MUNCIE, Ind.–At 100 years old, Ball State University is doing what no other institution of higher learning has done before, at least in Indiana. The school has accepted the responsibility for helping turn the Muncie public school district around.
“We assumed the responsibility to appoint a new school board, and that school board was appointed in June and took office July 1,” said Ball State president Geoff Mearns. He’s been the president since May 2017. But, the situation in the Muncie district has taken a while to build.
Earlier this year, the Indiana general assembly passed a bill that allowed Ball State to essentially assume responsibility for the district, which was, at one point, $9 million in the hole.
“We have faculty, staff and students all across the university that are prepared to bring their interest and their expertise to bear on making this the best public school system possible,” said Mearns, who has taken on some of the responsibility himself.
“I was very involved in the advocacy in the general assembly and I was very involved in the selection of the school board,” he said. “Two of the seven members I selected based on the recommendations of the mayor and the city council. The other five were selected by the board of trustees of the university, based upon recommendations from me.”
Audio titled BALL STATE GEOFF MEARNS INTERVIEW by 93WIBC
Mearns believes the new board to be solid and that the new start for the school is bringing a new optimism for the students and the people who work there.
“The new school year has gotten off to a great start. I was at a couple of schools on the first day of class and there’s a sense of optimism and enthusiasm that maybe hasn’t been present in the Muncie Community School for several years,” said Mearns.
He said he believes the partnership with Ball State will help bring security and stability to the school system. But, the new school board will have to take the reins.
“Now that we have a new school board in place it really is their responsibility to take on the day-to-day management of the school system, and it’s my responsibility in concert with the faculty, staff and students of Ball State to be good partners with them.”
Part of that partnership is philanthropic, said Mearns.
“We received more than $3 million in donations and commitments to this new initiative from banks and foundations and other organizations in the community,” he said.
He believes with a strong backing, the school district will operate with a balanced budget in the upcoming year.
“It took a long time to get into the challenges that we’re now facing, so it’ll take a while to turn the district around. But, I’m confident that in partnership with the teachers and the staff and other community partners, that there’s a very bright future for the children of Muncie.”
For Ball State’s 100th years, the school is touring, going to ten cities across the state this fall with community projects. The school is also showing a documentary on the first 100 years of Ball State, Thursday, Sept. 6. Mearns said students and faculty put together the presentation, and that the Ball State orchestra will accomany the presentation with a synchronized musical score.
PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis