ABOUT THE POSITION

Pay: $2,000 salary, $50 for any special meetings

Duties: Attend school board meetings, review the superintendent, approve school contracts

Term: 4 years

Area represented: Town of Edinburgh within school district

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
Cathy Hamm
Cathy Hamm

Cathy Hamm

Work: Retired library director at Edinburgh Public Library

Education: Associates degree, Indiana University

Family: Husband Ron, and two children, Chad and Jill

Past political experience: Has served five terms on the school board

Bill Jones
Bill Jones

Bill Jones

Work: Water utility assistant superintendent, Edinburgh

Education: High school diploma, job certifications for water licenses

Family: Wife Deborah, and two sons, Jonathan and Travis

Political experience: Ran for school board once before in 2012

Curtis Rooks
Curtis Rooks

Curtis Rooks

Work: Street superintendent, Edinburgh

Education: Edinburgh Community High School graduate

Family: Wife Miriam and son Jamie

Political experience: Edinburgh Town Council 2007-14

Alice Nancy Taulman
Alice Nancy Taulman

Alice Nancy Taulman

Work: Retired math teacher and guidance counselor

Education: Educational specialist, Indiana University

Family: Husband Larry and son Scott

Past political experience: Has served 12 years on the school board

Q&A: Where they stand

What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?

Hamm: The biggest issues are test scores and graduation rates, having effective administration and teachers on staff and being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars. To improve test scores the right academic standards need to be taught in the classrooms. The challenge with teachers is turnover due to pay. Finding qualified teachers isn’t a problem. To be fiscally responsible, the board needs to keep a close eye on how legislative changes affect school budgets.

Jones: Teacher turnover at the elementary school, funding for teacher raises and bullying. The first two issues are tied together. Turnover is the result of not having the funding for raises, and raises are tied to how students perform on state-mandated testing. Bullying is a lot different in the social media age. It used to just happen at school and now it can happen anytime and anywhere. Students need to be educated about the impact of their words.

Rooks: The three issues facing the district are improving test scores, addressing the student decline and retaining qualified teachers. The school board needs to rely on the administration to make sure it is doing all it can to help improve those scores. Isn’t sure what is causing the drop in enrollment this year. The school is down 37 students, but that could be attributed to parents moving or other issues. Officials also need to look at why the school has lost several good teachers. Is pay an issue or are there other factors? Has more questions than answers at this point.

Taulman: Salaries, test scores and graduation rates are the areas of concern. In order for teachers to get salary increases, their students must get certain grades on standardized test scores, which haven’t always been good. The setup is hard for the teachers. The way to improve the test scores is to have a greater focus on reviewing information through the school year so students are prepared. Teacher turnover can be addressed by fixing the testing problems and helping them get the raises they need. To improve graduation rates, the school needs to focus on showing students the importance of a high school degree and education beyond that, whether college or technical.

What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?

Hamm: Hire and maintain quality administrators and staff. See that the curriculum allows students to receive the best education possible.

Jones: Lift the spirits of the teachers so that children can learn better. Improve teacher morale. Help them be happy with their jobs.

Rooks: The most important thing a school board member can do is listen to the concerns of parents and teachers and work to address them.

Taulman: Set standards high and listen to what people in the different fields are talking about.

Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs, facilities or facility upgrades? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?

Hamm: Would be OK adding programs or making changes to the curriculum if there was a proven need to do so.

Jones: No, the superintendent has done a good job with upgrades to the facilities. Supports improvements so long as the money is there for them. Doesn’t have any recommendations for curriculum changes, would have to look into them first.

Rooks: Doesn’t have any changes he would recommend to the curriculum. Feels that the school district has all the programs the students need.

Taulman: The superintendent does a good job with the facilities. With the small number of students at the high school, there isn’t a need for more programs. No curriculum changes are needed. Students have sufficient academic and vocational options.

You are in charge of evaluating the district’s superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?

Hamm: The superintendent needs to score highly on the guidelines in the district’s evaluation tool. That includes demonstrating leadership, handling the school’s finances responsibly and ensuring students are getting good grades.

Jones: The superintendent needs to show good leadership skills, be firm with decisions, be friendly with people and be a good communicator.

Rooks: Would want to see how well the superintendent works with teachers, staff and parents. Would also tie evaluation into how well the school district is doing overall.

