Mrs. M had finished her education degree a couple of years before we moved to Muncie, IN, so I could do the doctorate. After subbing for a time, followed by a half-time position, her first permanent teaching gig was with the Muncie Community Schools. Her school was one of the relatively inner-city elementary schools, on the side of town where folks didn’t live if they could help it. She did a good job, of course, and I suspect her experience stood her in good stead down here in Mondoville, where many of her students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But we’ve been gone from Muncie for nearly 15 years now, and as I’ve kept track of the news up there, I’ve watched the city’s public schools decline as enrollment dropped and the tax base dwindled — life in the Rust Belt. The factories shut down, and the people who could get out did so — either to the burbs or to a different locale entirely. And the schools took a lot of the hit. Schools were closed; teachers were sacked.
Things reached a nadir when the state of Indiana took over the school system last year, as a result of financial distress. (If it’s any clue, Muncie was one of two systems in this particular situation. The other? Gary, IN.)
However, I found something interesting in my e-mail today — a letter from the new president of Ball State U, my doctoral alma mater. Apparently there is a bill before the legislature that essentially would allow BSU to take over administration of Muncie Community Schools. I don’t know if this is unprecedented, but it’s new to me. It does make a certain amount of sense — from its origins as the State Normal School through its years as a teachers’ college, BSU has always been concerned with public primary and secondary education. Additionally, Burris Laboratory School (a public school affiliated with the University) has always done well — and had we stayed in Muncie, it’s likely where I would have wanted the Spawn to attend. On the other hand, the article from the Star-Press makes it sound like the enterprise has elements of a coup, and local government officials seemed surprised by all this.
So I guess we’ll see. But as someone with a sentimental spot for Muncie and its schools, I hope they can get things worked out.