By Danielle Rush
Tribune staff writer
— When the Kokomo-Center School Board hired Jeff Hauswald as its superintendent in June 2010, board members were talking to him about what they could do in student programming with the savings realized from consolidation and reorganization.
Within seven months, though, the state Legislature changed how schools receive funding, meaning Kokomo-Center faced funding cuts that ate into those savings.
Hauswald said the corporation moved forward with new opportunities, but “we had to be very careful. We did it in a way that was fiscally conservative.”
July 1, Hauswald marked his first anniversary as Kokomo-Center superintendent, and what was accomplished in the corporation during that time.
Kokomo-Center School Board President Wayne Luttrell called Hauswald’s first year successful, and said he accomplished what the board expected of him.
“He’s been a good choice,” Luttell said, especially “in the area of adapting to what the state Legislature has been doing to us, as far as finance, charter schools and vouchers.”
He was also pleased with Hauswald’s efforts to start new programming, including the international schools and career school opening in August. He thinks those schools will draw new students to the school corporation and provide expanded opportunities to current students.
Hauswald is especially proud of those efforts to make more choices available to parents in the district. The corporation planned to have international schools at Lafayette Park Elementary and Central Middle School, but because of demand, opened another international elementary at Sycamore Elementary.
Hauswald said the new programs, as well as the middle school soccer team, all came out of parent surveys and meetings in fall 2010.
Hauswald said shortly after he started work, the other Howard County corporations announced plans not to charge transfer tuition for students outside the district to move to their schools, making school choice a more important issue.
“We want parents to have choice, but we want that choice to be in Kokomo,” he said, adding that he is focusing on making educational opportunities available to Kokomo’s students, not on marketing. He said expanding opportunities will benefit Kokomo’s students and also draw in additional students.
Elementary enrollment is up for the 2011-2012 school year because of the international school, he said. About 1,600 elementary and middle school students are enrolled, and more than 50 teachers are training to teach in those schools.
The career school, at Maple Crest Middle School, is filled to capacity, and the corporation had to have a lottery to assign students to the program.
Hauswald said the new schools created a need for changes in the transportation department, because students attending international schools needed to be bussed to those programs. In addition, funding is down for transportation because of the circuit breaker limiting property taxes, he said.
“We’re trying to do more with less,” Hauswald said.
Using a consultant, the board approved changing boundaries to have more students walk to their neighborhood school and changing the number of bus stops. Students attending programs outside their neighborhood school will walk or be bussed to that school, then will take a shuttle to their school.
The board also changed the beginning and end times of the school day, meaning the buses will run a shorter amount of time. Hauswald said they reduced an hour per day of bus time and reduced between 10 and 15 buses from the fleet.
The corporation also implemented an energy savings plan, which he estimates saved $650,00.
One of the harder parts of the job was implementing a reduction in force of 28 teachers. David Barnes, the corporation’s community relations consultant, said Hauswald attended every meeting with every teacher involved. There were originally more than 30 teachers on the list, but some were recalled before the school board approved the reduction, Barnes said.
Hauswald said the corporation reduced 40 teaching positions, mostly in secondary and special education, but added Spanish teachers because of the international schools.
He also eliminated one district-wide position and combined others for $200,000 in administrative costs saved.
The district office also moved to the former Washington School, and its former location is being demolished to make room for a new parking lot at Maple Crest Middle School.
Hauswald is planning ahead for his second year, including dealing with changes made by the state Legislature, and preparing for the opening of the new schools.
He is curious to see how all the changes made by the legislature, such as allowing charter schools and private school vouchers, and changes in how schools receive money, work during the school year. He thinks the ramifications will be felt over the next few years.
“Only time will tell.”
He said if there was anything he could do over his first year, he would have made more time to spend in the classroom.
“Students are the reason I am in this business... Budgetary considerations and other pressing issues limited my opportunities in those areas. Likewise, Kokomo-Center has so many great teachers who are working so hard every day on behalf of our students. I wish I could have spent a greater amount of time with each of them.”
• Danielle Rush is the Kokomo Tribune education reporter. She can be reached at 765-454-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.