Valpo school superintendent urges residents to contact lawmakers about $900,000 shortfall
By Diane Kubiak Post-Tribune correspondent January 17, 2013 12:38AM
Updated: January 19, 2013 10:32PM
VALPARAISO — Fill out those cards, do the online questionnaires and email those in the Indiana General Assembly who are deciding what to do with the state’s surplus funds.
That was the message Superintendent Mike Berta gave those gathered to observe the Valparaiso School Board do business when it met last week.
Berta waited until the public comment section of the agenda to pass out a list of state senators and representatives who represent Northwest Indiana and their contact numbers. “Confining the conversation to this room is not going to get anything done,” Berta told the group.
Chief Financial Officer Sharon Qualkenbush crunched 2012 budget numbers and, with the cuts the state has made in the district’s 2013 budget, predicted that the district will face a shortfall of about $900,000 in general fund revenue this year.
With 86 percent of the district’s budget going to personnel, the prospects look grim, Berta said.
The board altered how the high-achieving district delivered instruction last year by eliminating many paraprofessionals and reducing their salaries.
They also have been evaluating each retirement and resignation and filling only positions deemed essential.
The board on Wednesday eliminated a $70,000 information-technology position by redistributing responsibilities for those who compile student data.
On the money-saving side, the board signed an agreement with Purdue North Central that would allow Valparaiso High School students to enter as sophomores, provided they take the courses deemed “priority” courses by PNC. VHS has already been offering “dual credit” courses with PNC and two other vocational universities.
By taking courses that are prerequisites to four majors at PNC during their sophomore, junior or senior years, VHS students are guaranteed a three-year path to graduation.
PNC Chancellor James B. Dworkin said dual-credit students generally succeed in college because they have proven in high school they can do the work.
PNC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Karen Schmidt said the program is the first like it in the nation.
“Priority” courses cost only $25 per credit hour as opposed to more than $200 per credit hour when taken as a freshman at PNC. Of the 25 courses PNC has co-designed with VHS, most are three credit hours per course. Some, like the two-semester calculus course, are 10 credit hours.
Purdue waives the fees for VHS students who are on free or reduced-price lunches.
VHS Principal Reid Amones said the dual credit program drew 94 VHS students in 2009-10, its first year. This year, 295 students are seeking PNC credit from their VHS courses.
The students receive a PNC transcript for the courses, whose credit hours are accepted at any state-supported university.