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Plan to hire Notre Dame grads to help South Bend schools draws criticism

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A proposal for the South Bend Community School Corporation to hire on Notre Dame graduates who are part of a non-profit program designed to help tackle local problems is drawing fire from school board members.

At Monday’s regular meeting of the board of trustees, Superintendent Dr. Carole Schmidt laid out a proposal to hire on one or two fellows who are part of the new “En Focus” program.  As part of the “En Focus” seven graduates of Notre Dame’s Engineering, Science and Technology Entrepreneurship (ESTEEM) program will be working out of Union Station with funding from sponsors to help save the city and businesses money, coming up with new business ideas and helping to plan future economic development projects.

"It would be a huge advantage to us over other school corporations in the state and certainly would lend itself to improvements within the community," Schmidt explained.

But, hiring on one fellow for a year would cost the corporation $40,000 and that is drawing opposition from School Board Member Bill Sniadecki.

"Right now we don't have any idea what our enrollment's going to be and to do that at this point, even to bring it forward for a vote, I think is outrageous," Sniadecki said during the meeting.

Dr. Schmidt and School Board President Roger Parent said they hoped for sponsors to step up and help pay for part of the cost, but do want the corporation to put up money now.  Sniadecki explained that with the school board having to make drastic cuts to make up for recent budget shortfalls, he couldn’t support the proposal.

"Our budget is $250-million, but every time you take away from that $250-million you're taking away programs from our kids,” Sniadecki explained.  “That's where I get mad."

But, Superintendent Schmidt said in the big picture the $40,000 to hire on a fellow wouldn’t have a big effect on the budget and said partnering with En Focus could help turn the corporation around.

“It would certainly support some opportunity for us to grow in maybe some ways that we have not thought about,” Schmidt said.

The board will vote on the proposal at a future meeting.

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