Three people are running for two at-large seats on the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board. Here’s a breakdown of the positions and their duties:
Term: Four years
Duties: Developing policies, adopting the annual budget, determining salaries for all employees and hiring and evaluating the district’s superintendent.
Area district represents: Both seats represent the whole school district, but no more than one at-large member can be from the same township.
Who votes: All voters in the school district vote for the at-large seats.
Pay: $2,000 per year
Family: Wife, Shari; two children
Employer: Lance and Beebe Architectural Planning Interiors
Education: Graduate of Indian Creek High School
Political experience: Elected to the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board in 2002 and 2006
Family: Wife, Dawn; three children and stepchild
Employer: Chance Bros Marble and Tile
Education: Graduate of Indian Creek High School
Memberships: Brick Layers and Craft Worker’s Union; First Christian Church of Morgantown
Political experience: Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board member since 2008.
Family: Husband, Todd; four children
Employer: Technical coordinator at Central Nine Career Center
Education: Columbus North High School; Harrison College
Memberships: Trafalgar Christian Church; Girl Scout troop leader
Political experience: None
Q&A: Where they stand
What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?
Harvey: Doesn’t know of one specifically. Would work with the superintendent and existing board members to address any curriculum, facilities or anything else that happens to come up. Nothing in particular at this point.
Waltz: Finances. The last few years we have been able to acquire almost $800,000 in the general fund by being proactive and conservative. We have been keeping an eye on the state legislature and on new things as they come up and we make the best of the money we do receive. Replacing retired teachers. Is proactive to visit colleges to see what students they have that would be interested in teaching positions. Could give a sign-on bonus, little incentives to help gain good and qualified teachers. Maintaining high grades for schools. Work with superintendent to make sure he is working with administration and holding teachers accountable by teaching students what needs to be met.
Wilkerson: Declining budget. Running the school efficiently and effectively under a confined budget is a challenge. Take a look at efficiency and any places that overlap and figure out what we spend our money on. Providing enhanced opportunities for students. Seeing what we are lacking, what they want more of and what the family wants. Keeping the school district moving forward and making sure the decisions we make are in line with the strategic plan and takes us in that direction.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Harvey: Work with the superintendent and his initiatives and listen to the teachers and administrators and see what works well and what they would like to see in their buildings.
Waltz: Listening to ideas brought by the superintendent; it’s a huge collaboration. Open ears and vision about what could help student achievement.
Wilkerson: To take a good look at the data and figure out what it says, constantly ask questions and be involved in what is going on in the classroom, getting to know what they are doing with the curriculum and keeping a pulse on what is happening in the schools, as they request different initiatives and new ideas. Get enough information to make an educated decision.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs, facilities or facility upgrades? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Harvey: For sports, would look at any ideas or at the participation in some of the lower grade levels to make sure that we would have the participation before adding anything. Would like an assessment of facilities to see where we are in maintenance and see a comprehensive plan for the next five to 10 years. Wants an overall view of equipment. Supports STEM education and would like to take a look at implementing that in lower grades. Is important with job opportunities and are good skills to know for any type of occupation. Should add curriculum in small steps.
Waltz: Changed sports conferences and added sports that we have not participated in. Have talked about and looked at adding a soccer program. Also added quiz bowls for students, which is an extracurricular activity and an educational activity. Do need to add to the facilities. You can’t always travel someplace else. If a soccer program is something that is a need and we have students involved, would have to look at what we would have to do. Doesn’t know if he would advocate any curriculum changes, but would advocate for a high standard on curriculum.
Wilkerson: Depends on what the community wants. We can definitely have a more wide range of academics and add to what we have. We cover the gamut on athletic activities, and if we didn’t offer certain sports, we can look at what the needs might be. Just got a new elementary. High school built in 1967 and there are a lot of new technologies and advancements that it doesn’t have since its age. Most buildings have minor general maintenance issues. Online learning is something students should be familiar with. Helped start an online program for students to add more core academic classes. For students who have to choose between extracurricular activities and academic honors, can take both and not sacrifice academic honors.
