The Duneland School Board on Thursday approved a set of budget cuts
estimated at $1.4 million, including an early retirement incentive for
teachers and the termination of the top positions at the Alternative School
and the Positive Life Program.
Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer warned that additional cuts will still be
needed and that these will be acted upon in the coming weeks. Earlier, the
state’s funding cut to Duneland was projected at around $1.3 million, but
Baer said the latest estimate is that the loss will be higher, at around
The funding cuts at Duneland are being felt by schools throughout Indiana,
in response to statewide cuts in tuition support for schools of nearly $300
Among the budget cuts announced by Baer and approved by the school board
•Duneland teachers will be offered an early retirement incentive of a
$15,000 one-time payment into their health coverage accounts if they retire
early, provided that they have at least 10 years experience with Duneland
and qualify for the state retirement benefit program. The payout will
increase to $22,500 per teacher if at least 20 teachers sign up.
•Estelle Chaddock’s position as director of the Alternative School will be
terminated and her duties will be transferred to admininstrators who will
now oversee the program, which will move to Chesterton High School. The
relocation is estimated to save $206,000.
•Gloria Guerrero’s position as director of the Positive Life Program will be
terminated, and the duties for the substance abuse program will be
transferred to other administrators.
•The school board gave approval for a “reduction in force” for four
classified, non-teaching staff positions, saving an estimated $216,000 in
salary and benefits.
•The Instructional Materials Center, located on Fifth Street, will close.
The technology department will move to the space now occupied by the
Alternative School. The school board still must decide what to do with the
•Five contrtact days now built into the contracts for seven administrative
assistants at the elementary and intermediate schools will be cut.
•School board members will each take a $500 pay cut from their $2,000 a year
stipend. Their per-meeting pay is not affected.
•School building availability will be curtailed, with no schools available
after 7 p.m. and no Friday building use except at CHS. Four buildings --
Bailly, Westchester and Liberty Intermediate, and CHS --- will be available
to outside groups on Saturdays, but only during 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with all
janitorial and other costs paid for by the groups.
Other cost-savings moves announced by Baer include a continuation of a
school energy savings program, estimated at $60,000 savings; a prohibition
on the purchase of new vehicles; and the elimination of certain athletic
programs not considered core programs. Other cost-saving moves anticipated
include administrative furloughs, a reduction in the summer school schedule
and increased summer school fees.
Through attrition and the early retirement incentive, Duneland expects to
save up to $600,000 this year, Baer said.
On Thursday, the school board approved a list of 16 certified staff members
who are retiring this year, all of whom will qualify for the early
retirement bonus (see related story). If at least four more sign up by the
Feb. 19 deadline, the bonus will increase to a one-time payment of $22,500
into each retirees’ medical expense accounts. To qualify, the teachers must
meet the “rule of 85,” in which the their age and years of service total at
Although the incentive will initially require a payout, Baer said Duneland
will still save money, especially over the long-term. He noted that the
difference between a top-earning teacher and one who has only a few years’
experience can translate to a savings of roughly $40,000 in salaries and
benefits per person. “This is a way to save dollars without (sacrificing)
programs,” he said.
However, he also emphasized that the drawback to losing veteran teachers is
that the school system loses their years of experience and knowledge.
Baer said it remains to be seen if more state funding cuts to schools will
be announced, but he said there is “no reason to think” the financial
situation will get any better any time soon.
The budget cuts announced Thursday will not directly impact classroom
instruction, but Baer said that it’s getting more difficult to cut costs
without affecting the core academic programs.
Duneland School Board President Mike Trout said the cuts will be felt
across-the-board, and that is why the board members felt it was important
for them to take a loss as well. Trout acknowledged that a $500 per board
member pay cut may not sound like much, but that “everybody’s going to feel
The budget reduction plan passed without extensive board discussion, but
Duneland School Board member John Marshall said no one should get the idea
that the decision was an easy one. Administrators and board members spent a
great deal of time considering the budget moves, Marshall said, adding that
he was personally torn by some of the proposals.
“These were very, very difficult decisions for us,” he said.
In a separate financial matter, the school board approved the resolutions
needed for a school pension bond refinancing, which is expected to save
Duneland Schools up to $185,000 over the four years of the bond issue. A
public hearing on the refinancing will be held at the March 1 school board
Also Thursday, Bailly Elementary Principal Mike Grubb presented student
Sophia Burke with a framed certificate honoring her for her efforts to help
the people of Haiti.
Burke approached Grubb after the earthquake and told him that she wanted to
do something to help the earthquake victims. She took up a collection in
school and raised a total of $252, which went to the Feed My Starving
Also, the school board heard two presentations from Bailly Elementary School
Fourth grade teachers Cris Petro and Angie Nelson outlined their use of a
software program called “Turning Point,” an interactive program in which
students use clicker devices to participate in educational activities and
tests. The results can be displayed instantly, which allows teachers the
ability to zero in quickly on a subject that students might be having
trouble with. Both teachers said the program is a great way to motivate
kids, and that many of their students are excited to use the program.
The program was demonstrated at Thursday’s meeting, with school board
members and administrators given the clickers and quizzed on a few
Also Bailly nurse Mary Danko and head kitchen manager Lisa Ozimek outlined
the school’s participation in the “Fuel Up to Play 60” program sponsored by
the NFL and the National Dairy Council. Students earn points for healthy
eating and exercising, with as many as 100 students participating on any
given day. Danko said Bailly now has the highest number of points in Indiana
and is ranked seventh in the nation. To recognize the school’s success, a
few Indiana Colts players are expected to visit the school.
Also Thursday, the school board accepted a recommendation from Westchester
Public Library to appoint Nicholas Tilden to the WPL Board to replace Karen
Nash, who resigned as the school corporation’s appointee.