Hamilton Southeastern Schools Referendum makes Cathedral look like a great option

by Kent Sterling

Cathedral High School is the best decision my son ever made.  It would sure beat a school with trailers dressed as classrooms.

Cathedral High School is the best decision my son ever made. It would sure beat a school with trailers dressed as classrooms.

When I moved to Fishers, Indiana, in 1994, there were roughly 18,000 people who lived here.  It was a strange little town that sprawled over a fairly enormous footprint of 35 square miles.  Now, there are nearly 20,000 students enrolled in Hamilton Southeastern Schools, and a total population of 80,000.

The schools that service the town have multiplied and grown.  A new high school was built less than a decade ago.  Now, the boobs running the place have their hands out again to build additions to the two high schools.  They want $95 million, and the result of a today’s referendum will determine whether they get it.

I voted no, as I usually do when politicians ask for cash because they didn’t have the foresight to understand that continued growth was inevitable.  To require that kind of cash to build additional wings to a school that went online less than 10 years ago is evidence of civic malfeasance, and I don’t play that.

Kids deserve a great education, or at least the opportunity for one.  As Fishers exploded while my son was in junior high, I began asking questions about the new high school.  I didn’t want him to start in one and finish in another.  We made a commitment to Ryan that we would see his education through without upheaval.  My family moved when I was a kid, and changing schools is a distraction, and I was not interested in putting Ryan through that.  The questions were answered, contradicted, then confirmed again, and finally I stopped asking questions.

Ryan decided to attend Cathedral High School, and we wrote checks in addition to our property taxes to pay tuition.  We didn’t do that because we wanted to squander cash we barely had.  It was because of a decided lack of confidence in the knuckleheads running the school corporation.  By all measurements, teachers at Hamilton Southeastern Schools do a fine job of preparing kids for college, but I have little confidence in bureaucrats – especially those who seemed genuinely confused over the direction of the schools I trusted to nurture Ryan’s intellect.

If the referendum is defeated, schools will add trailers to handle the overflow.  That’s not ideal, and I wish it wouldn’t be necessary.  If kids learned better in a trailer, high schools would look like huge trailer parks.  It’s the price for short-sightedness.

The administrators who approved the design for the second high school should be held accountable for not grasping the concept that growth doesn’t stop.  Students deserve better than the leadership shown by Hamilton Southeastern Schools.  Just as voters went to the polls today, they should go again when the town council is up for re-election.

Ryan’s decision to attend Cathedral was excellent, and we never regretted writing a single check to help Ryan prepare for his future. He has worked there through this school year after being a Basketball Coaches Association All-something or other at Loyola while he waits to go to law school in the Fall.  He’s having as good a time as the sports information director, assistant basketball coach, and substitute teacher.

Wondering whether a son or daughter will be in a school or a trailer because of poor planning by bureaucrats makes Cathedral look pretty good.  Even if there was no doubt about the expansion, Cathedral is a wonderful school run by really smart people.  Hamilton Southeastern?  Whether or not the referendum passes, you can bet they’ll be back for more cash in a couple of years to fund another short-sighted plan.

15 thoughts on “Hamilton Southeastern Schools Referendum makes Cathedral look like a great option

  1. Mandy Barrett

    Why don’t you just go ahead and move out of Fishers then? If the schools were going to build space for what the population of Fishers might look like 20 years from now then their referendums would never pass because people would say why are you building for something that may or may not happen 20 years from now. These additions are necessary and if it doesn’t pass it would be very unfortunate for the kids in the school district as well as property owners whose property values may go down. If you don’t want to support the schools then you should strongly consider going ahead and moving out of Fishers. The schools are probably the biggest factor that attract people to move here, one of the biggest things that helps property values, and one of the things that has put Fishers on “Best Places to Live” lists. I’m sure Cathedral doesn’t plan as much for growth as you think. If they need to expand, they will just increase the tuition. As much as you may like Cathedral, not everyone wants their kid educated in a Catholic school.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Cathedral controls their student population by limiting admissions. As even a person of limited intellect should know, they are not forced to admit anyone because of geography or any other reason. I thought about moving to Carmel but they spend a lot of cash on lifelike statues that are scattered all over Main Street, as well as a performing arts that gives acts like Glen Campbell and Gordon Lightfoot a place to continue their careers. I appreciate your invitation to leave. Just as enlightened as Archie Bunker telling Meathead, “America, love it or leave it!”

      If I built a school that I could safely assume will require expansion to answer a student population need in under a decade (not 20 years), I would account for that need.

      The bureaucrats should be held accountable, not the person who called them out for poor leadership. The trailers will be on them (and you for blindly defending them), not the people who voted against the referendum.

      I’m sure the higher property taxes will be welcomed by people considering a move here.

      1. Mandy Barrett

        Cathedral’s website claims that “today, Cathedral is experiencing growth.” Even if they do limit admissions as you say they do they will still increase tuition over time. There will always be another building to add or improve upon or a sport facility to maintain.

