SELLERSBURG – Deplorable school conditions and dysfunctional community relationships.
On Wednesday night, more than 30 Sellersburg residents told Indiana State Board of Education representatives that those two reasons – and countless more – are why Silver Creek schools should be allowed to secede from the West Clark Community Schools district because they feel changes to their schools will not happen otherwise.
A packed audience of about 130 citizens braved the bitter cold to participate in the informal listening session that focused on the proposed WCCS reorganization plan, which would see the Silver Creek campus separating from the district to form its own district.
The WCCS reorganization proposal is the first of its kind ever presented to the state.
The SBOE representatives came to Silver Creek Middle School to gather feedback from the public on the proposed plan in accordance with Indiana state law.
Thursday, SBOE representatives will repeat the feedback process in both Henryville and Borden simultaneously from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. One session will be at Henryville Elementary School, 215 N. Ferguson St.; the other at Borden High School, 301 West Street.
The WCCS board of trustees voted in November 2017 for the Silver Creek campus in Sellersburg to secede from the district after voters turned down a proposed referendum for $95 million.
After nearly a year of working out the details, the WCCS board officially submitted a plan for separation to the Indiana State Board of Education in October.
Titled the “West Clark Community Schools Reorganization Plan,” the document covers everything from names of the two new school districts to boundaries to debt service rate.
Each presenter was given three minutes to talk, and participants came from all walks of life, from current high school students, parents, residents, community leaders and business owners.
One by one, participants expressed displeasure with what they see as inadequate facilities and limited educational opportunities – especially at Silver Creek High School – due to overcrowding and outdated buildings.
They also repeatedly commented on the long-standing bitterness that exists between residents of Sellersburg and the residents of the Borden and Henryville because they are at an impasse on all key critical issues, which prevents the entire district from moving forward.
Many spoke of combative times and countless struggles over the years that were covered in a narrative of the district’s struggles that was included in the submitted reorganization plan.
That narrative noted several key times in the district’s history when efforts were made to find common ground between the communities that comprise WCCS.
“For example, in 1994 board members sought to consolidate the three high schools into one high school,” the plan states. “Certain constituents responded by lodging threats of violence against school board members. Several school board members resigned, and no high school consolidation plan has been considered since.”
Educator Dee Kramer, who is a resident of Henryville and an English teacher at Silver Creek High School, said she is not from the area and she originally thought consolidation was a good idea.
However, Kramer said she has since come to believe that option isn’t possible – and any attempts to make the three communities work together in any way would fail.
“I am now a firm believer these three communities cannot work together, and I really believe it’s out of fear,” she said.
“I think that we have three communities who are afraid. We have Silver Creek whose afraid their kids aren’t getting what they deserve, and frankly they’re not.”
She added that Borden residents are “scared to death their schools are going to get closed” and that Henryville residents are “scared to death that Silver Creek is going to get something they don’t have.”
Kramer said she believes the divorce of Silver Creek schools from Borden and Henryville schools is the only solution.
“We are beyond consolidation. We are beyond working things out. We have already been two separate school districts. I am begging you all to make it official,” she said.
“The only thing in the past two years that these three [communities] have agreed on is secession.”