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: Cory C. Cooper
Family: Wife, Gwen; children, Daytona, Brooklyn, Dallas
Employment: Center Grove schools engineering and technology department chairman
Education: Graduated from Franklin Community High School, Ball State University
Political experience: None
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 biggest issue is the financial situation. If nothing is done Franklin will face some steep cuts in transportation and technology. Another area is teacher evaluations. The evaluations will give teachers a chance to continue to display their professionalism. The third is test scores and data, and how does Franklin effectively use the data to be able to maximize student performance. Franklin is at the bottom of the county right now. Franklin needs someone on the board that knows how schools work from the standpoint of a teacher and parent. His experience would help him make future decisions.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Would try to help the school district find ways to help students be prepared when they come out of school. Not all students will be four-year college students. Franklin needs to get more industrial technology, agricultural-related courses in place and work better with Central Nine Career Center to prepare students who might be ready to enter the workforce right out of high school or earn an associate’s or other two-year degree. “I think that right now we only focus on one path, we focus on the student that’s going to get four years of college.”
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Thinks schools should add more programs focused on job market areas that will be in demand, such as in manufacturing. Any extracurricular activities that will help raise student performance are ones he’d be interested in adding, but right now Franklin need to focus on academic performance. “What (the state) cares about, and what we get our A-to-F grade on, is how we perform in the classroom.”
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
When it comes to looking at what to keep, it's important for school districts to look at what they’ll be graded on by the state, but schools must also offer programs that will make students competitive. Priorities for Franklin should include making sure the school is doing well in math and English.
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?
The school district does a great job with the Finish Strong program. The key is for every student to be able to identify with at least one person from the school, be it a teacher or staffer. “If they identify with one person, then they can usually keep that student at school, doing their best. When they can’t identify with anybody that’s usually when they feel like they don’t belong and they drop out.”
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?
A lot of schools do this already, and it seems to have worked. Anything that can bring in more revenue that the school can use in the classroom is important. It’s hard to turn down money that could be put back into the classroom. The contracts need to go through the school board so decisions are made in public and the community can discuss them.
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?
“The problem with the current model is that sometimes athletics take the center stage." Athletics are not being graded by the state. Athletics won’t be what gets students jobs after college. In order to prepare students so they can compete in the job market, the school district has to put money where it’s needed.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs,remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
Technology within the high school that’s breaking down would need to be repaired.
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 Web sites?
Yes, schools will have to do that. Sometimes schools don’t view themselves as a business. In business, sometimes in order to create revenue, you have to spend money to get clients. Colleges do the same thing and recruit students by advertising.
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 biggest problems now are shortfalls for bus replacement funds. Those buses will break down and need to be replaced. Then there’s the technology, which needs to be regularly updated for teachers to be able to use within the classroom. Allowing students to bring their own devices to class could help with that problem.
You are in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
He should be able to lead teacher trainings and staff development. He needs to be able to delegate and have employees working well and performing well. Strong management skills will be essential.
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?
Thinks the school district should, because the teachers know our students better.
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?
Franklin will have to work with the community in new ways, using agencies such as United Way, food pantries and other outreach programs to help students. They also need to ensure that everyone who needs help is being identified.
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?
With everything that’s been shown so far, the school board knows what’s coming, but hasn't looked at every possible outcome yet. Doesn't want to make a decision quickly without all the information.