Classroom sizes have increased at Mt. Vernon schools, especially at the high school, where about 25 percent of the teaching staff has been cut over the past few years. Referendum proponents believe the impacts of cost-cutting measures implemented at MV might be enough to sway voters. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
FORTVILLE — If the Mt. Vernon School Board votes to move forward with the district’s referendum on Monday, it will be the third try in less than four years.
The two prior referendums, in 2010 and 2012, failed by double-digit margins. But with a grassroots campaign spearheaded by MV parents who want to see the referendum pass, school officials and supporters see this time around as their best chance to court voters.
“We do not favor any more cost-cutting. We are addressing the revenue side,” said Larry Longman, who along with Jeff Mull is spearheading the pro-referendum efforts with a group called GraduateMVCSC. “The costs have been cut as deep as they can. Now we have to get additional revenue to offset the deficit.”
GraduateMVCSC’s ultimate goal is to see Mt. Vernon eliminate its debt. Longman and Mull were spurred into action after the state’s recently established Distressed Unit Appeals Board, which was designed to specifically address state loans to ailing school districts, denied Mt. Vernon’s request for a $2.5 million loan.
School officials believe having GraduateMVCSC in their corner could make the third time the charm for MV referendums. Couple that with the fact that the impacts of the cost-cutting measures implemented at MV are more visible, and it might be enough to turn around voter sentiment.
“We’re not talking about building stuff. We’re talking about classroom performance. We’re talking about teachers,” school board President Tony May said. “I think they are starting to come around.”
According to May, some people who spoke negatively of the referendums in the past and voted against them are changing their minds now that the deep cuts the district has made have come to light, including shuttering the former Fortville Elementary School; reducing the teaching staff; implementing a pay-to-play program for all clubs and athletics; and moving eighth-grade students to the high school building.
“The message is getting out. We’re really talking about performance in the classroom,” May said.
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