Warrick County School Corporation superintendent Brad Schneider gave community leaders and educators an update on the schools with the Warrick Chamber State of the Schools breakfast last week.
Lack of funding, school safety, decreased enrollment numbers and the hope of a future vocational school, were the biggest topics discussed at the Rolling Hills Country Club on Friday, Sept. 27.
Schneider, who has been the superintendent for 17 years, said schools in the state of Indiana are woefully underfunded.
"Our funding is never going to be able to provide those kids with all of those extracurricular opportunities if our community didn't support those programs," he said.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Indiana ranks 36th out of 50 states in K-12 education funding.
"Since 2010, inflation is at 16.71 percent," Schneider said. "Indiana school funding has increased by 12.12 percent. So you do the math. We're over 4 percent below. Theoretically, my budget since 2010 has declined. I'm sorry, but that's unacceptable."
While Schneider's hands are tied when it comes to the lack of funding from the state, school safety is a top priority for the school corp. that he can make an impact on.
"I have been doing this for 17 years," he said. "There's not a whole lot that keeps me up at night, but school safety is one that does."
Schneider said he can't thank the Warrick County Council enough for their support of adding two new school resource officers into the school system this year.
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"We worked out a deal [that if the] council provide money to hire two additional deputies, the school corp. [buys] the vehicles and the equipment to outfit those deputies. The council also provided additional dollars for overtime hours," he said.
Schneider said if you drive by a Warrick County School, there's a good chance you're going to see a police car out front.
"15 years ago, I would have [said], 'Oh, my god, what's going on? We've got a police car in front of one of our schools," he said. "Now, I drive by and say, 'Awesome, we got a police car in front of our schools.
Schneider said the resource officers are a great deterrent for criminals.
"Our off duty officers come in and spend time with the kids and walk through the building and they have a presence," he said. "They are fabulous, they are amazing. I wish I had one for every building."
Schneider also discussed the county wide school safety team, which meets monthly.
"All they do is talk about what we can do to make our buildings safer than what they are now," he said.
While live shooter drills are conducted at each of the schools.
"I hate it too and it tears my heart out when we go to these elementary schools and we have to teach these kids what to do with some lunatic busting into the front door," Schneider said. "I'm sorry we have to do that, but I would much rather have our kids prepared for something that never happens then if it does happen and we're not prepared."
While school safety is a newer hot topic issue in the school system, an older dream is finally getting some fresh life, thanks to a healthy donation of property from the Allen Family to the school corp.
"I'm very happy and proud to announce we have had 18 acres donated west of Boonville to the school corp. for future plans of a pathway/vocational school," Schneider said.
Schneider said they want to do whatever they can at the K-12 levels to improve the workforce being sent out.
"A huge shift in the past years has been employable skills and what are we getting kids ready for after graduation, whether it's going to college or a career," he said.
Currently, this is more of a concept, then a tactile plan.
"We have a goal of where we want to get too and we're putting a plan together on how it's going to match up with curriculum, how it's going to match up with existing programming at our high schools," Schneider said.
The superintendent said he wanted to get away from the old mindset that the "smart kids" will go to college and if you're not [smart], you'll go to the trades.
"And that could not be more untrue today," he said. "We are still going to have a group of kids who are going to a four year college, as they should. But understand, only 35 percent of the jobs require a four year degree or diploma, so if we are sending 75 to 80 percent of our kids to a four year school, you do the math."
Schneider said he truly believes these new careers and pathways with technology and machining is where the money and future is at.
"They're going to walk out of these two year programs, they're going to be making, $50, 60, 70K a year," he said. "[You can] go four years, make $37K and have $60K in debt to pay off [or try a] two year program, have no no debt, and start making 60 to 70K a year. Who's making the better choice?"
During the question and answer portion of the breakfast, an attendee asked Schneider if the possibility of a new kindergarten classroom being added was still a possibility.
Schneider said that although that was something he mentioned might occur during a state of schools breakfast a few years ago when enrollment numbers were looking up, that is no longer the case.
"Unfortunately, I can stand here and tell you our enrollment this year is down for the third straight here," he said. "We are down 50 kids."
Schneider said their four smallest class sizes are kindergarten, first, second and third grades.
"That is not a good sign, folks," he said. "We're not sure why. There's an amazing amount of growth. Maybe people are buying the homes and then having the kids instead of having the kids and then buying their first homes. We don't know. But we are down."
Schneider said he would be remiss if he didn't thank all of the school corp. teachers who educate the Warrick Kids and the community leaders before the breakfast ended.
"Your support of our schools is amazing," he said. "All of your sponsorships, whether it's the athletic teams, are bands, our choirs, our elementary school PTO fundraisers, it is amazing."