Manchester Releases Statement On Wabash Consolidation

NORTH MANCHESTER – At the Manchester School Board meeting recently, Superintendent Dr. Bill Reichhart released a public statement on school consolidation.
“The formal response is that the Manchester Community Schools board of trustees and leaders of the community have been in discussion with the Wabash County Schools about creating joint services between these schools. However, the Manchester Community Schools Board of Trustees is not committed to agreeing to countywide consolidation among all three public school districts. The MCS board of trustees will continue to explore any and all ideas that are in the best interests of our students, our community and our stakeholders. For the future we will be meeting at a strategic meeting and vision process this spring,” the statement said.
Reichhart said three members interested in attending this meeting could accompany him to later inform the rest of the board.
“It is a very important process. We haven’t done this in the last seven years, but hopefully three to five years from now we will be able to see what we want the corporation to look like, explore our opportunities, and build succession plans.”
Also at the meeting, Business Manager Scott Bumgardner proposed a 2017 budget reduction.
The board received its final budget rate Jan. 17.
North Manchester has one of the lowest tax rates in Wabash County, but there were still a few areas that needed to be tweaked from the original estimated budget for the year, the board heard. Essentially, money is not being lost but moved to other areas, such as toward pension payments. The school board’s only worry lies within the transportation’s budget and whether or not a new bus will have to be purchased this year or if this matter should wait. If there is a need to replace a bus, there should still be enough set aside to take care of a problem if one should arise.
The board also is preparing to apply for the Lilly Endowment Implementation grant. The board has already received $30,000 from the Lilly Endowment Planning Grant to aid in the costs of professional training for their counselors. The second half of this grant is competitive, but would offer $100 per student if Manchester Community Schools was accepted.
A classified stipend was approved in order to provide teachers with another performance grant this year. A bonus was sent out around Christmas time, but there is room in the budget to offer even more to those who serve MCS. The stipend will be based on performance and will offer the same amount to everyone who exceeds at MCS.
Bumgardner said, on behalf of the board, “We could never pay these teachers, cooks, office staff and bus drivers enough for what they do everyday.”
This school year hasn’t permitted many snow days, but the first three-hour delay was recently conducted and it went smoothly. The teachers say they enjoy having that extra hour of teaching time and it is a day that doesn’t have to be tacked on to the end of the year. Overall, Superintendent Dr. Bill Reichhart says he has heard positive feedback for the uncommon alternative.
The lack of interruptions is also allowing students to stay on track and prepare for upcoming testing. ISTEP will begin Feb. 28 for students in seven and eighth grade as well as high school sophomores.
Jena Smith will be a new science teacher at Manchester Jr./Sr. High School. She is a Manchester University graduate that has just completed her student teaching training at Bluffton High School.
“I am super excited to be here. It’s an exciting opportunity,” she said.
Margie Miller announced her retirement days prior to the school board meeting. At the end of the meeting, the school board offered their best wishes for her to enjoy her retired life.

Keri Koenig, Times-Union Correspondent