The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Education

March 3, 2011

Residents beg board to spare Wigwam

They ask for more time to raise money

ANDERSON, Ind. — More time.

That’s what community members asked the Anderson Community School Board to give them at Thursday’s town hall meeting regarding the closure of the Wigwam Complex.

ACS Superintendent Felix Chow has recommended that the facility be closed, citing high operational costs, and the board will make its decision Tuesday at the regular school board meeting.

In a town hall meeting packed with just under 200 people, the board was asked multiple times to postpone its Wigwam decision and give the community a chance to save the basketball icon.

That was Anderson resident Jack Graham’s request.

On Tuesday, Graham plans to formally address the board with his proposal to save the Wigwam, but it’ll take time, he said.

Graham wants to possibly start a nonprofit organization to manage and rent out the Wigwam.

Graham is worried that the Wigwam could be sold for $1 if proposed legislation is passed that would mandate that all buildings that sit vacant for one year be sold for $1 to interested charter and private schools.

Jay Richards, a 1976 graduate of Anderson High School, pleaded with the board. “Are you really wanting to close this national icon? Understand what you are closing. You can’t get it back once you shut it down.”

Anderson Indians head basketball coach Ron Hecklinski said he has spent nearly every day of the past 18 years in the Wigwam and said it is being used today.

With the vocational and kindergarten programs, the halls are filled, he said.

Hecklinski said he enjoys seeing the kindergarten students playing on the gym floor during the school day. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Keep the little kids running on the floor,” he said.

Parent John Clemmons said the Wigwam is important, but its significance doesn’t trump the mission of a school corporation: to educate children.

“That’s all that is. That’s nostalgia,” he said. “The product of this school system is what we need to focus on.”

Resident David Tackly read a long letter to the board, explaining that the community cannot lose the Wigwam.

“To shutter the Wigwam will let outside communities know that we have given up on community pride,” he said, wondering aloud if administrators were working hard enough to save money at the gym. “Has energy been wasted when all that had to be done was dial down the thermostat?”

AHS alum Lisa Miller asked the board for a six-month extension so that she might find corporate sponsors to take over the Wigwam.

The board did not respond to such requests, as the meeting was meant to allow the public to speak, but not to respond.

“You know who needs to pay for the Wigwam? General Motors,” Miller said.

Tom Earl, president of the organization Save Our Schools, said Chow is interested in educating children, and doesn’t understand the significance of the Wigwam in Anderson. “Dr. Chow does not know Anderson and he does not intend to spend the rest of his life here.”

“I do believe without the Wigwam we’d be fatally damaged,” he added.

Board members did not respond to comments, but board president Scott Green said the meeting was meant to give the public a voice as members decide what to do about the facility.

The board meets next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Anderson High School where it will discuss the future of the Wigwam along with the possible layoffs of 140 teachers.

Contact Brandi Watters 640-4847, brandi.watters@heraldbulletin.com

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