May 17, 2018

Ball State Formally Begins Muncie Schools Takeover

Ball State’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on a resolution to run Muncie Community Schools. - Stephanie Wiechmann/Indiana Public Radio

Ball State’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on a resolution to run Muncie Community Schools.

Stephanie Wiechmann/Indiana Public Radio

The Ball State University Board of Trustees has approved the university taking over the financially troubled Muncie Community Schools — days after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation allowing the move.

The board unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday accepting responsibility for governing the district.

Now it’s up to them to appoint a new seven-member school board by July 1.

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,” Mearns says.

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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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