You are in charge of evaluating the district’s superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
Harvey: Improvement in test scores and a strong budget and strong cash balance. Be an advocate in the community and for the schools.
Waltz: Superintendent needs to be involved in the day-to-day operations at all levels. Has to be in tune with administrators that operate facilities. Superintendent has to have goals that he foresees making the school district better and follow through with those goals. Is a very important job. Our superintendent doesn’t sit behind a desk and is out in the trenches.
Wilkerson: Communication skills, desire to make the school system the best it can be and communicate not only with community, but with faculty, staff and students to be collaborative. Fiscally responsible.
How well is your school district preparing students for college? What more would you like to see offered, or what should be changed?
Harvey: Would have to work with the superintendent and board to do an assessment of that and come up with ideas and suggestions to work with what we are currently doing.
Waltz: Administrators at the high school and at the middle school are doing this. It does start at the middle school. Making sure administrators and counselors are in tune with students who want to study further. Have high ability program in middle school and can continue in high school. If they need online classes in high school, they know if that is available as well.
Wilkerson: Do a good job offering Advanced Placement courses. Counselors do a good job at college and career readiness and look at students goals in life and what they want to do. Can always do more to diversify those options for students. Don’t have to chose between skills and college degree, can do both. Need to see all offerings before can decide how to change it.
How well do you believe your school district is preparing students for technical careers, including manufacturing, computer programing and nursing, which has been identified as a priority? What do you believe could be done better?
Harvey: Just like most county students, they can attend Central Nine Career Center. Central Nine is the biggest and best opportunity to get that training now and we have a partnership with Ivy Tech. Would also like to see us work on implementing the STEM curriculum throughout the school district.
Waltz: Is school district’s representative to Central Nine Career Center and is president of Central Nine board. Always looking at what is the next trend in the workforce that we need. For example, right now, Central Nine is looking at the interest and potential to start a HVAC program. Central Nine is very important to the schools participating. Students have a wide range of possibilities to study while in high school.
Wilkerson: Send students to Central Nine Career Center, which is great place to foster those science and technical and STEM related fields. Utilizing the resources that are available. There are things you can do to integrate and focus on STEM and health science. Look into advancement of those in every day courses.
Local public schools have been losing more students to private schools through the state’s voucher program. How can public schools remain competitive to retain and attract students?
Harvey: Teachers, students and administrators and the superintendent need to be an advocate for the school and be able to share the positives of the school. Public schools need to focus on education and teaching standards and making sure that when students move from one grade level they are equipped and ready to move on.
Waltz: Doesn’t know that we have an issue with that. Are a rural community school. Are trying to maintain the best teachers possible that we can maintain to give the kids the best education we can.
Wilkerson: Boils down to providing more opportunities and more applicable curriculum. Should have more opportunities for students. The draw away from our schools is that we focus so much on traditional teaching in the traditional style and core academics. Branching out, people are intrigued by methods of integrated teaching, blended learning and project-based learning, that is a lot of what private schools do.
What have you done to prepare for the job of a school board member? Have you attended school board meetings, requested documentation or met with any officials, educators or parents? What specific steps have you taken?
Harvey: Served on the school board for eight years previously, attends all school board meetings, has a good relationship with the current superintendent and tries to keep up on what is going on in the schools.
Waltz: Has been an active school board member. Doesn’t skip meetings. Has been on committees, made the hard choices. Some have had good outcomes and some have had bad outcomes, that just comes with any decision. Served the last eight years as a school board member and takes it very seriously.
Wilkerson: Talked to a lot of community members. Part of community, bantam board, go to church in community. Worked in the school district and talked to people over time and listened to them and their concerns and successes. Makes it a little easier to understand both sides, from parent, community and inside as well. Researched different kinds of learning and curriculum. Talking to people and seeing what they are looking for and making determination and how that fits.
Your school district recently built a new elementary school. What should be done with the old elementary school building?
