New hope for Muncie schools as Ball State appoints new school board

Muncie school board appointed
New Muncie school board named

MUNCIE, Ind. (WTHR) — There are high hopes for Muncie's troubled low-performing public schools. Ball State is taking them over July 1 and not wasting any time. Monday the university appointed a new 7-member school board to help turn the district around.

Ball State’s President, Geoffrey Mearns, called it a “new day” for a school system that has suffered from years of mismanagement, falling enrollment and poor academic achievement.

The new, appointed school board includes experienced attorneys, a banker, a YMCA director, an educator, an expert in managing buildings and pastor Keith O’Neal. He and his family grew up in Muncie. "I see a problem," O’Neal said. "And hopefully I can add a solution to the problem."

There are many problems. Problems so serve that the state took over Muncie schools. Then lawmakers passed special legislation giving Ball State the authority to run the district.

It enabled us to pull off this important task, this new beginning,” President Mearns explained. ”I am very excited about the future.”

Rebuilding the community’s confidence, Muncie’s schools is among the biggest challenges. Many parents moved their children to other schools. Enrollment dropped 20 percent in five years. New school board member Brittany Bales transferred her children to other schools then moved them back to Muncie.

“It is going to be really important right out of the gate to be transparent and be sharing all the good things that are happening," Bales said. “Because there a lot of good things happening."

Change can’t come soon enough for parents like Linda Miles. She moved her youngest children to private schools. City schools she said need a lot of help.

“They need more teachers," she said. "The need to pay the teacher a little better and smaller class sizes.”

Lives and the life of the community is at stake. Good schools help attract new business and jobs. They effect property values and shape the image of a community.

Judy Benken is a grandmother and a small business owner. “We have to have strong schools. We have to have that goal,” Benken said. “Because no one is going to want to move to this town if they can’t get a good education for their children.”

Muncie’s public schools reopen in about 6 weeks, The new school board will hit the ground running not a sprint race, but a marathon. The task of turning around the city’s schools is expected to take years.

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