        While I do think Carmel’s statues are kind of silly and waste of money, their arts district is part of what draws people to move/visit there and contributes to their growing popularity. Quality communities cost money. If someone is not willing to support the community (schools, police force, fire department, libraries, parks, roads) even if you don’t use all the services provided then it’s fair that they should consider a different community. Perhaps you should consider taking a field trip to Anderson. While their taxes are low, their community is not quality. You get what you pay for. Fishers is a quality place to live as I assume you would agree…otherwise you wouldn’t still live here.

        Even if the vote went “no” those bureaucrats aren’t going to get held accountable. They will still get their paycheck. The ones being held accountable and getting the short end of the stick are the students. Your “no” vote certainly doesn’t demonstrate that you truly believe that all “kids deserve a great education, or at least the opportunity for one.”

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Can’t find anything to do with “growth” on the website, but the enrollment has decreased 31 students in the last five years. Doubt they were talking about population growth. There are no new buildings on campus, and no structural changes have been made in that time. People have a false impression that the athletic facilities at private schools are opulent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cathedral plays home football on the fields of public schools will to allow them to pay for the privilege. There is no pool, no soccer fields, no baseball field, no track, and only a small auxiliary gym. There is a small weight room. In the arts, Cathedral does have quite a nice theatre.

          The facilities at HSE, Fishers, Carmel, North Central, and Lawrence North make Cathedral look like paupers.

          Spending smart is possible. There shouldn’t be an arms race between school districts, as the amenities that are craved have no affect on the quality of the education.

          No case can ever be made to me that an aquatics center with an olympic size pool is of even minimal importance to the happiness of a student body, or its academic success.

          What I crave in a community is safety and friendliness. If people in Carmel require over a million dollars in lifelike statues lining Main Street, I’m glad I live in Fishers.

          1. Chris P

            We moved our kids to Fishers after living in NH and Maryland and I can tell you the schools in Fishers are far superior to any schools my children every attended. I grew up in Maryland and as I completed by K-12 education, they were already cutting the activities such as art, music, sports, ect… and that was 30 years ago. We also sent our kids to private schools in Maryland because the education system was so poor.

            Like everybody else, I get concerned anytime government asks for more money, especially when they base on income or property value levels but I think education for our kids is one request I think I can handle. Soon we will be empty nesters but I feel better knowing the kids in my neighborhood will get at a minimum the same education experience my kids received if not better.

            To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, as parents we need to “…to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

          2. kentsterling Post author

            I am a fan of Emerson as well. That referendum was not about education for me. It was about a rubber stamp for the idiots who continue to spend as little as they can today, so we have to pay more in five years. If the referendum was to build a third high school, I would have voted yes. That third HS is going to be needed in less than a decade regardless of the enhancements the $95 million will create. Zionsville controls their population quite nicely, and has a great high school. That’s a pretty good way to run a town.

  2. Bob Ashworth

    Kent,(this is satire)
    I am sure that Ryan got a good education at Cathedral, but he would have excelled anywhere. Wonderful, caring parents. Good genes. Fabulous work ethic. Heck even in a trailer classroom he would have been outstanding. I am sorry you had to pay so much for him to go there while you still paid property taxes in Hamilton County. So many of his teammates and those on the football team didn’t have to make the same sacrifice and they were able to win so many games. The “boobs” runing HSE Schools haven’t figured out how to fake FAF applications and forgive tuition payments like the Irish. Also, the state does not allow them to limit enrollment and raise tuition to cover the costs of such a fine education. HSE followed the forcasts of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Hamilton County’s finest pols, and Fisher insiders in building a new school. Gosh, they were all wrong! Plus, the new President of WGU (Lafayette extension) severely cut funding to most school districts and took away their cumulative building fund monies. Henceforth, the need for new taxes to build schools to accomodate the “average” kids. There are many sides to every argument. Little Mitch and the Plutocrats would love it if public education disappeared. Cuz everybody knows that great schools like Cathedral would pick up the slack and really show us how to educate all these youngsters for alot less money.lol

  3. Deb Roehrdanz

    I rarely take time to post comments to others’ opinions. This time I’ll make an exception. We have lived in Fishers for nearly 21 years, and during that time there has been tremendous growth. We decided several years ago to send our daughter to a private school – St. Richard’s Episcopal School. Our decision was based on what was most convenient for our family at the time, it was not a reflection on the education she would have received at HSE schools. We feel very strongly that this is a great school system with much to offer students. When it was time to decide where she would attend HS, we decided to send her to Cathedral. Once again this decsion was NOT made based on concerns about the education she would receive at FHS or any concerns over the “mismanagement” of the growth in the schools. It was based on what we thought was best for her & our family. There are no perfect schools. Families make personal decisions based on what is best for their children, and what they are able provide for them.

    I think we can all agree there are many to blame for the funding problems in public schools in Indiana. Administrators have had to deal with funding decisions that were made beyond their control. Our daughter has never attended an HSE school, but as a Fishers resident I feel that it is very important to support HSE schools. I voted YES, I voted YES in the past, I and will continue to vote YES if needed in the future. A strong school system helps maintain the property values for all of us, and more importantly it helps maintain the commitment to provide a high level of education to students.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I agree with all that you wrote, minus one thing. A yes vote not only provides the facilities kids needs, it gives those in charge the sense that no matter how badly they botch the job of spending our money efficiently, we will bail them out because kids in trailers would make us sad.