Harvey: Hoping it can be used by a community group or possibly by the town. The town is looking at options to purchase the building. We are looking at all options at this time.
Waltz: What should be done with it should be the best thing for the school district and the community. Are a lot of things to be looked at, including state regulations, time frame.
Wilkerson: Should be a community center. Plenty of youth sports, draw people in. Need place families can go, rent for offices for businesses. It should be utilized and not just sitting there. Is the perfect place to put all that together. If we decide to keep it as a school, should go back to the focus on STEM and have a place to go, like what Center Grove did with innovation center. Focus on 21st century learning space, incubator for student business.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
Harvey: Would listen to the superintendent. Would have to probably look at everything as a whole before made any decisions to cut anything as far as curriculum.
Waltz: Would have to rely on research and committees. Look at what is being used the least. Rely on data and the superintendent speaking to teachers, coaches and administrators.
Wilkerson: Academics are always a priority, but they aren’t the only priority. Have to look at what activities are being utilized and what are not and look at efficiencies. Are there places to cut pennies over a large area, instead of losing a course or teacher? Look at all of the data and the needs of the students.
Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings?
Harvey: Not really. Is something he would have to assess at the time. Doesn’t have any thoughts on that at this time. Is becoming fairly common at some of the bigger schools.
Waltz: Have to look at what the name of the company is. Could be some that are not kid-friendly. Don’t want to open it up to anyone. In some certain circumstances, would be fine to do. Gives the opportunity for fundraising.
Wilkerson: In favor of doing that within reason and with whatever policy the school board has in place. The purpose of the relationship with the donor should be evaluated. Schools need all the funding we can get, and is important to support community businesses and donors, and they will support us.
What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?
Harvey: Is sure that there are policies in place now. If that is to be considered, the board and school officials would have to see who is wanting to provide the banner and signage and make that decision at the time. It should be up to the superintendent and school board. Have legal counsel draft the contract.
Waltz: Should be policies in place that superintendent and lawyer would have to look at.
Wilkerson: The school administration and school board should work together to oversee them and the school board should approve them. Doesn’t know what the details of that policy should be, but there should be one in place to vet the donor and to determine how those donations would be given to the school.
If area businesses are willing to give schools thousands of dollars, why is the money being spent on athletics? Why is that the top priority? Couldn’t the advertisements still be displayed on a sports facility with the money going to academic or other programs?
Harvey: Doesn’t know that it is. If an outside individual or business would want to donate money to the school and they had a preference to what it went for, would have to look at each case and make a decision then. Don’t have that many opportunities with a lot of dollars.
Waltz: Can’t speak for anyone else. Haven’t had any naming rights at Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson. There was an advertisement that went toward payments for the electric sign. Would think there would need to be some type of contract, which our lawyer and their lawyer would look over. They could stipulate where the money goes. That is something for the lawyers to sort out. Superintendent would then bring it to the board.
Wilkerson: Doesn’t think athletics has to be the main priority. Depends on where the donor wants money to go. If blanket donation, schools determine where funding is needed. If donor is purchasing new bleachers or auditorium, you should honor wishes of the donor in that case.
The number of students on free and reduced-price lunch from low-income families has been rising. What can your district do to ensure all students receive the kind of resources and help they need to be able to succeed?
Harvey: There are several government programs the school should be taking advantage of as far as lunches and providing meals for breakfast and lunch. Not sure what is available. Would assume we have something currently in place.
Waltz: We communicate to those individuals with our website and on registration days and our guidance counselors are aware of things that come up. Guidance counselors are educated to get different people involved.
Wilkerson: Need to look at the situations that cause the classification. Not only that they don’t have the money, many different reasons on why family needs assistance. Finding out why and what the school can do. Need to determine the needs and accommodate as much as possible. All students should have the opportunity to receive the same quality of education.
The number of National Merit Scholars has been viewed as a measure of a school district’s achievement. Do you agree? What do you think the school district can do to get more students into this program?
Harvey: Would have to research that further. Hopes we are doing everything that can be doing.