Taulman: The superintendent needs to get along with people. Needs to work well with administration to improve test scores.

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?

Hamm: Is an accurate measure of student achievement, but is not the only measure. The school should work to make sure students are aware of this program.

Jones: We have good students and teachers, and yes, this is a good measurement. The school needs to continue to hire quality teachers, and the teachers need to push the children to succeed.

Rooks: Doesn’t agree that the number of National Merit Scholars is a good measure of achievement. The school’s job is to give students the opportunities to succeed and encourage them to take advantage of that.

Taulman: During her 35 years working at the school, only had a runner-up once. Doesn’t believe it is a good measure of student success. The SAT is a better measure of whether a student is prepared for college.

How well is your school district preparing students for college? What more would you like to see offered, or what should be changed?

Hamm: The school district does a good job of not only preparing students for college, but for whatever their career choices might be after graduation. School district needs to make sure students have access to any classes they need to be prepared for college.

Jones: Doesn’t know what percentage of students are going to college. Assumes it is high. An after-school tutoring program would be beneficial to students, but would need to involve volunteers for it to be affordable.

Rooks: Students are as prepared as well as they can be for college. The district is doing everything it can at this point.

Taulman: The students have the right resources as long as they are willing to do the work. School only has two Advanced Placement courses, but students are allowed to go to Franklin College, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus or Ivy Tech Community College to take college courses. School covers cost of classes but not transportation.

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?

Hamm: Yes, and the schools should continue to make sure students are aware of all the opportunities they have after graduation including technical careers.

Jones: Isn’t sure. Knows that nursing is a common career choice for many local students. Student surveys should be done.

Rooks: The district is doing a good job. Juniors and seniors at the high school have the opportunity to take technical courses and do vocational training in Columbus. What could be improved is communication about student needs between the board and the teachers.

Taulman: About half of the students attend C4 Columbus Area Career Connection to take technical classes in their junior and senior years. Students have the opportunity to get good preparation for those types of careers.

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?

Hamm: Prepares for meetings by keeping on top of information that will be presented and researching topics she is not familiar with. Keeps up with current trends through continuing education classes.

Jones: Attended a class in Center Grove from the election board covering the responsibilities of being an elected official. Has attended school board meetings, met with the teachers union and is planning to meet with the superintendent.

Rooks: Has political experience from being on the Edinburgh Town Council for seven years. Had worked for the Edinburgh School Corp. for nearly 30 years. Retired as the director of facilities and transportation. Has also attended school board meetings.

Taulman: Belongs to the Indiana School Boards Association and attends meetings and training sessions through it, which helps her stay on top of education trends in Indiana.

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?

Hamm: The district needs to communicate with parents to let them know about all of the programs and assistance that is available in the community.

Jones: The number of low-income students in Edinburgh is high. Educating parents about what help is out there is important. Need to have an open door policy with talking to teachers and administration about these issues.

Rooks: Should look at what community organization the school can partner with to assist these students.

Taulman: Because it is a small community, everyone knows everyone. It isn’t a secret what students come from families that are low-income. The district has a clothing fund to help parents with getting clothing for their kids. The school will direct families to local food pantries as well.

If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?

Hamm: Would have to rely on administration and teachers for guidance to make sure the programs that are cut are the ones that would have the least impact on the students’ education.

Jones: Would have to cut the least effective programs. Hard to imagine it would be sports. The school needs all the ones that it has.

Rooks: The school board would need to rely on input from the community, teachers and staff to determine what its funding priorities should be. Choice should also be made on what will have the least impact.

Taulman: Wouldn’t want to cut anything. Schools are at a bare minimum. Sports bring a lot of students in so cutting them wouldn’t make sense. The district doesn’t have many frills.

Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings?

Hamm: That’s a Center Grove question, not an Edinburgh question. Would be in favor if it could offset other costs.

Jones: It would be good. Wherever the money goes would be fine so long as it helps the school system.

Rooks: Is in favor of it. School budgets are tight, so any extra funding that can be generated is crucial.

Taulman: Is in favor of it. The district needs money, and this is a way to get some.

What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?

Hamm: Polices should be in place to indicate how to accept, spend and restrict advertising dollars. Final approval would need to come from the school board after it gets recommendations from the administration and athletic departments.

Jones: Would want to make sure advertising doesn’t include products students should avoid, such as alcohol, tobacco or guns. School board should be responsible for giving approval along with the superintendent.

