Monterey Elementary to be Closed at the end of the School Year

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.

A tough and controversial decision was made last night by the Culver Community School Board, as they ultimately voted 5-2 to discontinue operation of Monterey Elementary School. The closure of the school was due to a need to meet budget cuts in the amount of $855,928 over two years from the state. While this decision may not have been the most popular one, the Board felt it was the best decision for the school, as well as the teachers, the students, and even the parents.

“The vote ended up being five members voted for the motion, two members voted against the motion, and the motion was to discontinue operation of Monterey Elementary school effective at the end of this current school year,” said Superintendent Brad Schuldt, “and that the students beginning next year would be a part of the Culver Elementary School body.”

Because of the closure, no certified positions will be cut; however, there will probably be reductions made in non-certified positions, such as custodians, bus drivers, aides, and secretaries. The current teaching staff at Monterey Elementary will be transferred to Culver, which means that there is going to be a lot of work done to integrate these changes.

“We have over the next two years about over $850,000 worth of cuts that need to be made, and we also have last year started our process with $300,000. So now we have to get down to the nitty gritty of figuring out how to blend our staffs together with the least amount of disruption for the students,” said Schuldt.

An open discussion was held prior to the decision being made, and several people made their opinions on the matter known. Luke Biernacki stated that he believes it is the goal of all stake holders of Culver Community to provide the best education to its students, and the best way to do that is to close Monterey in order to provide as many opportunities as possible.

Jonathon Broeker also stepped to the microphone and made a statement. He believes that enrollment is the heart of the problem, and more kids will leave the school if Monterey is closed.  He pointed out that you cannot close one school to hope to save teachers in another, and encouraged the use of the Rainy Day Fund in order to cover expenses to allow Monterey Elementary to stay open.

“In my opinion, this is the definition of a rainy day,” Broeker said.

Culver Community High School Teacher Tina Stacy stated that she believes people will leave the school either way, and closing Monterey is the best option because the money that is saved can be used to fund and support programs and clubs, but keeping Monterey open would not make the situation any better.

Cindy Master, a staff member of Monterey, said that she believes closing Monterey would only cause numbers to decline further, and with the state’s recent push to consolidate small districts, this would ultimately lead to the closure of Culver Community Schools as a whole.

“Numbers are strength,” said Master. “Three buildings make strength.”

After the open discussion, Schuldt made his recommendation to discontinue operation of Monterey Elementary at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. He stated that the only way to keep both schools open would be to go against the corporation’s principles, that strong programs and opportunities for students are a large part of what is important in an educational institution. Schuldt said that it is time for the four townships to unite and form one great school.

“I think where a lot of the difference of opinion boiled down to is, ‘How do we make this corporation stronger?’ And do we do that by maintaining strong programs, some good extracurricular opportunities, smaller class sizes, or do we do that by having a wing out there by Tippecanoe Township where students are closer to their building,” said Schuldt.

After Schuldt made his recommendation, some of the board members addressed the audience to express their opinions on the matter. Culver Community School Board Member Ryan Sieber, who voted for the motion, expressed his regret that this is an item that needs to be addressed. Seiber said he’d rather vote on how to add to a building or a program. Board Member Ed Behnke voted for the school to remain open, and said that he believes things will pick up and funding will be restored. He said that he fears fracturing the townships, and that closing Monterey could ultimately deal more damage than help to the corporation. Because the funds are available to last another year without closing the school, Behnke said that he believes the rainy day fund should be used to fund expenses this year, but next year he would possibly change his vote.

Ultimately, after the votes came in and the decision was made, the school’s fate was sealed. Immediately, nearly half of the audience rose from their seats and left the meeting, shouting disparaging remarks as they went. Monterey Elementary will be closed, but this may not be the last we hear of the school; if the budget were to increase, and the expenses of the school could be covered, Monterey Elementary can be “brought back to life.” This may only be a glimmer of hope to those who hold the school dear and shudder at the thought of a school-less Monterey, but the possibility is still there, and the corporation plans to keep the building taken care of, and they assured everyone that the building will not become dilapidated or vandalized.