Progress Revealed at ‘State of the Schools’ Meeting

Dr. Kwiatkowski and Dr. Reynolds are pictured at the podium. Photo providedDr. Kwiatkowski and Dr. Reynolds are pictured at the podium. Photo provided

By Andy Klotz—

MUNCIE, IN – Stabilized enrollment, balanced budgets and expanded preschool were just a few of the highlights discussed at Wednesday night’s first-ever Muncie Community Schools “State of the Schools” community meeting.

The 90-minute program at Southside Middle School included remarks from outgoing MCS Director of Public Education and CEO Dr. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Governor Eric Holcomb, MCS Board of Trustees President Jim Williams, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns, incoming MCS CEO Dr. Chuck Reynolds and others. Each one touched on different aspects of the six-year partnership between MCS and Ball State.

“You know the story,” Dr. Kwiatkowski told the audience. “(In 2018) Muncie Community Schools was in financial and academic trouble. President Mearns shared a radical plan with the Indiana Legislature.

“He and his board knew that all students deserved a high-quality education. He also knew that for a community to be prosperous, they needed a good public school district. Ball State University took the risk… and we have made significant progress even though there’s still a lot of work to do.”

President Mearns praised MCS leadership for the progress made, and clarified Ball State’s role in the partnership.

“Some people say that Ball State took over MCS or that Ball State runs MCS, but that wasn’t our approach and that was never our mentality” he said. “We had two principal objectives. One was to leverage the expertise of our faculty and staff and our students to partner with the dedicated teachers and staff at MCS.

“The second principal objective was to be the catalyst to mobilize people and organizations throughout our community to provide wrap-around support for the children that attend our public schools.”

Mearns said that Ball State had a “moral obligation” to assist the district. He referenced a story from 60 years ago when former BSU President John Emens solicited donations from everyone in town, including the manufacturing laborers. That funding led to the construction of the campus auditorium that now bears Emens’ name.

“I realized that many of the children who are enrolled (in MCS) may be the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those factory workers,” Mearns said. “We can’t repay these generous women and men for their gifts, but by creating a partnership with MCS, we could demonstrate our gratitude to the entire Muncie community by helping to educate their children.”

Among the many components of the partnership is a school board appointed by Mearns. Jim Williams, a local attorney, has been the president of the board since its inception.

“We have served well together over the past six years with a focus on the academic, social and physical well-being of our learners, and the transformation of Muncie Community Schools into a model school system,” Williams said.

He then went on to detail how student enrollment has stabilized around 5,000 students after decades of steep decline. He also said the district’s cash balance went from negative $9 million when they started to a $32 million positive balance today. That occurred while taking starting teacher salaries from $34,659 six years ago to $51,500 currently.

Governor Eric Holcomb, who signed House Enrolled Act 1315 that began the partnership back in 2018, summarized the progress succinctly.

“This is evidence of what good can come from when we come together as a city, as a state, as a community, as a university,” Holcomb said. “The accomplishment cannot be overstated to date, but the confidence that I have that the best is truly to come is a hundred percent more.”

While the governor’s comments were well received, the only standing ovation of the night occurred following the speech given by Northside Middle School 6th grader Faizan Reshtya, an Afghan refugee, who read his award-winning essay on unity.

“There is no way to unity without love,” he said. “It would be so wonderful to live in a world where everyone listened to others, respected others and deeply loved others. We would have unity.”

Other presentations included:

  • West View Elementary School 4th grade teacher Kelly Agnew spoke about the many professional development opportunities the district offers.
  • Muncie Area Career Center Director Caleb Beasley detailed the many career programs offered to students, and shared success stories of current students and recent graduates.
  • Dr. Reynolds, who will become the district’s new CEO in July following Dr. Kwiatkowski’s retirement, highlighted some of the district’s many extracurricular opportunities as well as the $42 million invested in capital improvement projects over the past few years.
  • Muncie Central High School Athletic Director Jeff Holloway recalled his days as a Bearcat basketball player that resonated so much that he left a good job in a larger district to come back home and revive the schools’ athletic programs to their former glory.

To view the entire presentation online, please click the play button below.


Ball State PBS will also broadcast the event May 21 at 5:30 p.m. and May 26 at 8 a.m.



About Muncie Community Schools

Serving the local community since 1855, Muncie Community Schools (MCS) educates more than 5,000 students at six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school while also managing several other educational facilities. Through its unique partnership with Ball State University, MCS strives to maximize each student’s potential so he or she can be a positive, productive member of society. Find out more about MCS or Director of Public Education and CEO Lee Ann Kwiatkowski at