Three topics dominated Richmond Community Schools’ nearly three-hour Sept. 27 board meeting: Concerns about the potential dismissal of the teachers’ union president, the district’s 2024 budget, and opportunities to purchase McBride Stadium.
Before the meeting that was moved to Civic Hall to accommodate a larger crowd, Richmond Education Association and Indiana State Teachers Association representatives gathered outside to rally support for REA President Kelley McDermott.
REA officials reported Sept. 6 that RCS had recommended canceling the Dennis Middle School teacher’s contract. REA had filed two Unfair Labor Practices complaints in June and August, asserting that the school district bypassed the established bargaining process to adjust teacher compensation, and that teachers are “under attack” from the administration.
The RCS board heard from eight speakers (Penny Schenck, Dixie Robinson, Sam Thomas, Keith Morey, John Wessel-McCoy, Ben Guard, Beth Harrick and Jimmy Freiberger), many of whom are retirees, parents or community members who are concerned about McDermott’s fate as well as what the current tension between RCS administration and teachers means for students, employees and the community. Board members did not respond to the speakers or address the concerns at the meeting.
In addition, Chief Operations Officer Karen Scalf presented a detailed plan about the opportunity to purchase McBride Stadium from Richmond Parks and Recreation Department for $12,000.
RCS currently rents the stadium for Richmond High School baseball games. Seton Catholic also plays there.
She noted extensive work would be needed on the fields, concrete, roof and other areas, adding many dollars to the price tag, but it could even become the home of RHS softball and baseball teams.
Taking over McBride could provide flexibility to move current RHS tennis courts to an area that needs less maintenance, and offer more recreational opportunities for youth, she said.
During a public hearing on RCS’ 2024 budget, Chief Financial Officer Jamie Bolser provided ideas for how the district might use available tools to fix some financial issues over the long term.
She said RCS has one of the state’s lowest tax rates, and circuit-breaker tax caps add to the challenges of increasing staff salaries and benefits.
Bolser said the district’s resources are limited at a time when they are working toward goals of improving student achievement. She compared it to other districts having a 300-meter head start in a 400-meter race.
Some options discussed include a $10 million assumed debt increase, a $500,000 to $1 million Common School Fund loan and a $420,000 excess levy appeal.
The board intends to adopt next year’s budget, capital project and bus replacement plans at its Oct. 18 meeting.
Read more about the meeting in the Oct. 4 edition of Western Wayne News.
A version of this article appeared in the October 4 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.