CHURUBUSCO — Matt Whonsetler is about to get a partner.
With the support of several staff members — and Smith-Green Community Schools Superintendent Daniel Hile, who formerly held Whonsetler’s position — the Churubusco Elementary School principal formally presented a request to create an assistant principal position at the school board’s March 25 meeting. The board voted 5-0 in favor of creating the position.
“It’s exciting to know that we’re going to be able to support our students and our staff even more,” Whonsetler said. “For about the last three years, there’s been talk of the need to support our students and staff.”
SGCS faculty filled the boardroom to capacity for the meeting, in support of both Whonsetler’s proposal and four retiring CES teachers who were honored at the meeting. Their retirements, along with that of at least two other SGCS personnel, contributed to the district’s ability to hire an assistant principal at CES after cutting the position six years ago.
Four of those gathered spoke in favor of creating the position during the meeting’s first public comment section. A common theme from their comments was that Whonsetler is constantly pulled in many directions at once, and is often required to cancel or cut short commitments and meetings in order to handle situations elsewhere in the school. He commented on this during his presentation as well, noting that this damages his relationship with both students and staff.
“We want to become the highest performing elementary school in Indiana,” he said. “I truly believe that I have the right kids on the bus, I have the right teachers on the bus, we just need another driver to get us there.”
He noted that CES has about 530 enrolled students, on par with other area schools despite the district’s relatively small size.
“If you truly think about the ratio of administrator to students, and the ratio of staff to administrator,” Whonsetler said, “we’re missing the mark.”
He highlighted several ambitious programs at CES, including the school’s preschool and emotionally disabled programs, both added since the deletion of the assistant principal position. These programs, he said, can take up several hours of time each week — leaving the rest of the school’s students and staff without an administrator.
The assistant principal would help relieve Whonsetler in such instances, giving both staff and students more stability and a stronger educational environment.
Additional roles for the new assistant principal would include some discipline duties — though not all, as Whonsetler said he enjoys making connections with students and helping them in that setting — as well as mentoring teachers, assisting in case conferences and handling Title I duties. All of these would be in partnership with Whonsetler.
“Ultimately, these are my people, and this is my school,” he said, “so ultimately this all comes through me.”
Whonsetler also noted that the school’s state-assigned letter grade — currently a D — began to decrease shortly after the deletion of the assistant principal position.
“I truly believe it’s the lack of support that we’re providing these folks,” he said. “We’re not happy with the D, and we don’t want to be there, but we know we need support to get there.”
Hile also voiced support for the position. He said that other area superintendents told him that they brought on assistant principals when their elementary schools hit 400 enrolled students — and that’s without CES’s extra programs.
Financially, Hile said that the planned retirement of several personnel helps offset the cost of the new administrator.
None of the teaching positions would be lost, he said, but the new teachers may not cost as much as the retiring ones.
“Even if, in my mind, the four replacement teachers came in and took all the insurances and all the things they could do,” he said, “and the assistant principal came in and also took all the insurance and whatnot, the total increase in cost to the district is still less than $7,000.”
If all five new hires declined their insurance, he said, the district would see more than $71,000 in funds.
“Obviously, neither of those extremes is likely to happen,” he added, noting that he wanted to give the board “a ballpark range” of the potential costs — or savings.
Questions from the board included current salary costs and other expenses resulting from last year’s referendum (all of which have been budgeted for), before the unanimous vote to in favor of recreating the position.