Rooks: Guidelines should be set up on what types of advertising is permissible. A community committee could be made to create that.

Taulman: Advertising shouldn’t involve tobacco, alcohol or other things students shouldn’t be involved in. The board and superintendent would be involved in approving the contracts.

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?

Hamm: Funds should be spent on what the company specifies it should be spent for. Would support using those funds for academics so long as that is in the contract guidelines.

Jones: Money goes to the sports programs because that is typically where the naming rights or advertising is being displayed. Money needs to go where the contract states it will, but would be in favor of negotiating contracts that give the school more leeway over spending the funds.

Rooks: The school district should have the say in how advertising funds are best used. Doesn’t have to be tied to athletics and could go into the general fund instead. Also depends on how the contracts are set up with the advertisers and what they are requesting the money be spent on.

Taulman: Corporations and sponsors are normally asked where they want the money to go, and it is almost always toward athletics. Would be nice to be able to spend those funds on academics, but maybe the money wouldn’t be given then.

What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings are needed? How will they be paid for?

Hamm: No, there is not a need at this time.

Jones: The district has everything it needs.

Rooks: No new ones are needed as the school has recently made many necessary improvements.

Taulman: The district doesn’t need new buildings. Turf was just put down.

School 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?

Hamm: The schools are secure. Several changes have been made in recent years including visitors needing to be buzzed in from the office. Safety isn’t an issue that can be taken lightly. Would support changes for student safety if any were needed.

Jones: The proper measures are being taken given the funding the school district has. Doesn’t believe the schools would need an armed officer or guard.

Rooks: Steps should be taken to make sure schools are safe, but schools shouldn’t be turned into fortresses either. The school is still a community school and should have a hometown feel. Doesn’t think any changes are necessary for student safety.

Taulman: Edinburgh schools are safe enough. There is a police officer who comes through the building once or twice a week. The doors are locked and visitors have to request entrance through a speakerphone. Doesn’t see what else could be added, unless it would be to hire a full-time security guard or police officer, but that isn’t something the district could afford without taking away from education.

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?

Hamm: Doesn’t see the issue as competition. The school district should focus on offering quality education with effective staff and administration so that students choosing to come to the schools have the opportunity for academic achievement.

Jones: Doesn’t believe Edinburgh is losing many students because of the voucher program. Hiring and keeping quality teachers is what the school needs to do. If teachers are happy, the students will be taught well.

Rooks: Competing for students can be a challenge when private schools can offer more in regards to athletics and other programs. The district should make sure its academic opportunities are good for students.

Taulman: Edinburgh doesn’t have a problem with losing students to the state voucher program. To keep students, the school district should have variety in the curriculum and have more college prep classes.

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?

Hamm: Is important for students to have physical education classes and periods in which they can get up and move about. School meals meet the Indiana requirements for nutrition standards.

Jones: The school district shouldn’t be taking away opportunities for physical activity from students. Last year, the middle school as a whole had bad grades in a subject, and instead of having a free period on Fridays for activities, the students were made to have another study time to catch up. Exercise is essential for students. Is important for food in the school to be healthy. Isn’t sure what the rules are for fundraising, but junk food isn’t a problem with concessions.

Rooks: Often sees kids out at recess. Assumes they are getting the right amount of exercise. Employees have time during lunch or planning periods for exercise if they need it. School lunches should be required to meet the necessary standards. Isn’t concerned with concession stands being healthy as that food is mostly geared toward adults.

Taulman: Elementary students have opportunities for physical education, and high school students have an open gym period during lunch where they can play basketball or do other activities. Food is healthy during the school day. Students also have health classes where they can learn about the right eating habits.

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?

Hamm: Yes, the world is based on technology now. Every student should have the opportunity to learn how to use technology. If the school needs to supply those devices then it should. Would listen to teacher input on if the devices are effective for learning.

Jones: The devices are good, so long as they are being used only for educational purposes.

Rooks: Yes, the technology age is here. In order to be successful you have to give students the tools they need to achieve their goals. Student grades can be a measure of the effectiveness of these devices.

Taulman: Yes, those devices are needed. Everyone in the high school has a laptop and most other students do. That is the way the world is going. They have to know technology. How students grades are doing can be a way to measure whether the devices are helpful.