Reporters Tom Lange and Magen Kritsch interviewed candidates for Franklin school board on a wide range of issues. Use these pages as a guide in your voting decision.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Name: D. Christopher Bass
Family: Wife, Shannon; children Taylor Leach, Payton Parker, Baylee Parker, Kailyn Bass
Employment: Senior business analyst remote deposit capture, Huntington Bank
Education: Graduated from Perry Meridian High School; attended Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Political experience: Former member of the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission
ABOUT THE OFFICE
Franklin school board
Term: Four years
Duties: Developing policies, approving the annual budget, setting salaries for all employees and hiring and evaluating the superintendent.
Total school board members: Five
Pay: $2,000 per year
What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?
The current budget constraints, including the loss of income because of property tax caps. Officials are identifying ways to reduce the debt in the coming years. Thinks the school district should look for additional income opportunities, including marketing and advertising. Workman’s compensation and trying to make sure the expense of that was looked at from a proper perspective. That issue needs to be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that what they’re doing is best for employees as well as the district. Lastly, compensation for teachers and staff, to ensure that there is an adequate way of compensating workers and continuing students' education. Superintendent David Clendening has recommended a program that is going to be used for the ongoing recommendation of salary levels for the teachers, which will be based on their knowledge of education within the classroom and test scores.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Providing Clendening and the staff with direction for the school district that they can take and implement based off what they know will give students technological advances as well as curriculum advances. That includes looking outside the district for opportunities Franklin isn’t currently using.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Franklin has a pretty good sports program now. As far as academics, the high school has come a long way in terms of providing higher learning, college-level programs for students. Recently the high school has started looking at utilizing online learning, which is a much-needed addition to the curriculum that they have today. The school district needs to continue to build on that momentum.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
"I think ultimately we have to be accountable for our budget." The school board members have the responsibility of making cuts when they're needed, as well as looking for ways to earn additional money for the school district.
Administrators across the county say that the number of students dropping out of schools is an issue that must be addressed. What methods would you propose to keep students in school or bring back students who have dropped out?
Online learning is an opportunity for Franklin to reach out to children who feel disconnected in traditional classrooms. There may be issues that teachers or administrators are not aware of, or learning issues where a traditional classroom isn’t working for them. Using online learning is important so Franklin can reach those kids. “It may not work for all of them, but it definitely is a step we can take in the right direction.”
Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings? What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?
Other area schools have been able to use those dollars for their expenses. “I think there’s a fine line between school and business, but with our economic times the way they’ve been, I think those lines have become gray.” Thinks there is a chance to utilize partners in the community who see a need in schools that they can provide or help support, and the school board needs to look at those to see whether they’re a good fit for the school. The school board should be responsible for searching out and finding these opportunities and providing the guidelines. Those then go to the superintendent for final approval.
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?
Can’t speak for other schools, but it doesn’t seem like all of the money is spent on sports. Keeping up sports facilities is a big expense for schools that has to be paid for. If someone can give advertising dollars for that expense, it helps. The school district also needs additional money coming in over years that could be used for academic or other programs within the school as well as maintenance, facilities and improvements.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs,remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
One of the biggest issues is the elementary schools, which continue to age. “I think we’ve made tremendous strides with the middle school and high school, and now our focus is going to need to turn to the elementary schools.” Outside turf and labs are secondary.
Schools want to recruit students in order to collect the most money from the state. Should schools recruit students? If so, how should this be accomplished? Should money be spent on advertisements, public relations employees or consultants or websites?
Would prefer not to comment at this time.
Property tax caps are making it difficult for districts to replace buses, upgrade buildings and technology, and in some cases pay down their debt. What is the biggest problem your district faces because of property tax caps, and what ideas do you have to solve them?
The school district is facing the property tax caps problem now, and updating the budget to ensure the gaps are being met. The current budget isn’t the only issue, but also the coming years when high-interest loans are coming due for payment. The budget is being looked at now for cuts to help with those expenses. Wants the school district to look for additional revenue.
You are in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
The superintendent must show leadership. There have been leaders who weren’t the right fit. Thinks it’s important the superintendent understands and is involved with the community. Leadership can be built, from the superintendent down. Is important that the superintendent's staff mimic his values, and that the superintendent and the board have a common bond, through values, communication or leadership.
School districts are spending more money and time developing online courses, and many of them mimic courses that have already been developed elsewhere. Should your school district continue to develop more online courses? Why or why not?
“I think it’s important that we don’t reinvent the wheel, but I also think that current online structures may not be the best for our community.” Franklin can use the structure of online courses others have developed and change them to meet the school district's needs.
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/help they need to be able to succeed?
From a board perspective, this is a must-have. The superintendent needs to be behind the free and reduced-price lunch program, and it needs to be monitored and managed within the district. There also needs to be community involvement from the board or the township to ensure the community knows it exists and that they can get help from the township or schools.
The school district has been discussing a long-term plan for its debt and financial shortfalls. What do you think needs to be done? What cuts can be made? When should this decision be made?
Long-term budget is being reviewed now by the current board as well as Clendening. Long-term bond issues will continue to be a problem for the budget, unless proper planning and executive decisions are made within the next year to ensure that the budget is capped to address the lack of funding from property taxes.