Public Speaks Out Against Monterey Elementary Closure

Emotions were running high at the Culver Community School Board meeting this week, as supporters of the Monterey Elementary school vehemently defended the school in the face of possible closure. This issue was discussed because of a need to reduce expenses in order to meet budget cuts from the state level in the amount of $855,928 over two years.

Culver School Board
Culver Community School Board Members (from left to right) Jack Jones, Ryan Seiber, Ken Vandeputte, Brad Schuldt, Eugene Baker, Marilyn Swanson, and Ed Behnke.

The Culver Community School Corporation has a number of options to explore in order to meet this new budget. Some of the options mentioned included increasing revenue through a referenda, in which the school tax rate would be raised $0.11  per $100; the use of the Rainy Day Fund, which has a current balance of $980,000; and decreasing expenses through budget reductions, such as closing Monterey or cutting positions.

“My philosophy is what is the best, K-12, for every child in our corporation, and I firmly believe that through that consolidation we can serve everybody better. And that even includes the Monterey children because they still come to our building 7-12 and if we have to cut programs in the middle school and the high school even the Monterey kids are then cut out of some of those opportunities if we spend all our money keeping the building open and have to cut those programs,” said Superintendent Brad Schuldt.

The idea of merging Monterey Elementary with Culver Elementary did not sit well with many members of the community. Several people expressed their disapproval of the idea, including one resident who stated “Closing Monterey would sign a death warrant on Culver itself.”

Gretchen Johnson, a parent of four children (two who attend Monterey Elementary), could barely contain her emotion as she stated her case for Monterey in front of the board and an audience of over one hundred, expressing her dedication to Monterey Elementary. Johnson has a child in 7th grade who is unable to read, and felt Monterey was the better choice for the education of her children. Her child is now on the honor roll at Monterey, and she feels that Monterey offers the kind of support that her children need, and the individual attention other students need as well.

“When it boils down to anything that happens in our school, our kids come first. And I’m going to stand behind that, and I hope every one of you does too,” said Johnson.

Schuldt presented figures of projected class sizes that predicted, in the event that Monterey were to merge with Culver, class sizes would be between 21 and 28 students. If Monterey were to stay open, class sizes in Culver are projected to range between 23 and 33 students because several positions would have to be cut in order to meet the budget, and the positions most at risk are those in Culver Elementary.

“Well, I think for the most part, it’s gonna unfortunately have to be in the area of personnel. And that’s gonna be teachers, and non-certified people, and really what we’re doing here is trying to, in one regard, we’re trying to keep as many of our people as we can. Now if your primary goal is just to keep Monterey open, that’s difficult to do. And that’s gonna cause some cutting in other areas,” said Schuldt.

This isn’t the first time budget cuts have affected Culver Community Schools. In 2010, the corporation had to meet a budget cut of $348,426. Three positions were removed: One elementary teacher through resignation, one special education teacher through retirement, and an elementary custodian position through retirement. The school also reduced Summer School and Driver’s Education funding, and they reduced their Student Accident Insurance policies. Annuity benefits were reduced 1%, teachers gave back a 1% salary increase that they had previously negotiated for, and extracurricular funding was reduced by 25%.

The board is expected to vote on the closure of Monterey as well as other budget options at their next meeting on May 9 at 7 p.m.