Dear Mrs. Myers,
I wanted to assure you that we are concerned about all the items you mentioned in your last letter. You mentioned the loss of students and the loss of staff. Both are true but your conclusion that it had to do with educational issues is not accurate. For the past two years our graduating class had 150 students per class and our incoming Kindergarten class was only 93. That accounts for roughly 100 fewer students. Census data shows we are not having as many babies born in our area. We also regret the loss of the teachers. They are amazing but funding for them is based on how many students and we had no choice.
You addressed Common Core and the lack of cursive writing both at the same time so again let me try to explain. Indiana decides what standards we use. They voted in the legislature to not allow us to use Common Core. They also determined that cursive is no longer a required, tested, or standards-based item. We continue to teach students to read and write cursive but do not put as much emphasis on that process.
Regarding the building project, several perceptions are not as you had noted. First, the ground is certainly safe as the current building is on the same site and it has stood since 1923. We placed pillars in to ensure the next building will have the same longevity for the community and to meet the changed building code requirements from the state. You may recall the reason we built something new was the cost of fixing the old building was a million dollars more than the new building.
You also have heard someplace that we think the 5th grade should stay at Whitko Middle School. That rumor started four years ago during discussions with the community. One option was to build small elementary buildings and move Grade 5 to WMS. The committee, community and administration all said no. When the buildings are finished Grade 5 will go to the elementary buildings. If you asked a 5th grade student like my grandson attending WMS, he’d say it’s great. I know he may be biased but that is all we’ve heard from the kids.
One other comment, we did not decide to build a new administration building. The Board, based on our recommendation, voted to not award a bid for that structure back in April. Our commitment is to make the renovations at South Whitley Elementary School and the new building at Pierceton Elementary School the finest we can within the limits our community asked, no new taxes.
Your other comments were regarding the technology implementation at grades 6-12. Yes, we began 1:1 this year. You are correct that students did not get downloads of entire textbooks at the start of the year. We had the textbooks from last year to use when needed. Teachers attended training this summer and were giving the needed digital information as downloads to students. Regarding the access to the Internet, we have partnered with Performance PC, a local internet provider, to provide access at low cost or, when needed, no cost for the areas we realize do not have home access. Parents have all been notified of this. We have also partnered with the local libraries to have students work there. Many older students are going where there is free Wi-Fi or to a friend’s house and working on things there. No person is being denied access to the needed information and they are not behind in studies.
Oh yes, you mentioned the issues of machines not working. Students with a device that does not work report to the library, get a loaner device and theirs is fixed and returned. No one has a reason to not have access.
Finally you mentioned the school’s academic performance. I have to brag a bit here. South Whitley Elementary had every student in Grade 5 pass the ISTEP math. Pierceton has closed the gap between children of poverty and the rest of the population while increasing their overall achievement to beyond area averages. Whitko Middle school has grown students more in the past three years than any time before. Whitko High School has the highest graduation rate in the county and has raised the academic rigor and achievement on the ECAs (End of Course Assessments) to well beyond state and local averages.  So, if you look at our scores compared to the area schools, we are at or above most of their scores on things like attendance rates, ISTEP and graduation rates. We also offer a full set of courses not for the college-bound and have access to programs for our students off-campus as well. We do this while still offering over 56 College Credits in the Dual Credit and Advanced Placement Programs.
You said we (South Whitley) were on probation but I have no idea what you believe we are on probation for since are fully accredited at every level.  The education of every child is our priority. It is why we exist. Last year our state grades you asked about were an “A” at Pierceton Elementary School, a “C” at South Whitley Elementary, a “B” at Whitko Middle School and an “A” at Whitko High School.  
Whitko is not the perfect school system and I would gladly talk to you sometime about any issue you hear. I am sorry the information in your letter leads you to believe we are not student-centered and determined that the education of the children we have graciously been allowed to care and teach is not the priority. Whitko has a long proud tradition of excellent programs, amazing teachers and staff and is committed to doing the very best we can for all our children.
Please feel free to contact me at any time.