Dear Governor Daniels,
I am a resident of the proud town of Speedway Indiana for the past 14 years. My wife and I live in a small little house with our daughter who attends and loves the Speedway School system. The idea of consolidating our schools to us is an outrage and an insult to the Speedway School system and our town. Instead of ending this letter with just saying that I am going to state my reasons and concerns first, then with research I have conducted for the past week regarding my concerns.
My fear and opinion, I feel regardless of what is said and promised, that children with special needs will be ignored with the increase of student population. Our student population is small enough that my wife and I can contact our school administration to speak about our child's progress. Just recently, my wife scheduled a conference with the staff that teaches our daughter. It was scheduled within a few minutes to take place the following week. With an increase in student population, I fear that this will not be able to occur as quickly and frequent as we need. The student population issue and problems that can possibly and more than likely will occur.
My opinion/fear aside, I wish to state fact regarding my reasons for not following the report on school consolidation. This comes from the writing in found in the Kernan-Shepherd report. It mentions in the report regarding education, "Reorganize school districts to have at least 2,000 students in each one. Currently, more than half of Indiana's 293 school districts in Indiana have fewer than 2,000 students, while 46 districts have fewer than 1,000 students". The school system in the town of Speedway was mentioned in the news that would be forced to consolidate.
As a Speedway resident I am forced to disagree with this idea. My reasons included the following; what educational background does Kernan and Shepherd possess, latest news of crime reports around the North Central High School area and gang activity in the schools.
The educational background of Supreme Court Judge Shepherd include, found on the Indiana Government Website states the following, "A seventh generation Hoosier, Shepherd graduated from Princeton University cum laude and from the Yale Law School. He earned a Master of Laws degree in the judicial process from the University of Virginia. Shepherd was Judge of the Vanderburgh Superior Court from 1980 until his appointment. He earlier served as executive assistant to Mayor Russell Lloyd of Evansville and as special assistant to the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation."
It continues stating, "Chief Justice Shepherd was also Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He served as chair of the ABA Appellate Judges Conference and of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. During fiscal year 2005-06, Shepherd served as President of the National Conference of Chief Justices. Shepherd was recently appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts to serve on the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules."
His teaching background, the website also states, "He teaches periodically at the law schools of NYU and Yale." I see no ties to teaching in the Indiana educational school system, just out of state.
Regarding former governor Joe Kernan, the following information was found at Power Network website, "Joe Kernan, the oldest of nine children, graduated from St.Joseph's High School in South Bend. He was a catcher on the baseball team at the University of Notre Dame, and graduated from there in 1968 with a degree in Government. He was the commencement speaker and received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater in 1998."
His military background is outstanding which the website states, "Kernan entered the United States Navy in 1969 and served as a naval flight officer aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. In May of 1972, Kernan was shot down by the enemy while on a reconnaissance mission over North Viet Nam. He was held as a prisoner of war for 11 months. Kernan was repatriated in 1973 and continued on active duty with the Navy until December of 1974".
The military history continues stating, "For his service, Kernan received numerous awards, including the Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After completing his Naval service, Kernan worked for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati in 1975."
After coming back to Indiana the website concludes stating "He then returned to South Bend, where he worked for both the Schwarz Paper Company and the MacWilliams Corporation. He was South Bend's city controller from 1980 to 1984. Joe Kernan was elected mayor of South Bend in 1987. He served as the city's mayor for nine years, longer than any other mayor in the city's history."
Once again I am not seeing any educational history or degree with Kernan, just straight business and political appointments. I am not saying that both men are not extremely educated or to take away from the years of service to state and country, it's that I do not see where they have a degree in education to make the claims they are suggesting in consolidating schools, which includes the Speedway school system.
There seems to be a rise in crime outside the area of Speedway, mainly once again in the North Central High School area. The following report was found on the WISH-TV website;
"North Central Student Arrested in Killing of Woman, 65
As stated this report was back in 1999, after almost 9 years, the gang threat is still there. Looking at the Indiana Barrister website dated September 12 2007, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz states the following, "If you are a parent with kids in a school in Marion County public school, the odds are you have a gang problem. I got my hands on a survey of a number of schools and the gangs that are affiliated with them. The respondents were not administrators or teachers, but students."
He continues starting on the website regarding this gang subject, "They are ones who see gang activity up close and personal when the rest of us turn a blind eye. Most of the problem is concentrated in schools on the East side of Indianapolis, however all school districts have their fair share. Here is the list. Just so you know the new word for a gang is a "crew"."
The gangs mentioned on his website include, Red Mafia, 7-1, New port Apartments and Wood Ridge. To add to the gang activity at Ben Davis, if they are considered in the school consolidation plan are, Haughville, 2100 Haughville, Goom Squad, BeastMode, Fame Squad and Haughville Assassin.
His list does not include any gangs in the Speedway School system. IF this school consolidation occurs, this could lead to increased gang activity. If there is no gang activity in schools including Speedway, why let it spread, it would make sense to keep it contained.
Most recently in August of 2007, the following story was found in the Indianapolis Star,
7 North Central High School Students Arrested on Gang Activity Charges
Yes the schools may be smaller, but funds are self contained and managed within the towns. Our classrooms are small and more funding would be needed for larger classrooms, buses and as North Central has in their school doors according to Judge Rucker "There are armed guards stationed at the school and periodically dangerous weapons and knives have been seized from the school's students." This is something Speedway and the smaller schools do not need nor can they afford both in funds and reputation. From this viewpoint, consolidation would cost more money than save money.
In closing I would like to refer to a letter that Andrea Neal, an educator a teacher at St. Richard's School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar at the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, not a politician, wrote to the Indianapolis Star in which she states, "There's no research to suggest that consolidation would improve student achievement or raise test scores. And headaches associated with consolidation would exceed the modest cost savings."
She continues stating regarding what policy makers should look at is, "If policymakers want to save money, and boost student performance, they should be thinking about competition, not consolidation. When public schools have to compete for students, productivity rises across the board."
Thankfully there is a political voice of reason that I hope you and the rest of the state officials will listen to which is Rep. Phil Hinkle which he stated from the Statehouse December 12, 2007 ,
"I laud the commission for the excellent work they have done in such a short period of time," said Rep. Hinkle. "They have done a tremendous job looking at all levels of government and trying to eliminate inefficiency.
"Regarding school consolidation, there is no justifiable reason to consolidate Speedway schools into another district. It has less than 2,000 students, just been recognized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as one of the 'Best Buys', it has one of the highest achievement rates in the state, kids walk to their neighborhood school and it is less than 40 percent of the tax bill, which is far better than most school districts. Having fewer than 2,000 students does not mean it is costly. In fact, changing the situation could be more costly, not only in money, but in learning ability as well. The commission's report emphasizes that one size does not fit all. Placing Speedway schools under a consolidation plan will not benefit the taxpayers. What we do in the way of reform should benefit the taxpayer and not be change for change sake."
Rep Hinkle even states, "bigger is not always better and that only 37% of a Speedway taxpayer's bill is dedicated to operate the schools. The statewide average is 54%."
State Senator Mike Young also attended the meeting to urge residents to voice their concerns with the governor's office. By his advice I am writing to implore and asking that you leave the consolidation of schools idea on paper and not put it into action. Speedway has a rich and strong history in the community and in education. We in Speedway do not need the potential of higher crime and gang activity to infiltrate our schools as I have stated in this letter.
Todd F Aughe