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Muncie Schools Put Under Full State Control

A small group of rally-goers demonstrate outside of a school board meeting.

As of January 1, Muncie Community Schools will be designated a “distressed political subdivision.”

All five members of the Distressed Unit Appeals Board voted to keep MCS under state control. But, as many said at a meeting in Indianapolis, it wasn’t because MCS officials didn’t make progress on controlling the district’s multi-million dollar debt.

Paul Joyce: “Progress has been made, great effort has been made by the school corporation. But we’re not there yet.”

Democratic state Senator Eddie Melton: “… an abbreviated time frame, I believe, that they have – just six months. I wish it could have been a little bit longer, they could have addressed the issue.”

Board chair Micah Vincent: “There is still that very large question on the 2014 general obligation bond issue. There have been steps made on the rest of the puzzle.”

Over the last several months under partial state control, MCS emergency management team Administrator Assistance has restructured the district’s bonds, created a balanced budget for 2018, negotiated a new teacher’s contract, and negotiated the sale of Northside Middle School and four other parcels, including three former elementary school properties.

But according to reports filed with DUAB, the district still has $43 million in long-term debt, including $9 million in 2014 building maintenance bonds that were used instead for the general fund.

DUAB chair Micah Vincent says even if the district had been given back local control, the state legislature would have still seen financial requests from Muncie in the future

“My expectation is that you’re going to see Muncie Community Schools come and request some additional assistance from the state of Indiana. And as I look at that and think about that, that’s another item that makes me think that the role of the state should continue to be involved.”

The board also designated Administrator Assistance to be the temporary emergency manager of MCS beginning January 1st, after its current contract expires in 2017. The move puts the Administrator Assistance in charge of MCS for several months, until DUAB can complete a search process for a permanent manager. Administrator Assistance is allowed to compete for that permanent contract.

In Indianapolis, MCS Superintendent Steven Baule did not speak to the media. The district has not released a statement, and officials could not say when one would be available.

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