A Timeline toward Progress

Less than a year into his tenure, Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns shared a radical plan with the Indiana Legislature: Ball State should become Indiana’s first university to oversee a public school district.

The idea took some convincing, but by that May, the Indiana General Assembly adopted unprecedented legislation to grant Ball State oversight of MCS. In July 2018, Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools embarked on a historic partnership to transform the city’s public school district into a national model for innovative, holistic education. The anchoring, city-wide effort sets a new precedent for the roll higher education can have in K-12 schools and solidifies Ball State’s commitment to its community.

September 2017
Ball State University installed Geoffrey S. Mearns as the institution’s 17th president.

In lieu of an extravagant ceremony, Mearns urged the University community to join him in supporting scholarships for MCS graduates who would become first-generation students. Mearns and his wife, Jennifer, contributed $100,000 to endow the Mearns/Proud Family Scholarship, which has grown to upwards of $280,000 to provide for Ball State-bound Bearcats.

He pledged to strengthen Ball State’s presence within Muncie through a “Better Together” initiative and mentality, calling support for and collaboration with Muncie a “moral obligation.”

December 2017
The state placed the “distressed” Muncie Community Schools (MCS) under direct, state-government control.

May 2018
During a special legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly adopted IC 20-23-18, to authorize Ball State oversight of MCS. It also granted relief from debt and other restrictions to provide MCS with “all administrative and academic flexibility to implement innovative strategies.”

July 2018
Muncie Community Schools welcomed a new, seven-member Board of Trustees to guide the partnership and move forward. Within its first month, the board decided to hold bi-monthly meetings, each at a different school in the district. They learned about the facilities and connected directly with faculty, administrators, and students at each school.

Ball State named Susana Rivera-Mills provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Soon after, President Mearns charged Rivera-Mills to lead collaborations with MCS. A first-generation college student, Rivera-Mills said she is driven to establish a holistic, culturally competent system that nurtures all students’ potential.

May 2018
Media outlets reported that the partnership had already raised $3 million in community support from foundations, businesses, and private donors. That number has since risen to more than $4 million.

August 2018
Following announcement of the partnership, enrollment for the 2018-19 school year was 5,066 students, a drop of 48 students, compared to the district’s projected loss of 450 students. The better-than-anticipated enrollment enabled MCS to hire eight additional elementary school teachers.

November 2018
MCS welcomed Bradley DeRome as the district’s chief financial officer. The former business manager and treasurer of Jay County School Corp. earned degrees in accounting and finance from Ball State.

December 2018
The board awarded MCS faculty and staff monetary stipends in recognition of their service and contributions to the district.

To support the partnership, Ball State empowered a group of passionate community members to head a Community Engagement Council (CEC). The council coordinates and supports volunteer efforts within the district.

January 2019
Ball State and MCS established the Joint BSU-MCS Academic Innovation Council. The team of 30 educational thought-leaders, administrators, parents, and community members guide the partnership and are developing an Academic Innovation and Financial Viability Plan. The plan is due to the Indiana General Assembly by June 30, 2020.

The Muncie Community Schools and Ball State University Community Engagement Council hosted an inaugural “We Thank You Appreciation Luncheon” to recognize teachers, drawing a crowd of almost 600 educators and supporters.

February 2019
The Academic Innovation Council established a national panel of experts to offer guidance and feedback throughout the process of developing the Academic Innovation plan to guide the future of MCS.

April 2019
A team of Ball State faculty and students conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) assessment in the district. MCS engaged in a range of other assessments, including a comprehensive external audit of curriculum and instruction.

May 2019
The joint Academic Innovation Council hosted a well-attended “Dreams for Our Schools” community forum. The event kicked off a three-month effort that, in partnership with the United Way of Delaware and Henry Counties, collected input from hundreds of educators, MCS families, and Muncie residents.

June 2019
MCS held robust summer professional development for teachers and staff.

July 2019
The MCS Board of Trustees appointed its first director of public education and CEO (superintendent) Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, a 35-year veteran whose experience includes senior education advisor to Gov. Eric Holcomb, chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and assistant superintendent at Warren Township Schools.

The board also voted to boost the starting salary for MCS teachers and approved the first pay increase in eight years. Based on 2018-19 numbers, the new starting salary at MCS will be second-highest in the county.

Muncie native Charles “Chuck” Reynolds joined the MCS leadership team as associate superintendent. For 14 years, the Muncie Central and two-time Ball State graduate worked for MCS in the classroom and as a principal.

August 2019
Ball State launched a streamline process for faculty and staff to propose academic projects, programs, and research within Muncie Community Schools.

MCS approved a new background check policy to heighten the level of security throughout buildings. The district also adopted the Raptor Visitor Management System, which allows a school’s front office to scan a visitor’s driver’s license to input them into a visitor database. Once approved, the internet-based system prints a photo-name tag with name, photo, time, and destination.

