Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016
Elkhart Schools Superintendent Robert Haworth, who helped pull together the proposed overhaul of Elkhart Community Schools. By Tim Vandenack
ELKHART — One of the current burning topics of debate, at least among many parents and Elkhart school officials — the proposed overhaul of Elkhart Community Schools.
ECS leadership unveiled a proposal last April to revamp the two high schools in Elkhart, with one, Elkhart Memorial, serving 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, and Elkhart Central serving ninth-graders. Many view it as high school unification. The plan also outlines changes to the middle schools and one elementary school and many other tweaks in the school system, aiming to better school kids and prevent transfers out of the district, a big problem that results in loss of state funding.
Needless to say, it’s got many wondering what it all means, what would become of the high schools, whether it would really work and keep kids here. But it’s complicated.
I’ve taken on a role trying to grasp and understand the topic, a pretty hefty one, and pulled together a pair of stories that ran as a package on Monday (though one posted online on Sunday). One focused on a counter-proposal put forward by three parents following the process and their calls for more ideas from the public:
The other offered an update on the decision-making process timeline:
I wrote a pair of stories on the topic last month, too, one parsing the the high school unification issue (here), the other offering a more general look at the debate and issues at stake (here).
Thursday Nov. 12, 2015
Some of the people of south-central Elkhart, top row, left to right: Tara Morris, Shirley Jarman, Jean Mayes. Middle row, left to right: Forrest Ludwick, Meko Erwin, Rosie Shepherd. Bottom row, left to right: Michele Molik, Jessica Dubose, Amyia O’Brie and Mekhi Gilbert. By Tim Vandenack
I spent much of the spring, summer and fall talking to people in south-central Elkhart and Washington Gardens, a low-income public housing development here.
We go there when there are shootings and killings, but we wanted to expand on that, get to know the people of the zone, one of the poorest and most demographically diverse neighborhoods of the city. We wanted to hear what they have to say of life in the area, the good, the bad and the in-between.
Photographer Jennifer Shephard and I, as a reporter, did much of the work in the field, but it was a team effort including designers, editors, videographers and more. The result was a three-day series, Oct. 25-27 in the print edition:
I wrote six stories for the series, took pictures (though Shephard’s a pro and hers were far superior) and even shot some video. I culled U.S. Census Bureau data, Elkhart Police Department arrest and shooting reports and figures from Washington Gardens. Mostly, though, it was about knocking on doors, hitting the pavement, seeking out people and getting them to tell their stories.
It was a tough juggling act. I still contributed to the paper on a regular basis, covered my regular beat, City Hall, squeezing in visits to the area and the people when time permitted. But it was eye-opening, rewarding to do, well worth it, and I think we offered many in Elkhart a glimpse they maybe had never seen into a neighborhood that sits smack dab in the middle of it all.
Here are my contributions: