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Ball State University To Run Muncie Schools On July 1

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Community, Education, Local News
Ball State's Board of Trustees seen in a file photo. (Photo: Stephanie Wiechmann)

Ball State University trustees today formally accepted responsibility for Muncie Community Schools – a charge lawmakers gave the university earlier this week.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, now that the Governor has signed House Bill 1315 into law, Ball State is beginning plans for Muncie’s upcoming school year and beyond.

“Where resource meets need, there’s responsibility.  And I don’t know how you can be Ball State University and have the need in front of us and not see the responsibility.”

That’s Brian Gallagher.  He and his fellow Ball State University trustees voted unanimously to take hold of the future of Muncie schools.  Now it’s up to them to appoint a new seven-member school board by July 1.  Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler and the Muncie City Council will give input on the appointment of two of those members, both of whom are required to live within the Muncie school district’s boundaries.  Of the five Ball State appoints solely, only two have to live in the district.

Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns says that board will run Muncie Community Schools – not the administration or trustees of Ball State.

“They do not report to me.  They’ll report to the public.  They are a public school board, they’ll have public meetings the way any school board would.  Again, the only difference is how they get to that seat, not how they operate once they’re in that position.”

Mearns says that new board will have a lot of help, especially in its early days.  Ball State’s current interim provost, Marilyn Buck, will move to being the liason between the university and the school district.  The state has given permission for current MCS emergency management team Administrator Assistance to stay on for two months to help the new board.

And long-term, Mearns announced that community philanthropic foundations and local banks have pledged nearly $3 million of financial support to help the school district.

“Whatever way I can contribute, it’s going to be positive moving forward in a unified spirit.”

MCS Board Member Jason Donati at the Statehouse earlier this year. He spoke against the bill in committee hearings. (Photo: Tony Sandleben)

Jason Donati was the only current MCS board member not to publicly support Ball State’s plan during the legislative session.  He and current school board members will now serve in an advisory board role.  He says he’ll do what he can to work with the new appointees.  But –

“But as a parent, I’m nervous.  Because school starts August 6.”

Ball State says nominations for possible board appointees will begin immediately.  The university is scheduling a June 12 public forum to talk with the community about what’s next, but a time or location hasn’t been announced yet.  Ball State trustees will meet June 25 to announce school board appointments.  That board begins its duties July 1.

In addition to running the district immediately, it’s next two years will include, as Mearns puts it —

“ – an extensive, consultative process to develop an academic innovation plan.”

Mearns says Ball State will follow a financial plan drafted by Administrator Assistance for this upcoming school year.  In it, he says “virtually all staff” will keep their jobs and will be paid the same as this current school year.

Read More: First Boston, Now Muncie? Lessons From A University-School Collaboration

The bill that is now state law gives no end date to Ball State’s management of Muncie schools.  A similar agreement between Boston University and a Massachusetts school district lasted for 20 years – 10 years initially plus a 10-year extension.