Reporters Bailey Loosemore and Joseph S. Pete interviewed candidates for NHJ school board on a wide range of issues. Use these pages as a guide in your voting decision.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Who: Joseph “Joey” Dallas
Employment: Farmer and school bus contractor
Education: Graduate of Indian Creek High School; bachelor’s degree from Franklin College, master’s degree from Indiana University and graduate studies at Butler University
Political experience: Currently serves on Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board; past member of Morgan County Library board
Seat pursued: At large
ABOUT THE OFFICE
NHJ school board
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: Two candidates are seeking the Nineveh Township seat. Candidates running for that seat have to live within the township. The other three candidates are running for two at-large seats, which represent the entire district. No more than one at-large member can be from the same township however, so Nineveh Township resident Greg Waltz will automatically take office no matter how many votes he gets since the other two at-large candidates are both from Jackson Township.
Total board members: Five
Who votes: All voters in the school district vote for the at-large seats, but only Nineveh Township residents can vote for the Nineveh Township seat.
Pay: $2,000 per year
What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?
Facility upkeep and facility needs with most schools. An elementary school got turned down in a referendum a few years ago. This board is very committed to trying to keep up buildings. Does not see a new structure in the near future. Board is doing a bond for roof repairs, and maybe some technology and infrastructure projects. Believes schools are sound and safe, and that a new building at this point is not necessary. Board must be careful with the financial constraints on taxpayers, must be responsible with spending and still have a good education. Second is dealing with the new teacher evaluation model. School board members and superintendent must review personnel to make sure public education is done right. Wants to be fair and not try to use new standards to dismiss people, but to ensure better teaching. Must meet state and federal standards for test scores and graduation requirements. Concerned with middle school data. Would like to see scores rise and some improvements.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Feels the board has to be involved in the day-to-day operations. Board members should see teachers' plans to improve. Our job is student achievement, and our goals should be aimed toward its implementation. Student achievement should be No. 1, because that's why the board is there working with the superintendent, getting feedback and putting a plan in place. Must always be progressing, not regressing.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Likes academic programs, thinks district is fairly aggressive in meeting state standards and mandates, especially at the high school level. Thinks that tests show that the district weak in certain areas of the curriculum, and favors adding the necessary classroom programs and addressing the problems. With extracurricular programs, does not see a need for fine arts facilities or for building a theater, but is not opposed to looking at programs. Thinks district is keeping up with competitive sports. His personal philosophy is for core academics, and not electives. Would not discourage electives, but would like to see graduates have common sense skills, thinking skills and know the subject matter. Thinks school district is doing what all the public schools are doing. Wants to see knowledge, proficiency, good common sense skills. Wants to see grammar usage and dressing in professional clothing that will prepare student for interviews, for the workforce or college. Doesn't want to see students slipping through and lacking reading or grammar skills. Is important that they know how to communicate outside of texting.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
Would work with superintendent and do what's necessary to make sure schools meet state standards. Would look at some of the electives first. Main subject matter must be preserved even at the expense of extracurriculars and electives. Math, science and literature have to stay. If student interest is low, a class may have to go and unfortunately a teacher may have to go with it. But must think of state standards when making any cuts.
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?
Doesn't think lower standards is the answer with dress codes or rigorous academic standards. Extracurricular activities and athletics stimulate interest in students who have to make the grades and have success academically to stay on the team. Thinks academics should come first. Good guidance and counselors that catch when students start to slip or have some problems could help. Doesn't favor some of what the school district does with virtual classrooms and online learning. Favors life lessons and being interactive with kids. Doesn't think you can accomplish that via the internet or on computers. Wants kids going to school.
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?
Would have to be careful. Wouldn't be opposed to it or totally opposed to it. Schools belong to the taxpayers and if it helps financially and doesn't hinder the academic programs, would be something to look at. Definitely should look at proposals individually, but thinks that policies should be in place to protect the school and the programs. Thinks lawyer should look over proposals and the superintendent should agree, but the school board has to approve it.
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?
Businesses dictate where the money goes. If businesses give money for scoreboards, businesses should expect that their money goes where it's supposed to and is not diverted. Businesses say where their contributions go and it's not the school district's choice. The board has no say to funnel it toward computers, or classrooms or equipment. Doesn't know of any businesses that give money to general fund, thinks that the money is for capital projects, to get your name out there through scoreboards.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
Board is addressing some of these things with the bond, such as roof repairs. No need for turf on athletic fields. Could upgrade roofing and infrastructure and heating and air conditioning systems. Trying to stay ahead of the needs. Must keep buildings functional. Does that on his own farm. Right now is opposed to a new elementary school or bus garage. The people said they don't want it, and it's not fair to put such a tax burden on them. Teaching is the goal.
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?
Doing a good job with test scores would make the school attractive enough to attract students. Indian Creek is a good community to live in and the school district should set the example and encourage a more productive means of education. Opposes spending tax dollars on ads, public relations employees or consultants. His main focus focus is to attract people through quality.
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? (Clark-Pleasant, Franklin, Edinburgh)
Most schools are looking at pulling money out of rainy day funds. The district can instead look at small bonds for upgrades and facilities. Those small bonds are not designed to build new buildings. Would always be careful not to use the rainy day fund. Is important to do facility studies and look into the future before selling bonds.
You are hiring/in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What qualities are you looking for in your school's leader/what does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
Knowledge of school finances is essential. Must have good teacher and principal evaluations. Must have good visibility to the community, and be a role model. Believes in state standards, curriculum and keeping student achievement high. Thinks must be financially competent. Believes has to watch school spending. Must be good role model and morally sound in the community. Must be in schools as much as possible, doesn't have to be at every athletic events, but thinks one-on-one with staff is more important than answering emails. Likes visibility.
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?
Is not a proponent of that. Students could take an online class and get college credit, but they don't have to get up and get on the bus or drive to school. They don't have to sit in the classroom and learn manners or people skills. Thinks focus should be in classroom.
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?
Public education is basically free for students. Taxpayers have to pay. Thinks parents should be responsible for school supplies and books. Free and reduced-price lunches give students something to eat, but doesn't think schools can do much else. Parents have to meet needs, is out of schools' hands. If kids come to school with an iPhone or expensive cell phone, thinks they and their parents need to prioritize.
Did you support the plan to spend $26 million on a new 500-student elementary school and renovations and expansions to the high school and intermediate school? Will this plan come back to voters again? Why or why not?
Was not on the board when it initiated that plan and is totally opposed to it. Is supportive of keeping what we have, keeping good facilities and doing a bond of $2 million in upgrades, but not doing new buildings. A bus garage or new buildings don't have to go up. The board is talking about a new elementary school with a less costly design and cutting some corners, and have said it would be less than $10 million and not go to referendum, but doesn't know how to do it in this economy. Project could go over budget and would add to operating costs. Is misleading to public and superseding will of taxpayers.