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Schools chief tells ‘state of the schools’

Updated: May 10, 2013 6:45AM



VALPARAISO — The Valparaiso Community Schools are looking at how to better prepare students for the current century.

Superintendent Mike Berta appeared before the City Council on Monday to present the state of the school corporation and tell about what he sees are the opportunities.

Berta addressed four subjects — changes in teaching, learning and curriculum; attention to finances; pursuit of quality; and facilities for learning and investing in staff training. He plans to meet with people to find out “in our best guess, what does education look like for the future,” he said.

He said that a doctor from the 18th century wouldn’t know what to do in a modern operating room, but a teacher from then would know what to do in a modern classroom because education hasn’t changed much. Curriculum needs to continually evolve, as technology changes and impacts learning, Berta said.

The schools’ budget has gone from an end balance of negative $23,671 in February 2012 to $924,740 in February 2013, but the Rainy Day Fund for emergencies has dropped from $3.4 million to $1.5 million. But that’s not been used since November.

In state funding, Valparaiso Community Schools ranks 336 of 363 districts and gets $4,977 per student compared to $7,994 for Aspire Charter Academy.

The district gets $730 less than the state average per student, a total of $4.5 million per school year.

For quality, the schools are seeking national accreditation via a program where teachers communicate through grade levels to let those who taught before them know what they required students to know.

For schools to better adapt for future learning, there were three studies from 2007 to 2009 that addressed the eight elementary schools, but Berta wants to include the high school and two middle schools.

“There will be public presentations once we have something of value,” he said.

Berta said he would try to have his presentation on the school corporation’s website on Tuesday, along with the numbers of relevant state legislators and their contact information.

Also at the meeting, the council had a public hearing on a $5.25 million bond to build a new public works facility behind the water treatment plant on Joliet Road. City officials said paying off the bonds won’t involve a tax increase because the city will divert money it’s using to pay off a parks department bond issue that will end this year.

Public works has been on the same 5.6 acres on Axe Avenue since before the 1940s and needs room to grow. The new site has 30 to 40 city-owned acres to allow public works to share resources with the utilities department.



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