This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An evening with four meetings

The third Tuesday of most months has three public meetings that overlap, County Council, RCSC School Board, and Jasper County Historical Society. Yesterday there were four. The Prairie Arts Council had a writers' showcase. However, the school board meeting was moved earlier because its budget was on the agenda of the County Council. Normally I skip the School Board meeting in favor of the Council but last night I could attend both.

The school board meeting was the most interesting of the four. I got there a few minutes after it started and a citizen was appealing for a change in the policy regarding sports participation of children who are home schooled. Currently the RCSC requires that a person be enrolled at least half time in order to participate on an athletic team. The IHSAA requires that all persons on a school's athletic team be enrolled for at least one course but allows the schools to set requirements stricter than that, which Rensselaer has done. I did not sense any interest of those on the board to change this policy. There are 30 families in the school district that home school.

There was a presentation on testing and why it is good for the students. In addition to ISTEP there are other tests. The picture below (sorry for the poor quality) lists the tests by month and indicates which grades get them.

The Superintendent gave a brief overview of enrollment trends. In the past ten years enrollment in the district has dropped from about 1800 to a bit less than 1600, with almost all of the decline since 2009. Some of the surrounding school districts have seen even larger declines. High school classes tend to be bigger than grade school classes. All classes except second grade have between 100 and 150 students. Second grade fall just short of 100. The school district is not short of classrooms.

There followed a series of items that received board approval. The 2016 budget was approved with the note that the state would change it.  A winter drivers education course was approved, as were the donations. There was a change in the default provider of some retirement planning that I did not understand. Performance payments were approved, as was the purchase of a mini-van for $52,889. A technology upgrade involving new cabling for the high school, power back ups, and more wireless access points that has an estimated price tag of $227,000 was approved.

There will be an auction of surplus equipment. The items being sold will be on the school's website from Nov 2 until Nov 19. Bidding is by sealed bid and bids will be open on Nov 18. There are many items, big and small. The law requires that surplus items go through an auction before they can be thrown away or donated.

A spring  break trip to Europe for Spanish Classes for 2017 was approved and planning for trip can now begin. The Board accepted some updated bylaws for some consortium of schools that includes RCSC. A maternity leave was approved as was a new welding instructor--the high school is adding a welding course. Winter coaches were approved. The November meeting will revert back to a 7:00 starting time.

The meeting finished in about an hour. I was able to attend the business portion of the Historical Society meeting in which the members agreed that they needed higher dues.

Then it was off to the County Council meeting. After some additional appropriations and transfers, the Council approved the budgets of the RCSC, the Iroquois Conservancy District, the Northwest Indiana Solid Waste District, and the Jasper County Airport Authority. The Conservancy District will be clearing 41 log jams in the river this fall. The longest discussion was on the Airport Budget. When I went to the airport meeting in September the issue of hangar development was discussed but there were no clear plans. In the six weeks since plans have firmed up. The Airport Authority wants both private hangars (the airport would lease the land) and hangars built by the airport. There was a proposal for one nine unit hangar in the budget for next year. It would require bank financing.

After the Council meeting I stopped by the Carnegie Center expecting that the presentations of the Writers' Showcase would be finished. I found that only half of the scheduled speakers had spoken and that the presentations, expected to run from 7:00 to 8:00, would run until 9:00 and stop then only because the moderator cut off the last speaker, who seemed ready to go a lot longer. Some writers also enjoy speaking. There was a large crowd and I was told that it was much reduced from the start when poets from Van Rensselaer school recited their poems. Clearly the event was a success. Who knew Rensselaer had so many writers? (Update: Some pictures and more info here.)

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