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School task force committees formed

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The New Castle Community School Corporation is the largest district in Henry County. It also has some of the biggest concerns in the county.

Over the past few years, NCCSC administrators and school board members have looked for ways to adjust to shrinking budgets and aging buildings.

Now, they are turning to the local community to find answers to some of those issues.

Community members and educators got together at New Castle High School this week to form five different work groups that will concentrate on specific needs in the school system.

One group will look at New Castle curriculum, another will investigate factors affecting enrollment. There will be a microscope on all the school buildings facilities, the business and financing process and other organizational issues, too.

“It’s kind of a puzzle that we need to figure out,” New Castle Superintendent Dr. Matt Shoemaker said. “That’s why we need a long-term plan process and team.” 

“There are greater solutions with us working on it than just one person saying ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’” Shoemaker added.

The entire research and planning process is being coordinated by retired Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Ed Eiler.

The ultimate goal of the New Castle task force is to figure out what changes the school district needs to make in order to help New Castle children find future success.

The task force will also analyze what those changes could mean for the organizational structure, educational facilities and attendance areas of the school district.

“This is a rare opportunity for the community to define what you think you want to do for the education of the children in this community,” Eiler said.

Eiler said the planning task force will also set the stage for generations of New Castle students to come.

The individual subcommittees will come up with critical questions within their area of focus and define what an acceptable solution to those problem areas might be.

Eventually, the subcommittees will bring their findings back to the whole task force. Teams will break out to come up with different solutions to the concerns that each subcommittee came up with.

Before bringing suggestions back to the New Castle School Board, the task force will host community meetings to engage the people of New Castle in the process.

The idea is to have as much feedback, input and buy-in from local families and taxpayers before the task force presents their options to the New Castle School Board in February 2019.

Shoemaker told the volunteers Thursday that their research and brainstorming might develop some ideas that won’t be in the final long-term plan.

That doesn’t mean NCCSC will ignore those ideas.

“If we come up with some great ideas, we’re going to go with them,” Shoemaker said.

School board members Jamey Marcum and Nan Polk also attended Thursday’s initial subcommittee meeting.

Polk was pleased with the number of people who volunteered for each subcommittee.

She noted that most of the people at the meeting were educators or former educators.

“I would like to see some more community people get involved, because that’s a good way to communicate,” Polk said. “People will be engaged and it helps build the coalition for what we’re doing.”

Marcum, the school board president, was also excited with the number of people who showed up to help be a part of NCCSC’s future.

Marcum expects to see more parents and business people get involved with the process as it moves forward.

“It’s exciting to think about what the future can be for the corporation and our students,” Marcum said.

The subcommittees will meet again April 24, May 8 and 22, June 5 and Aug. 14.

Shoemaker also announced Thursday that they are planning community tours of all of the New Castle school buildings May 12 and 19.