bond from 2014 that has yet to be paid off.
“There still needs to be a plan with the 2014 general obligation bond,” Vincent said. “That continues to be a large issue that we’ve not seen a resolution to yet.”
Vincent also noted the continued decline in enrollment the district is facing. During the meeting, he said DUAB is aware of the potential impact a full takeover of the district would have on public perception of MCS.
“School is open. School will continue to be open,” Vincent said. “This is not a situation where parents within the Muncie Community School district need to be concerned that the school district is somehow going to shut down or that the education is going to fall off. That’s not the situation that we are in, and so they should continue to send their kids to Muncie Community Schools with confidence throughout this process.”
In addition to the takeover vote, DUAB also voted to extend the contract for the district’s current emergency manager administrator assistance until the end of June 2018, before deciding if it wants to stick with the team for the long-term or go another direction. Administrator Assistance co-founder Steve Wittenauer said the focus is on the next six months.
“That’s kind of our goal going forward is to continue the process on the finances, to look at that G.O. bond and get that thing resolved, get their balanced budget in 2018, and if once we can do all that by the end of June, we’ll feel pretty good about that. We’d hope that they could maybe pick it up from there and go forward,” Wittenauer said following the takeover decision.
The Muncie Teacher’s Association (MTA) had already announced it was in favor of a full takeover. MTA President Pat Kennedy feels now that the takeover has been decided, the district can continue to move in the right direction because teachers will now be included in more decisions.
“The voices of teachers have really still been stifled except in the bargaining process, and the bargaining was with AA (Administrator Assistance),” Kennedy said after the DUAB decision.
Under the distressed political subdivision resolution, MCS needs to operate with a positive cash flow for at least two years, plus meet other criteria DUAB sets before local control can be restored.
MCS Superintendent Steven Baule did not speak to the media following the announcement of the takeover. The district has not released a statement. District spokeswoman Ana Pichardo could not say when MCS would release such a statement.