MUNSTER | A 1974 graduate of Munster High School has pledged $1 million to fund a Teacher of Merit Award for the School Town of Munster.

Known as “The Quiet Billionaire,” Joe Mansueto founded Morningstar, an investment research company dealing with mutual funds, in 1984. His donation of $200,000 a year over the next five years was announced at Monday’s School Board meeting.

Mary Yorke, a former School Board member and longtime Munster teacher, and John Friend, a current board member, worked for nearly a year to secure the donation, said Steve Tripenfeldas, assistant superintendent.

The merit award will be given to all teachers who rank in the top two levels of evaluation each year and who apply for the award, he said. It ties into the teacher evaluation system being introduced with the 2015-16 school year.

“Because the school system is struggling financially, creating such a teacher-oriented award will help maintain high quality teachers who have sacrificed salaries and benefits in the past and who will face additional demands in the future,” Friend said.

Yorke said Mansueto was unable to attend Monday’s School Board meeting because of prior commitments.

Mansueto’s donation will serve as a catalyst for further contributions, Yorke and Friend said.

A steering committee will be set up to encourage additional contributions by School Town of Munster alumni, parents, teachers and the business community. More information will be available at the next School Board meeting at 7 p.m. April 13.

“A lot of people want to help,” said Jeffrey Hendrix, superintendent, referring to the $8 million budget deficit facing the School Town of Munster. “We may have those doing capital project fundraising.”

Hendrix also applauded the accomplishments of students and teachers.

“We need to focus more on the positive,” he said.

In other business, the School Board heard about ISTEP testing from Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Gilworth.

Elementary students have completed ISTEP testing. Third-graders weren’t required to take the social studies portion because that would have made the testing period 12 hours long.

“You could take the law exam in less time,” Gilworth said.

Students at Wilbur Wright Middle School began taking ISTEP Monday. However, students had trouble with the online site because of platform changes. The district's IT department was able to solve the problem, and students will begin taking this more rigorous test Tuesday, she said.

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Metro Editor