September 2019
The MCS-Ball State partnership held a two-day Academic Innovation Summit to imagine the possibilities for Muncie Community Schools.

The event brought together more than 500 Muncie educators, community stakeholders, Ball State professionals, and nationally recognized educators and innovators, including George Couros, Jennifer Blatz, and Robert Jackson.

Professional development sessions, table conversations, and school debriefs offered teachers the space to collaborate with each other about ways to implement innovative practices in their classrooms and buildings.

What We've Accomplished

Enrollment stabilizes

The 2018-19 school year began with 160 more students than expected, following an ambitious, collaborative campaign in which Ball State helped with recruitment and registration. The efforts helped stabilized the school corporation's previously declining enrollment.

students working on crafts in classroom

Community Gives Millions in Support

Stakeholders have pledged and contributed more than $5 million to support this shared vision for an innovative, community-based model that has never been tried in Indiana or anywhere else in the country. 

More than financial support, Muncie has given its heart to this effort. Members of the Muncie and Ball State communities share an unwavering commitment to Muncie children, and they have and continue to come together in unprecedented ways to realize a brighter tomorrow for the next generation. They are leaning into challenges and unknowns with an energizing embrace of the possibilities.

Teachers receive recognition for their hard work

Supporting teachers has been one of the top priorities of the new partnership. In July 2019, the MCS School Board passed the first teacher salary increase in eight years. To further demonstrate the value placed on Muncie educators, Muncie Community Schools and Ball State University Community Engagement Council hosted the “We Thank You Appreciation Luncheon” in January 2019 and “A Night 4 You” appreciation gala in May 2019.

The council continues to work with Parent Teacher Organizations and other organizations throughout the community to support and celebrate teachers throughout the year. MCS administration has adopted a renewed focus on ongoing professional development to equip teachers with the skills, knowledge and connections to achieve their goals.

teachers working at a computer

Volunteers showed up by the dozens to help start the year right

During the past year, hundreds of Ball State faculty, staff, and students contributed their time, talents, and skills to volunteering with our local public schools.

Among their efforts, volunteers have helped with registration and classroom preparations, assisted with school special events, and lent a hand in classrooms and at lunch time.

Charlies Cardinal with students

Academic Innovation Council empowers MCS and Ball State to move forward together

A Joint MCS-Ball State Academic Innovation Council guides this partnership’s bold vision to create an innovative, inclusive, equitable, and safe educational environment for every MCS learner. Members of the council developed an Academic Innovation and Financial Viability Plan to detail the theories and practices that will transform the district into a leader in K-12 education.

During development of the plan, the council supported a series of educator and community input sessions that empowered more than 500 people to share their hopes and dreams for Muncie Community Schools. The council paired those ideas with proven best practices and advice from national experts in the plan which will be submitted to the Indiana Legislature in June 2020. The council also secures grants to support the partnership and supports Ball State faculty and staff interested in research and engagement within the district. In September 2019, the council held an Academic Innovation Summit, which drew national educational thought-leaders to connect with and inspire Muncie educators and Ball State faculty.

Interested in supporting the partnership? Ball State faculty, staff, and students are invited to volunteer within the district or to propose projects, partnerships and research. The Community Engagement Council (CEC) seeks partners to advocate for Muncie Community Schools through fundraising and volunteerism.

'Our Voice Is Important'

“I think it’s exciting that Ball State is actually asking us what we need as educators. Our voice is important. We’re in the classroom. We know what kids need.

“The kids get excited when they see Ball State students inside the schools. The partnership brings everyone together. We all benefit from it.

“I trust Ball State because I know what it is capable of doing. It wouldn’t have joined this partnership if it didn’t know it could work with Muncie Community Schools to make it better.”

Tameka Wilson
Teacher at Southside Middle School

‘Doors Have Opened’

“It’s exciting that doors have opened up to allow us to team with people who are experts in different fields. That can help enrich the learning experiences of kids at school.

“Ball State has given professors time to work in Muncie schools as part of the partnership. It’s meaningful when students get to work alongside people such as actual architects. It’s a hands-on experience.”

Erica Collins
Teacher at Northside Middle School

MCS students playing Tug of War

'We're Just in the Beginning'

“Everybody’s in it together. It’s better for our kids. It’s better for our staff because there’s more help. It’s better for our parents to know that we have these partnerships. It’s a win win.

“Broad picture, this partnership shows that the community is coming together, that Muncie is one great place to live.

“It’s been a positive first year. But the partnership will continue to grow. The right people are in place. We’re just in the beginning.”

Eric Grimm
Principal of Northside Middle School

hands helping

Thinking about ways you can be a part of our partnership? Our Academic Innovation Council is looking for project ideas from Ball State faculty, staff, and students that can have meaningful impacts on MCS students. And the Community Engagement Council (CEC) seeks partners to advocate for Muncie Community Schools through fundraising and volunteerism.