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PCS holds final meeting of school year

BY CAROLINE EGGERS - ceggers@perutribune.com

The Peru Community Schools School Board held its last meeting of the school year on Monday evening, and reflected on some recent and impending changes.

 Peru Community Schools may possibly need to eliminate one fourth grade and one kindergarten teaching position for the 2018-2019 year due to anticipated lower enrollment levels.  

“Our heavy graduating seniors and incoming kindergarteners are not equaling,” Peru Community Schools Superintendent Sam Watkins said.

The two teachers will be informed by June 1 to “give them the opportunity to seek out other jobs,” and they will have a two-year callback right if a position becomes available during that time.

Watkins said his intention is to not let those cuts happen.

Unrelated to the two possible cuts, two teachers officially announced their retirements during the meeting.

Blair Pointe Upper Elementary fifth grade teacher Louanne Berryman is retiring after 35 years with PCS.

“She truly cares about the kids… she wears her heart on her sleeve,” said Blaire Pointe Principal Linda Watkins. “I don’t know what we’ll do without Louanne. She takes care of everyone and she does it so well. You are valued and I will truly miss you.”

“I begged not to let you retire,” Sam Watkins said.

“It’s been a blessing to work with Peru Community Schools,” Berryman said.

Berryman said she had her fondest memories when her husband was down the hall and her children were attending classes within the school, but she’s ready to move on.

“I’ve been in school for 54 years,” Berryman said. “It’s time for a new book, not just a new chapter.”

Blair Pointe special education teacher Paula Gray is also retiring after 24 years of teaching at PCS.

“You have chosen to work with the most difficult population of students that people think, but you see it as a great reward,” Linda Watkins said. “These kids love and adore you… you also push them to be the very best.”

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with students who learn differently,” Gray said. “They have so much to offer our school system and our society.”

PCS Board Member Sharon Shuey reminded the two women that they can always sign up to substitute teach.

Among other things on the agenda, the board reappointed Leslie Murphy to continue serving on the library board.

The board also approved $4,643 for the 2018 Summer Art Program.

Due to shifting requirements from the Department of Education, the school system is no longer able to use funds from the gifted and talented grant for the program since not all of the students qualify as “gifted and talented” academically.  

But they are gifted and talented in art, according to PCS Administrative Assistant Marcia Minard.

The program, intended for third through eighth grade students, runs from June 18-27 and will include field trips to Kokomo Opalescent Glass and the Peru High School Art Gallery.

The board approved the program unanimously to run for its 32nd consecutive summer.  

Students must apply by May 25 to attend. 

Sam Watkins also offered an update on the Tiger North Athletic Complex.

The process to transform the 21 acres involved leveling the land, planting grass, and addressing ditches, irrigation and flooding potential.

The complex now includes a softball, soccer and youth/auxiliary football field – in addition to parking and concessions stands.

The soccer teams began playing on their respective field in the fall of 2017, and the school was able to host its very first cross country meet at the facility.

The softball team ladies took their very first step on the field – actually all at the same time to savor the moment – just last month.

“I think it was very brave and unusual for the board to (approve the project),” Watkins said. “I can’t express how happy the students, parents and coaches are.”

In the future, Watkins said they plan on completing a batting cage for the softball team, additional lighting, landscaping, a pavilion, and a walking path connecting to the planned city trail extensions.  

“I think it’s something we’re going to be proud of,” he said.