Reporter Tom Lange interviewed candidates for Franklin school board on a wide range of issues. Use these pages as a guide to help you make your voting decision.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Name: Timothy James Lavery
Family: Wife, Carol; sons, Jeff and Kevin
Employment: Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran service representative
Education: Graduate of Lowell High School and Indiana State University
Political experience: None
ABOUT THE OFFICE
Franklin school board
Duties: Develop policies, approve the annual budget, set salaries for all employees, and hire and evaluate the superintendent
Total school board members: Five
Term: Four years
Pay: $2,000 per year
What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?
Establishing a sound fiscal budget and making sure it stays in the black, hiring and retaining quality teachers and administrators, and promoting and establishing trust and confidence in the school corporation. As a board member, would listen to ideas and recommendations from the superintendent and the staff to try to make sound decisions about all three of the issues.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Analyze and look at information presented by the curriculum directors and superintendents, and try to provide the resources that would be needed to make those things happen.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Would analyze what is currently happening in the school district and speak with the superintendent and other board members to see what other recommendations they would make. Doesn’t favor changing things just to change them, but if there are sound reasons then change makes sense.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
Would listen to the administration for their recommendations. School districts can also become very creative in financing schools, such as athletic departments looking for new ways to pay for sports programs. But the priority is looking at the financial situation of the school corporation, the major impact that the debt is going to have on the budget for 2015 and the property tax caps. The key will be restructuring the budget to make those debt payments.
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?
This a longtime problems for schools. Counselors have a major impact in trying to meet individual needs. Someone needs to look at the number of counselors in schools, what their roles are, what they’re doing and how they’re encouraging students to stay in school. There used to be the thinking that every student had to go to college. Now, maybe not every student must go. So the school district needs to look at current vocational programs and continue to encourage students to stay in 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?
Supports that to a certain degree, and that seems to be an important aspect of education today. The board would need to look at and listen to superintendent's and principals’ recommendations on the issue. “The bottom line, the final decision for what happens should lie with the superintendent, receiving the input from his principals.” Board policy and past practices also need to be taken into account.
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?
“I definitely think that needs consideration. I don’t have the answer as to why it’s going to athletics. I would agree that we need to take strong consideration to, couldn’t some of the funds be used to other areas.” Sees no reason why some of the money the school district decides to take cannot go to other programs.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs,remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
Thinks the school district has outstanding schools. Doesn't know of any areas that need improvement, but the school district needs to continue to look for how to meet technology needs.
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?
Is not an advocate of schools recruiting students, but currently those areas need to be considered and looked at. If Franklin maintains strong administrators and teachers, then word gets out. But Franklin also must analyze what other school corporations are doing and whether the school district must compete for students to remain competitive. Doesn't know whether those advertising dollars would come from the general fund, or supporters from within the community.
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?
Property tax caps are creating problems for all school corporations across the state. Hopes the state will begin to address those issues in the future. In the meantime, Franklin may need to look at how often they replace items such buses to reduce expenses. Those are discussions that need to be happen in the affected areas, such as with transportation directors for transportation funds. Waiting to replace a school bus could cost the school district more money in the long run. The business manager and superintendent are already looking at restructuring the current finances, which is one of the best ways to help. They need to look at the current debt and device a plan to refinance those debt payments.
You are in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
The superintendent needs to be the lead cheerleader for the school corporation, and needs to have close ties and associations with the business community and other groups. Needs to have a strong background of working with different groups. Also needs a strong financial background, working with the business manager to anticipate future problems and make recommendations to the school board with solutions.
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?
First would seek the input from the curriculum director to see what the current procedures are. Believes there are outstanding courses out there, and if they fit the graduation requirements and student needs, sees no reason why Franklin couldn’t use those. Would also hope the development of new online courses would be done due to the unique nature of the course and that they would like to offer that class online.
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?
The meal program is a big component of success. If students aren’t getting proper meals, they can’t concentrate on what’s happening, and the schools are addressing that issue. There is definitely a need to look at all of the community’s resources and agencies that provide services to students, to see if there’s a way to pool them, instead of duplicating resources. If there’s not a committee looking at that, the school corporation should look into forming a committee to address those issues.
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?
Would have to listen to the recommendations of the superintendent and business manager, then analyze their information to see what needs to be done. Finances are having a major impact on schools, and there is more than one way to address those issues. But the school district needs to do an in-depth look, possibly with a board retreat, to look at each one of those issues individually. “I’m a firm believer in two heads are better than one. So the more people that are involved with that, the more fiscally sound decision can be made for the patrons of the community.”