Charter school works to fill school board slots

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Jasper-based Morton Buildings employee Evan Schaber of French Lick, center, guided a crane-suspended roof truss as Nate Ballard of Dubois and Clint Schue of Jasper readied to hammer it in place at Otwell Miller Academy charter school on Tuesday.


OTWELL — Though the building is not complete, classes are still slated to begin at Otwell Miller Academy in less than a month.

And as the construction pushes forward at Pike County’s first charter school, the assignment of the new entity’s school board is also becoming a priority for members of the Friends of Otwell group.

The board will consist of nine members: Three will serve on both the Friends of Otwell board and the school board, two will be teachers, two will be parents, and the final spots will be occupied by student representatives at the school, which will teach children in preschool through fifth grade.

The new board will coexist with the current Friends of Otwell board. The Friends of Otwell board will provide oversight, run the Lil’ HOOsiers Preschool, lead fundraising and provide general support to Otwell Miller Academy and its school board. Like other school boards, the Otwell Miller Academy School Board will have subcommittees set up to oversee the charter’s finances, make sure the school is running soundly and so on. Personnel decisions will also be a priority, and Friends of Otwell Legal Chairwoman Elisabeth Luff said the board will provide an open forum to the community.

“It all falls in within the same theory that we want the community, we want the parents, we want the students involved as much as possible,” Luff said. “And take real ownership and a sense of pride in the school because it is their school.”

Parent elections will be held at the Friends of Otwell’s regular board meeting next week, which is scheduled at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 17. Currently, only two parents have submitted applications to be on the ballot, which anyone who attends the public meeting can vote on.

“But the two candidates we have received have both been active in the Friends of Otwell from the beginning,” Luff said. “They’re very vocal in their support and active in their membership.”

Those interested in filling the spots can still apply by submitting a resume to Those elected will undergo background checks.

Jasper-based Morton Buildings employees installed roof trusses at Otwell Miller Academy charter school on Tuesday.

The teacher spots will be appointed by School Director Rick Fears, and the student members will be selected by the school’s teachers.

As far as construction goes, the building’s frame is nearing completion, and the roof will be installed in the coming days. Classes are still scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

Ninety-two students have registered for classes. The teacher hiring process has also begun, but no spots have been filled officially because the school is waiting for final enrollment numbers to determine the number of teachers needed.

Friends of Otwell President Mike Houtsch previously estimated the school will need one teacher per grade level offered, as well as a preschool teacher. He said the school might also use aides or have teachers fill more than one role.

He further explained that the Friends of Otwell group is working through an extensive list of requirements that Grace College in Winona will assess before officially approving its charter. (The school currently has a preconditional charter) The list addresses the building, governance, financial management, staffing and curriculum instruction. Houtsch said he believes Grace will visit the school closer to the opening day for a charter signing ceremony.

When completed, the building will consist of nine classrooms, several administration offices, and a large room where before- and after-school childcare will be offered. The first day of class is 28 days away.

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