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: William A. Maschmeyer
Family: Wife, Nancy; son, Craig
Employment: Attorney with Haggerty Haggerty and Maschmeyer
Education: Graduate of Perry Meridian High school, Purdue University and Indiana University Indianapolis School of Law
Previous political experience: Has served on Franklin’s school board since 2004
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?
One, finances and the circuit breaker. The school district needs to either cut expenses or bring in more money. Franklin will look at refinancing bonds to keep the annual debt service payments at $14 million or less. There will still probably be a shortfall. The district will look at taking out bonds every four years as a way to bring in more money. The district is also looking at ways to increase income through renting facilities, fundraising and grants. Two, moving the district from good to great. Officials want to increase the graduation rate, the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes and their scores and to allow more time and give more resources to teachers to work together and continue their education. They also want to improve ISTEP scores, and increase the school district’s and individual schools’ letter grades. They’ll do that by using more data in the classroom, and by using professional learning communities and best practices among teachers. Three, open communication with the public, teachers, staff and parents. They will continue to televise meetings and send newsletters and announcements for school events. “We can’t do what’s best as a board unless we know what the public wants. And the only way we get that is through two-way communication.”
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Hire the right superintendent, and work with them to set policies that promote student achievement.
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
Curriculum has to constantly be updated, including additional Advanced Placement options and partnerships with colleges. Athletics and extracurricular activities are driven by need and desire, and when there is a need for programs that give kids opportunities, then the school board will work to find the way to provide those programs.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
“We wouldn’t do it in a vacuum. We would let parents, teachers and community help decide what is the priority.”
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 district’s Finish Strong program should be a poster child. “We keep kids in school and bring kids back by giving them alternate education programs, such as Finish Strong, such as Central Nine." The schools have to change as students change in order to be the provider of choice in the area.
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?
Franklin has a policy that sets out the process for naming school facilities, and favors keeping that. That policy should also specify a dollar amount that distinguishes minor contracts, which the superintendent can approve, and major contracts that would require board approval. Doesn't want the school board running the day-to-day operations of the school district. "We’re there to set the policy and be the voice of the public on major decisions.”
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?
They could, but some of that is driven by the person giving the money. If the person giving the money provides $1 million for the scoreboard or transportation, the school district is locked into the terms of the gift. If the giver tells the district to use it as they see fit, then it should be used across the board for academics, clubs and sports. Would like sponsors to give money to support academics. Businesses should be solicited by Franklin not just for athletics but for arts and academics as well. This is part of what the new education foundation does.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
They just spent the last of the money from a general obligation bond that was issued in 2010. Franklin's facilities manager brings a list of projects every year that is coming up over the next 10 years. He can’t think of anything outstanding that’s would be a big project.
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?
Franklin wants to be the provider of choice, which should be the goal of every business. “We don’t actively recruit students from other districts. We feel that if we are the provider of choice, people will move to Franklin, or transfer to Franklin to become part of what we’re doing as we move from a very good school district to a great school district.”
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 board needs to refinance bonds to get the annual debt service number down from the projected $16 million level in 2016, to $14 million. The school district need to increase revenue from gifts, grants, leasing of facilities, and may need to look at bonds every four years to take care of buses and maintenance that the bus replacement and capital projects funds can't pay for since the money has been diverted to make up the losses.
You are in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
The school board wanted a collaborative leader. We wanted a leader who was involved, we wanted a leader that exhibited integrity and honesty. We wanted a strong communicator. We wanted somebody who was knowledgeable about academic achievement and legislation that schools have to deal with. We have a very strong business manager, but we wanted a superintendent who could work well with the business manager. And we wanted a superintendent who would identify and grow other leaders within the district. And we wanted a leader who would use data and would take a systematic, continuous improvement approach.
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?
Franklin pays for licenses for online courses, and they do that because they can offer more AP courses that way. If only two students want to take level-four calculus, Franklin may not be able to hire a teacher for that. But Franklin can purchase AP online licenses so the students can take the courses. Developing courses from scratch would be more expensive than purchasing something that’s already developed.
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 schools gets Title 1 money, which is targeted toward remediation. And when 30 percent of a school district's enrollment is a part of the free and reduced-price lunch program Franklin can use that money for the entire building, instead of on a smaller group of students.
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?
Over the past few years, through retirement of teachers and efficiencies in operations the schools have already cut close to $3 million dollars, and doesn’t know how much more can be cut. The school board needs more information about options and cash flow needs before making a decision, but that decision needs to be made in the first or middle part of 2013. “I wish we could cut more, but I don’t think we can. Not without hurting programs.”