Waltz: Have added more high ability classes and online classes students can take, in addition to other programs at the school. Are trying to give students every opportunity we can and some are double credit courses. We are always looking to add if we can.
Wilkerson: With academics, it is a measure of achievement. Students who have a focus on science, academics and rigor should have the opportunities to explore that. Not every student goes down that road, don’t judge school based on that. Need opportunities for students to receive those types of honors.
Most schools across the county give students devices, such as laptops and tablets, to use. Do you believe these devices are needed in the classroom? Why or why not? And how should schools measure the effectiveness of these devices to see how they are helping students learn?
Harvey: Thinks they are needed. We live in an age of technology and want results and answers fast. Doesn’t believe they are the only tool. Would hope that they are compiling data and reviewing data and matching that up with test scores and evaluating it that way.
Waltz: We have iPads. They are an important part of education for students. Can’t say whether it is good or bad, but will say technology is highly favored for students today, more than it was years ago. Is a connection that students have today with electronics. Have been hiccups and we have tried to make those go away.
Wilkerson: Devices are important. In students’ adult life they will have to incorporate computers, tablets, etc. Device is used with curriculum to do what you may not be able to do within the confines of the classroom.
Security has become more of a focus in recent years. Do you believe schools are safe enough? What else should be done to make them secure?
Harvey: Doesn’t know that they are ever safe enough. The school district has taken steps to make secure entries in all of the schools. Thinks it is enough for now.
Waltz: Have drills at Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools. When you do something that helps your security at your school, there is something else that may come up. Always ask: how can we make school more secure? In the last few years, we have secured entrances with different badges for teachers with electronic doors. Have to have program in place for security.
Wilkerson: Schools are not necessarily safe enough. It is hard to be safe enough. You can’t tell where all your threats will be coming from. Making good strides with locked campuses and secured entrances and now the focus should be on making sure those procedures are in place to make sure those things work. Schools are doing all they can to figure out where they need more security and secure facilities. Things changes every day, we can always do more.
While parents play a huge role in a child’s physical wellness, children spend a large part of their day at school. What is your school district doing, or should it be doing, to ensure that children and employees have opportunities to get part of the recommended amount of physical activity during the school day? Do the current policies and nutrition offerings support healthy choices, even when it comes to concession stands, fundraising items and vending machines?
Harvey: They are doing everything that they should be doing for exercise. We have excellent facilities and students and faculty can use those facilities and work with health and fitness. Try to offer something for everybody and again that is kind of a personal choice. Thinks we are doing what we can and looking into alternatives as far as supplying better and healthy foods at school.
Waltz: Schools have physical education for younger and older kids with advanced physical education. Have a very good director of cafeterias and food service department. She is always incorporating the new nutrition laws and trying to give our students the best meals in the cafeteria. Same standards for concession stands. Don’t have vending machines full of candy in the schools.
Wilkerson: During day, cut out vending machines so not available to students. Healthier and lower calorie drink machines they use after school. Elementary school does walk for education, intermediate integrates physical activity for fundraising, and not fundraising as much for sweets and candy. Can sometimes be too much removal of food choices, have a long way to go before get cafeteria meals that are more like regular meals, but that is limited by federal regulation.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need? How will they be paid for?
Harvey: Just completed and opened a new elementary school built on the main campus. Doesn’t know there is anything new being planned.
Waltz: Finishing up an elementary school now, that was done through bonds. Just approved a strategic plan that incorporates education and grounds and maintenance. Grounds and maintenance requires routine scheduling, such as monitoring the HVAC system. Are looking at a maintenance schedule on facilities and buildings. Have rainy day funds. Could take care of maintenance and other issues. Can’t spend all rainy day money on maintenance. Could be times where a small loan is taken out. Don’t have anything large on the horizon. Nothing is lacking.
Wilkerson: How to pay for improvements is based on how much money we have in the budget and how much the community will contribute. Specifics of what those improvements would be is hard to say right now. In general, more outdoor labs and more experiences outside the traditional classroom would benefit our students, and of course everyone wants turf.