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 CAB School Board Officially Terminates Crouch’s Position

May 30, 2007 - The Charles A. Beard School Board voted unanimously during a special meeting Friday to terminate the contract of choral music teacher Jan Crouch.

Crouch, who teaches choir at Knightstown Intermediate School and Knightstown High School, was one of five CAB employees whose positions were first identified last month by CAB Superintendent David McGuire for possible elimination for the 2007-2008 school year. While McGuire has also asked the board to consider cutting the positions of elementary social worker, mental health counselor for KHS and KIS, one high school business teacher and a KIS gifted and talented teacher, the board's action on Friday was limited to Crouch.

According to Combined Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law approved by the board at the end of the 40-minute meeting, decreases in funding and student enrollment justified canceling Crouch's contract. Employed as a music teacher at CAB since the 1992-1993 school year, the board's findings and conclusions said the corporation's other two music teachers have more seniority, and said choir "will be managed in an alternative fashion," perhaps as an extracurricular activity.

Before the board took its vote, it heard from comments from three people. One of CAB's remaining music teachers, band instructor Chris Holland, took the board and administration to task for not attending student music programs. Saying that his frustration had been growing for years, Holland read from a prepared statement that began with the question, "Why don't you attend concerts?"

Knightstown resident Cynthia "Suzee" Neal criticized the board for cutting teaching positions when it had approved large 40 and 21-percent raises, respectively, for the corporation's transportation and food service directors earlier in the year.

"Shame on you for handing out these tremendous raises and then realizing that we're going to have to impact teachers," Neal said. "I would like to hear back from the board. I would like for this to be a time of discussion. I would like someone to explain to me how we could have handled out … a 40-percent increase in someone's salary and now we're going to eliminate teaching positions. Is there an answer for that?"

"This is not a time for discussion of the board," Board President Mike Fruth told Neal. "This is a time for you to state your concerns."

Neal also criticized the board's decision to hold its special meeting at noon on Friday. "I took today off to be here," she said. "This is a poor time to hold this meeting - in the middle of a work day. It's an absolutely hideous time."

Jeff Weiland, another Knightstown resident, also expressed concerns about the cuts proposed by McGuire. The father of four told the board he was "very frustrated with the direction this corporation seems to be taking in regard to curriculum … and the general school environment."

"One of the ways to attract families with children to this community is with a quality educational experience, or at least the perception of one," said Weiland. "It's my position that you're making a grave mistake by cutting some of the very programs that parents find attractive."

Weiland expressed disagreement with plans to eliminate the gifted and talented teacher at KIS. "To consider cutting a gifted and talented program sends a message that you're OK with mediocrity," he said. "A considerable amount of funding is spent on remediation to pull up the bottom, and now you're considering leaving behind the upper levels."

As for eliminating Crouch's position, Weiland said he thought that proposal went too far. "To completely eliminate a high school vocal program because of a tight budget would be like amputating a leg because there's a broken bone," he said. Although he acknowledged CAB does have financial issues it must face, he said, "There has to be a better way out of this pinch," and suggested the board look at possible cuts in other non-academic areas.

"I hate to step on toes, but what about administrators and corporation staff?" Weiland asked. "The athletic director could be part-time. Your top priority should be the classroom instructional staff, period. All the rest is a supporting role - needed, but supporting. I'm asking that you lead by example, put this corporation into the position of being an effective educational institution, and not have the mentality of just doing enough to get by."

Before their vote, several board members remarked about how difficult it was to be called upon to eliminate a teaching position.

“It’s a hard decision to make and I’ve spent many hours thinking about this,” said board member Leah Kopp, who said she had been in choir when she was in school. With the possibility that choir will be offered as an extracurricular activity, she said, “I don’t really feel … like we’re cutting the program. We’re just giving it a new avenue.”

Board members Kevin Knott and Ron Womack both said this particular decision was one of the most difficult they’ve faced as board members. “It would sure be much easier not to have to deal with these situations,” Knott said.

“Certainly, it is a very tough decision,” said Womack. “Years ago, I went through the Academy. As far as going through that war, this one here has been just as tough. Nobody likes to get rid of our teaching staff.”

Board member Debi Ware said that if additional funding becomes available, the decision to cut the choral teaching position could be reversed. “If we can up with just some other way that we can change this, we will,” she said. “I was in choir my whole life – love to sing, love to play – and I hope that we will continue to be able to give our kids some source of that, and I think we will.”

Board member Larry Selvidge noted that even if choir becomes an extracurricular activity, that doesn’t mean its value to students will be diminished. He noted that the KHS Drama Club, which his daughter was involved in, is a viable program that kids enjoy. He said he was more concerned about the loss of mental health and social services to students.

Before the board took its vote at the end of the meeting, Board President Mike Fruth criticized Crouch for requesting a public hearing on the proposed elimination of his job, which was held May 15. He said that CAB was forced to pay for two attorneys for the hearing.

“During the course of that hearing, Mr. Crouch made it known to the board that he plans to retire,” Fruth said. “So, I would just make a short comment that it’s unfortunate that we had to go to that expense and spend those kinds of monies when we’re already at a loss of funds anyway. … It was certainly his right, but, I don’t know what it ended up costing the school corporation to conduct that hearing, but it will be in the thousands of dollars, I’m sure. … I just think it’s unfortunate to spend that money.”

 

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