Valparaiso meeting on Thursday to look at future of schools
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent August 13, 2014 12:00PM
Ric Frataccia, school superintendent. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: September 15, 2014 5:04PM
VALPARAISO — What residents say at Thursday’s public input meeting is not only a plan for the school district’s future, it could decide what may be two referendums in May or November.
New Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Ric Frataccia hopes to get more input at the meeting for the outline his predecessor, Mike Berta, introduced in April.
The 6 p.m. meeting at Thomas Jefferson Middle School’s cafeteria will be the third community input meeting for “Phase II: Considerations for K-12 21st Century Learning,” a plan that calls for repairing and improving buildings and restoring positions and programs.
Frataccia attended the second session in May, just 15 days after the School Board officially named him Berta’s replacement.
“I came away with a couple of ideas I hadn’t thought about,” Frataccia said. “They’ve had value for me, so I think (these meetings are) going to continue to have value.”
A possible elementary school south of U.S. 30 was one idea.
“I was really struck by the power of the community’s belief in neighborhood elementary schools,” he said.
There are several ways to achieve the goal of keeping the neighborhood schools, but that likely would mean there might be no new high school.
The high school was one of Berta’s suggestions in his list of improvements, from upgraded and repaired schools to increasing foreign language offerings to replacing learning assistants, guidance staff and others laid off since 2008.
Frataccia wants to have some sort of plan — with estimated costs — by early fall based on public input, his experience and School Board Members’ experiences, but that timing is not absolute.
“Nothing’s going to be written in stone until the public is with it,” he said.
It’s likely he’ll suggest a referendum for building improvement and another for the general fund, and the public will vote on referendums for both in May or November, depending on how the district garners support.
“I think Valparaiso knows what we need, and I think they will support a referendum easily because we don’t plan on luxury items. We plan on making what we have better,” he said.
If the board approves his plan, Frataccia will meet with community groups for input and support.
“This is my hometown. It’s my home school corporation; it’s where I started; it’s where my kids went to school. I don’t take any of this lightly. It’ll be the best plan I can develop,” Frataccia said.