This has been painful.

But it has worked.

Tough-minded spending discipline by Jay Schools has put the corporation firmly on the path to fiscal health.

Faced with declining enrollment and the accompanying drop in state support for education, Jay Schools has reduced staff, closed schools, consolidated and made incredibly difficult choices over the past few years.

The architect for this transformation is, without doubt, superintendent Jeremy Gulley.

It was Gulley who clearly identified the “pills” the corporation was going to have to swallow in order to get its fiscal house in order. And through countless meetings with endless charts and graphs, it was Gulley who made the case that inaction was not an option.

But it’s one thing to identify a course of action.

It’s another thing to make the hard decisions necessary to pursue that course.

And that’s where Jay School Board has stepped up.

The decision to close a school can only be described as painful. And this was never a matter of closing one school; it was a matter of downsizing to an affordable configuration for the future.

That meant closing Pennville Elementary School. That meant closing Judge Haynes Elementary School. That means closing General Shanks Elementary School this fall and re-using the Shanks building for central office and pre-school. That means repurposing both middle schools and creating a junior-senior high school, while closing the Westlawn Elementary School building and sending those students to the current West Jay Middle School building.

By any measure, that’s an enormous task.

But to the credit of the board and Gulley, it has been done transparently, thoughtfully and with a constant focus on the needs of students.

While we’re acknowledging the hard work of the administration and the board, there’s someone else who deserves credit.

That’s the Jay Schools community.

Few things provoke more passion than the closing of a community or neighborhood school. But those directly affected responded with civility and an earnest effort to understand the challenging issues involved. They listened. They expressed their opinions eloquently. And they ultimately knew in their hearts that consolidation and school closings were inevitable.

That doesn’t take away the pain, of course.

But there is some comfort in seeing real results.

Thanks to those tough decisions — those “pills” Gulley talked of — Jay Schools has experienced the largest positive cash flow in its history. The more than $2.5 million year-end balance in the education fund represents the healthiest financial position for the school corporation in years.

And it should get better in the year ahead, enough so that Jay Schools can weather whatever the national economy or Indiana state government happens to throw at us in the years ahead. — J.R.