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: Kathy Vest
Employment: U.S. Post Office rural letter carrier
Education: Graduate of Northwest High School and the University of Indianapolis
Political experience: Has served on Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board since 2005
Seat pursued: Nineveh Township
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?
Number one is keeping the corporation solvent while still maintaining students' education. The biggest issue on everyone's mind is how the teacher evaluations and the new state laws are going to come into play. The current contract is until the 2014-15 school year, but the evaluations are a concern for everybody. The school board already has a budget for next year and has an idea what the average daily membership count of students will be next year. Schools used to be able to budget better because they knew how much money they were getting, but now they don't know.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Have excellent administrators in place to make sure students' education and achievement are priorities. Thinks the schools have done that.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
The schools are working on a high ability program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Curriculum is not her expertise. Doesn't feel that's her call to make.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
The superintendent and administrators get together and decide. Doesn't think that's her call as a board member.
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 has a $2 million bond to fix an unused building that used to be an administrative office. The board has decided to make renovations so the building can be a student learning center, alternative school or place for continuing education. Is not sure what will happen, but since the corporation already owns it, the current board felt they could put money toward the building to help with that problem.
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?
Thinks it depends on where the advertising is going to go. The board is putting up a sign now that will have space for advertising to defray the cost the school pays. Doesn't feel advertising should be everywhere. If there aren't policies in place, there should be. Would handle advertising on a case by case basis.
If area businesses are willing to give schools thousands of dollars, why is the money being spend 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?
We aren't a corporation that's had that kind of thing happen. Agrees the money should be spent across the board.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
The school district just did a couple different bonds to keep the facilities in good shape, including roof repairs on different buildings. The board is also in the process of dong work on the heating and air conditioning system at the high school and improving the old administration building on the property. Officials have already approved the money for those projects.
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 relation employees or consultants or Web sites?
Recruiting is a huge issue, because state funding is all based on how many students you have enrolled. Parents can choose where they want their children to go to school. Doesn't know how far some schools will go. A good school corporation will be able to get more students. Thinks school districts have to market themselves, but isn't sure she wants to spend money from the budget to do that. Would hope the budget goes mostly to education. But would agree with the corporation putting out a pamphlet.
You are 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?
The board asked the community two years ago what they wanted in a superintendent and they said leadership. Thinks the current superintendent is leading the corporation very well. Has personal goals that he's already started on and is continuing to do work to prove he has a vision for the corporation.
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?
The school district is already partnering with the Virtual Academy, so the board is not doing that. The board is not designing those classes; they're using someone else's expertise.
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?
It is a concern. If there are students that want to do something, there are probably teachers that will make it happen. The corporation is small enough that teachers will know if a student can't afford to go on a field trip.
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?
Did support it. Doesn't know if it will come back or not. The board decided the school district needs to maintain the facilities, which is why work is being done to repair the roofs on school buildings. The referendum hasn't been discussed.