The Herald Bulletin

Midday Update

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May 6, 2010

South Madison hears appeals to save auto mechanics class

PENDLETON, Ind. — South Madison Community Schools laid off the first of about 23 teachers who could get pink slips, but the board on Thursday also heard emotional appeals to save an auto mechanics course and its instructor.

The school board voted to eliminate the positions of 11 nonpermanent teachers because of budget constraints as state revenue has dwindled. Superintendent Tom Warmke said “obviously it’s a great disappointment for all of us,” and told the board that more cuts will be presented at the board’s May 20 meeting.

Thursday evening, auto mechanics teacher Mike Morgan thanked the board for the opportunity to teach auto mechanics at Pendleton Heights High School for the past nine years, and said several of his students had been recruited by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford and other automakers.

“I find teaching moments with my kids every day,” he said. “It’s the kids who make the school, and it’s the kids who make the community when they become adults.” 

Morgan said that if there was an opportunity to reinstate the program, “I hope the community would support it.”

Students still will have access to auto mechanics classes, but likely would have to travel to the Ebbertt Education Center in Anderson for instruction if the program was eliminated.

Tina Scanlon has a son who is a junior at Pendleton Heights enrolled in the course that she told the board was  “invaluable.” She said her son wants to be a diesel mechanic.

“It’s taught him how to be self-reliant,” she said. “Those are life skills some of our kids will never get. ... Not all of us are called to Ivy League schools.”

Board member Mike Gaskill suggested that the board might want to reconsider the program cut. He noted one of his three children took the course that led him to a trade out of high school.

“The skills he uses, I think, were developed in Mr. Morgan’s auto mechanics class,” Gaskill said.

“I’d like to see us keep this program. ... I think we need to sharpen our pencils and do some soul-searching.”

Board President Jon Trippeer told Morgan that as “an old industrial arts teacher,” he could sympathize. But he said the schools’ financial crunch, like those of other districts, forced tough cuts. He said he’d like to see the program saved, but “I dare not make any promises.”

Warmke said, “These are very, very difficult decisions. ... It’s not easy, and when you reduce 25 positions, there are going to be some positions that go with the program.”

In addition to the nonpermanent teaching positions eliminated on Thursday, the board also cut two custodial positions at the elementary level.

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250, dave.stafford@heraldbulletin.com

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