      Our son attended HSE schools through the eighth grade, and the work being done at HSE JH was top notch. I loved the passion of the teachers and principal, and I can’t imagine Ryan being in better hands than he was there.

      When they come back to us for more cash like addicts to a crack pipe, don’t blame me. I’m not an enabler of this behavior.

  4. Magnus in Fishers

    Much in line with the above I never post a comment but this struck a cord. I am a big supporter of HSE schools and think they are doing a very good job of educating my kids – give them a B+……however to your point the “admin” gets a “D”. I also voted “No” and my main problem is that anytime govt. wants something they don’t look at cutting cost — they just go for more money. The secondary argument is that the tax is unbalanced. If your house is over “x” in value you pay more. What??? So the family that shoehorns 4 kids into the house in Sandstone pays nothing but the guy with one or two in Canal Place pays triple? That’s not equitable and just wrong.

    So on the basis of taxation I love your blog…..but I don’t see how that fits with Cathedral. My parents sent me to private schools but it was because the public schools where we lived were below standard. Here HSE academics are inline with private schools — as a matter of fact the Reach program is superior. So the decision to send a kid to a private school is more based on the environment and other factors.

    It’s probably the main reason Carmel kids go private. They failed to plan and now have only one overcrowded mess of a school. There are too many kids and not enough opportunities – from football to theater to advanced classes good kids have to sit on the side. Kids on buses have to hike it across the mess of US31 from the west side at o’dark thirty to make it to the very inconvenient location. They should have built a second school decades ago but considering how much they have squandered on poorly planned projects like the PAC and worthless objects they just don’t seem to care.

    So at least we were smart enough to build two. I would have preferred the third “academic” high school. We spend enough on sports in Fishers — I though it would be nice to give kids that treat academics with the same passion some benefits.

    1. Mandy Barrett

      I think it’s interesting that you voted “no” even though your kids go to HSE schools. Regardless of whether I had kids in the schools I would still vote “yes,” but I would for sure vote “yes” if I had kids in the schools. I wouldn’t want them in portable classrooms.

      I don’t know alot about specifics with school budgets, but I would say it is safe to say the regular annual school budget for a district accounts of the cost of educating kids (e.g. teacher salaries) and regular maintence of schools not building new schools or adding on. If they cut spending they would probably have to lower teacher salaries and turn the heat down really low in the winter. I would think that anytime any public school anywhere builds on to existing structures or builds new schools they have to ask for special approval from voters because it is beyond the normal amount given to the school district on an annual basis. Public schools don’t operate to make a profit…they operate to serve the people who live in that area. They don’t have millions of dollars extra worked into their annual budgets to set aside each year to save for the next new building that may or may not be needed. The school district has to issue a bond to pay for the construction of the new building and the bond gets paid off with money from tax payers in that school district’s area, which is why voter approval is needed.

      While the tax is unbalanced, and I haven’t read the specific tax code to see exactly what it says. I’ve been told and understand that the tax policies that resulted in the unbalanced nature of who ends up actually seeing an increase in taxes was at some point voted on and approved by the voters/taxpayers who have to pay it. The school district has no control over who gets taxed and how much each household has to pay or what tax caps are imposed. The people voted on and approved it… probably without fully understanding it, but they still did it …not the school district.

      While a third high isn’t a bad idea, it would have cost about $50 million more than adding on to the existing buildings (thus and even greater tax increase) and would have created redistricting / transportation issues depending on whether it was designated a whole new high school or a “senior academy.” I think adding on is the best option for what they have to work with and the most favorable option at this time.

      Not everyone is ever going to agree with everything the schools do and I can agree that the school leadership hasn’t always made what I would consider the right decision, but it is always hard to forsee what things will be like in 5,10,15 years from now especially in a rapidly growing community like Fishers. I just have a really hard time understanding why others don’t and wouldn’t want to support the local schools no matter where they live or if they have kids in the schools since schools are a cornerstone of every community. The HSE schools are amongst the best in the state and I think we should try to keep it that way. The schools play a big part in attracting people to move here. Growing population attracts new businesses. A growing economy ultimately increases property values.

      1. kentsterling Post author

        I’m bloodying my head trying to explain that a no vote had nothing to do with education, and everything to do with the idiocy of the planning. There will be a third high school within a decade, so building it now would be cheaper than it will be in six years when this cabal of clowns show up for more cash again. The town planners in Fishers are not nearly as smart as they would like to believe they are.

        I want great schools, but schools with 3,700 students are rarely able to provide great educational opportunities for the majority of the kids.

        Presented with the choice of a new HS, trailers, or additions, I would have voted for the plan for a new HS.

        The implementation of the property tax at homes valued at $230K and greater virtually insured its passage. The average home price is just over $174,000, so the majority won’t be affected.

    2. kentsterling Post author

      Cathedral was my son’s choice, but I was very pleased with it. Supporting these boobs with my son’s presence didn’t sit well with me. I would also have been a supporter of a third high school – which is going to come in six years or so anyway.


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