Mearns: Ball State 'Uniquely Situated' to Help Muncie Schools

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Muncie Central High School is the only high school in the school district. Muncie Central High School is the only high school in the school district.

A bill that would turn over management authority of Muncie Community Schools to Ball State University will have to wait until next week for its next opportunity to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. House Bill 1315, which has already been approved by the Indiana House and must receive a full Senate vote by March 6, would establish a seven-member board to govern MCS. During an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, BSU President Geoffrey Mearns called the university "uniquely situated" to help the struggling school district. Mearns adds he has received a "very strong response" from the Muncie and Delaware County business community.

"(Employers have) recognized that they've had challenges," he said "to attract talent to their companies and they see this as a great opportunity to talk to those employees, those prospective candidates and tell them about the good things that are happening in Muncie. This is an opportunity to change that narrative." He expects Ball State and business leaders to become more engaged in related efforts like economic development and community revitalization, which Mearns says will go "hand-in-hand" with boosting the school system and the city as a whole.

MCS has faced challenges for years on several fronts, including declining enrollment. In December, the state's Distressed Unit Appeal Board agreed to take over financial and academic functions of the district.

If the bill receives state approval, the Ball State Board of Trustees would have to sign-off on it before it could be put into motion by as early as July 1. The proposed legislation would set up a new scenario in Indiana: a university overseeing an entire local school district. Mearns says provisions in the bill call for a two-year period to develop the plan that would create "a community solution" through input from local stakeholders.

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