Zionsville Schools address science, class sizes and school funding

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Zionsville school leaders are in action, locally and beyond.

At the June 11 Board of Trustees meeting, Superintendent Scott Robison reported, “Wise use of the community’s resources will continue as we restore science offerings and move toward lower class sizes. We are also persisting in efforts to get Zionsville a better deal—a more equitable share of the state school funding formula.”

Revenue from May’s successful school referendum will not help the schools’ General Fund until next spring, but school officials are using Rainy Day Fund money as a bridge for restoring science programs and reducing class size through the employment of new instructional staff.

In reviewing priorities with Board members in Monday’s public session, Robison reported that he and other ZCS leaders are engaged in discussions with legislators, leaders of other high performing districts and Department of Education leaders to effect change in the state’s funding formula.

Robison said, “We will continue to be efficient with taxpayer resources, but Zionsville residents need a better deal from the state, too. Our residents’ local sales and income tax payments to the state are sure to be among the highest from anywhere in Indiana. But in turn, ZCS gets the lowest state funding per pupil of all Indiana public school districts.”

ZCS Chief Financial Officer, Mike Shafer, CPA, reported about his leadership in inviting all local taxing entities to coordinate budget information sharing. All local budgets must operate under the same property tax cap. The diverse needs of the various entities can cause budget collisions and elevated losses of funds and services if communication is poor. Shafer believes that Boone is one of the first, if not the only county where this broad collaboration is beginning to take shape as recommended by renowned economics professor and local government finance expert, Dr. Larry DeBoer of Purdue University.

Shafer also reported that Zionsville Schools’ net property tax cap losses have risen from $1M in 2010 to more than $2M in 2011 to more than $3M in 2012. ZCS’ successful November 2011 ballot question on restructuring some of its debt offered a partial shield against tax cap losses, but more than $550,000 still had to be cut from 2012 ZCS funds that would have gone to facilities repair and student transportation.

The Board approved acceptance of a generous grant from the 3M Corporation to allow a no-cost implementation of the nationally recognized Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering course of study for ZCS 7th and 8th graders. Board members and Dr. Robison thanked PLTW Executive Director Dr. Vince Bertram for his help in this regard.

Public thanks also went to Dr. Tony Bennett and Department of Education experts in digital learning.

“Dr. Bennett was instrumental in helping ZCS gain permission to be a pacesetter in electronic learning that is fundamental to the future for all young learners.” Dr. Robison said. “Department of Education e-learning leaders Dr. John Keller and Mrs. Candice Dodson have been remarkable champions of our effort to implement e-learning days for 2012-2013—and they are helping link us with other innovative K-12 digital learning experts in Indiana and elsewhere.”

The Board approved calendar modifications for ZCS middle schools that resulted from the Department of Education’s acceptance of the district’s e-learning day waiver. Board members asked questions to ensure communications with parents and accountability reporting both locally and as established by the Department of Education. ZCS middle school principals Kris Devereaux and Sean Conner reported that communications with parents will begin this summer and be sustained right up to the first E-day on October 2, 2012. The other middle level e-days for 2012-2013 were approved as November 7, December 4, January 15, March 19 and April 16.

Spotlight presentations featured students and staff from Boone Meadow Elementary’s special education developmental preschool, the Eagle Recreation and Enrichment “Summer Explorers” Camp, and a video about the ZCS Technology team’s services and 2011-2012 successes.

The ZCS Board of Trustees will next meet on Monday, July 9, 2012, at 6:00 PM at the district’s Educational Services Center.

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