Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

April 2, 2014

Superintendent: Millersburg practical arts academy won't leave students out in the cold

MILLERSBURG — Change is coming to Millersburg Elementary School, but a lot is going to stay the same too.

That was the message delivered to about 50 parents and community members in attendance at a parent meeting Tuesday at the school to address the proposed switch to a practical arts academy for the 2015-16 school year.

“When I first found out, I was worried and afraid of change,” parent Betsy Black told the audience. “I felt Millersburg was going to be left out.”

Black then made a list of the things that she and her family love about Millersburg and realized those things will be stronger with the new curriculum: great teachers will get more support and the practical emphasis will get the community more involved in the school.

“The more I learned, the more confident I got,” Black said.

Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said one thing he loves about Millersburg is the environment.

“When I walk in I feel like kicking off my shoes because it feels like home,” he said. “The things we’re proposing won’t change the heart of what Millersburg is. It is not our goal to shake everything up.”

Thalheimer explained that the shift to an inquiry-based model of teaching will be the same across all four of the corporation’s buildings, and will teach students to take the skills they learn and put them together to solve problems and put those problems into a real-world context.

The practical arts side will come into play with the middle school experience in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. It will not be like the old “tracks,” such as college prep or vocational skills, but will give students a chance to sample a number of electives, including art, music, technology, shop, family and consumer science, business literacy and German, he said, very similar to what is offered at the junior high now.

Thalheimer fielded a number of questions asking about the differences and why Millersburg would not be shifting to a true STEAM model like Benton and New Paris elementaries.

“There is no way we can ignore that there is a significant part of our student population that needs to be ready for life after eighth grade,” he said. “But those things they need to know at the end of eighth grade, all of our kids need to know: how to balance a checkbook, how to think, how to follow directions…”

He told the audience that he had met with Amish leaders and parents, but that it was not secretive.

“We have to make sure that we are meeting their needs,” he said. Most Amish students do not go beyond the eighth grade.

German is being added at the junior high next year, so it would be offered at Millersburg to make the experiences equal, not just for the benefit of the Amish population, Thalheimer said.

Heather Fowler has three children, a sixth-grader, a kindergartner and a 3-year-old, and came to get more information mainly for other people. She said after the meeting she plans on keeping her children at Millersburg.

“I love Millersburg,” Fowler said. “I think if you have good communication with the teachers, you will find the path that is best for your child.”

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