2007-02-07 / Front Page

Delphi schools encourage taxpayers to help make renovation decisions

By Kevin Schnepp

One high-ranking priority for most homeowners is the upkeep of their properties. In doing so, they hope to foster a positive environment conducive to comfort and organization. Planning and communication are vital steps in knowing how to proceed with what might be a long list of big and small projects.

Delphi Community School Corporation Superintendent Ralph Walker encouraged local taxpayers to do the same for the schools, what he said he views as their common homes.

"I'm really big on hearing from taxpayers about what they feel should be done," Walker said in a Feb. 5 interview with the Comet. "Simply put, when your home begins to show signs of wear, you need to prioritize renovation projects and act on them. That's what needs to happen with many things at the schools."

Walker has been superintendent for less than half a year and each school's administrators are relatively new to their positions as well. Walker said that makes for a great opportunity to take a fresh look at issues.

"This is a different time and the situation is a little different," Walker stated. "Communicating what needs done and how the community thinks we should go about it is vital to the renovation process."

Walker said his two highest priorities for the school system are building security and student safety.

"Security is paramount," he commented. "Just like in their own homes, if children feel they are secure they learn and perform better."

He said safety is key and includes providing facilities students can use without risking illness or injury. He explained many school renovation plans fall under the guise of safety.

"Providing safety and security has a positive effect. What is true in your own home is true for the school and students." Beginning Feb. 20, each of the four DCSC schools will host an open house. Local residents and business owners will be able to see firsthand what renovation projects the school feels are necessary.

Administrators, faculty and staff will offer information, tours, talks, discussions and surveys at each open house. Residents and business owners will be able to offer feedback to help the school determine what the community feels is the proper course of action for approaching the renovations.

Walker said Envoy, a company employed by several schools and businesses in the state for new or renovation projects, is offering some of its services to DCSC free of charge.

"Envoy is very good at helping schools through the process of improvements," he explained. "I've worked with them before, and they offered to get us started here."

Walker explained some funding exists for the projects. He said at least $3 million will become available during the coming year through retired debt.

"With that much available, renovations can take place without any tax increase," he stated.

Administrators agree it is important for the community to know where needs lie at the schools.

"The biggest key is for them to see for themselves that the buildings are wellmaintained but need updated," Camden principal Carol Coon said.

High school principal Barry Stone said, "The typical taxpayer isn't aware of what needs to happen. This is their opportunity not only to see, but to have a say."

Walker said he understands patrons may doubt their opinions are being heard. He said the corporation will be held accountable by publishing information from the surveys offered at the open houses.

"The community will be able to see what the community feels," he explained. "The school board will offer more public meetings sometime after the open houses to continue processing public input."

"There are many items on each school's list of needs," he continued. "Our desire is to know the community is behind our plans. We want to be the number one school in the state, and it will take doing this right to make it happen."

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