Letters to the Editor: Muncie Community Schools educators speak on partnership

Five years after Ball State was given oversight of MCS, three educators speak on their experiences.

Meghan Holt, DN Illustration
Meghan Holt, DN Illustration

The Daily News reached out to educators of Muncie Community School to provide context to where MCS is heading. The Daily News publishes Letters to the Editor and guest columns with minimal copy edits. The views expressed in letters do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

Placing Learners First: CEO of Muncie Community Schools reflects on improvements and challenges during her time at MCS

Lee Ann Kwaitkowski - Director of Public Education and CEO, Muncie Community Schools

It has been nearly five years since the start of the historic partnership between Muncie Community Schools (MCS) and Ball State University, and about four years since I joined MCS as its chief administrator. In that time, we have seen some drastic improvements in certain areas while other areas continue to be challenging. 

Let’s start with some of the successes. After 15 consecutive years of declining enrollment, we finally saw an increase in students in 2021, and we remained steady at the start of the current school year. We have also turned around the district’s finances from being “in the red” to having a cash balance of more than $30 million (with another $12 million in a “Rainy Day” fund). Those are major accomplishments!

In addition, we have grown enrollment in our preschool program nearly 250 percent; significantly increased employee salaries to be among the top-paying school districts in the region; improved teacher retention by as much as 16 percent; drastically increased enrollment in our Project Lead the Way (STEM) courses for students in grades 1-12; provided health clinic services to thousands of students and community members; welcomed dozens of refugee students into our recently created Newcomer Program; and implemented a new program called “City Connects” that offers schools and community services for students and families based on their individual needs.

We are quite proud of all those achievements, but we still have plenty of work to do. We are still feeling the effects of disrupted school years due to COVID-19 and need to do more to get our overall academic achievement numbers higher. We know there is also room to grow our family engagement; improve our student attendance; and take our preschool program to even higher ground.

As we continue to navigate these challenges, I need to express my deepest appreciation to our dedicated board of directors and the many community partners that have come by our side to aid in our quest to improve. Muncie is an incredibly caring community that works together for the good of all, and we appreciate that.

We will continue to implement the strategies outlined in our 5-year strategic plan that supports our vision of “placing learners first.” We’re off to a good start but know the best is still yet to come.

My Passion and Calling: First-year MCS teacher talks about sense of community

Tori Johnson - fourth-grade teacher at Grissom Elementary School

As someone who joined the teaching staff at Grissom Elementary this school year, I am really happy with what is happening here at Grissom and all across Muncie Community Schools (MCS). Muncie is an amazing place to be! 

Data-driven lessons, high expectations, rigorous learning and active engagement are just some of the things that come to mind when I think of MCS. All of these things lead to exceptional growth, as well as current and future success for our students. 

I am currently in my 5th year of teaching, and I work hard every day to engage my students so they get as excited about their success as I do. But it doesn't stop at me. My colleagues at Grissom and throughout MCS put their all into teaching, and that’s why I’m so encouraged about what lies ahead for our district. When you’re teaching in an environment like that, it’s adrenaline you get that can’t be explained, just experienced.

I love what I do — it’s my passion and calling — even with all the challenges that come with teaching these days. MCS has provided the support I need to help me help my students succeed. To me, that’s the best thing anyone can ask of a school district.

Building Futures in MCS: Muncie Area Career Center director and Muncie Central alum talks about dedication of MCS educators

Caleb Beasley - Director, Muncie Area Career Center

As the Director of the Muncie Area Career Center (MACC), I have the unique opportunity of serving two student populations. The first is high school students seeking to develop technical abilities in a chosen field and needing their personal competencies expanded in the larger arena of life. The second is adult learners who have already begun their working life but are wanting to advance in their careers by securing educational achievements that, for various reasons, were out of reach in their younger years. 

Thanks to the MACC’s dedicated team of professionals, we are able to support both of these groups quite successfully. Our experts approach their work every day with the backgrounds and knowledge needed to enhance our learners’ individual skills and capacities. We think of our work as helping people build better futures for themselves, their families and our community. 

Over the course of more than 10 years working in various roles within Muncie Community Schools [MCS], I have seen scores of dedicated educators pouring into their students — from our preschools all the way through our high school. Throughout the district, teachers and support staff are constantly doing whatever it takes to reach and teach kids the skills they need to be successful. I don’t just say that as an employee but also as an MCS parent.

My wife and I have one daughter who is a Muncie Central graduate, and we have two younger children currently attending elementary school in MCS. In fact, we are also Muncie Central grads ourselves and are grateful for the educational opportunities we received while growing up. We know firsthand the effort and care MCS teachers, staff, coaches and administrators put in to help students develop into knowledgeable professionals and responsible citizens. We are living proof! It’s exciting for us to know our children, and thousands of others, will build their futures through Muncie Community Schools. 

With the support of our friends and colleagues at Ball State and throughout our community, I look forward to watching all of our learners flourish and our community prosper.

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