Education is powerful, and when accompanied by new perspectives it can lead to great transformations within our school system. Change is coming to the Greater Clark County Schools board, as potential new members representing districts one, three and four will be voted on during the Nov. 6 election.
On Oct. 3 a meeting was held at Jeffersonville High School at which school board candidates answered questions from the public (including residents, teachers, parents of students and even some students) at a “meet the candidates” forum. Tara Cofie, a member of the JHS debate team, was the facilitator of the event.
Few of the school board candidates were present at this event. Bill Hawkins (District 1), John Stagner (District 3 ), Nick Duran (District 4 ) and Kevin Anderson (District 3) couldn’t make it due other commitments. The three that were able to make it were Janelle Fitzpatrick (District 4), John Buckwalter (District 3) and Lucas Hostetler (District 1).
Before the audience started asking questions, the candidates each introduced themselves to let the public know their background what they can bring to the table. Fitzpatrick discussed her teaching career and her job as a stand-up comedian.
Buckwalter referred to himself as a lifelong educator and explained his time within the Woodrow Wilson program. Hostetler, who is from the New Washington area, shared how supportive he is of that community and his background in management.
Why are you running for school board?
Cofie started off the questioning with, “Why are you running for school board?” The candidates responded with the following.
Janelle Fitzpatrick: Being a teacher in GCCS for past 20 years, I saw lots of good
programs and lots of changes in what was expected of teachers, the time constraint, larger class sizes and not a whole lot of pay raise, especially when benefits cost more. Change is needed. I want to do some rebuilding (in trust with the community) and make Greater Clark a place where teachers are happy to work.
John Buckwalter: There have been surveys conducted but not acted upon… the purpose of the board is to address that. Every teacher sacrifices being a spouse, a parent, and doing whatever they do in their spare time, but they do so because we are all student-centered. Someone has to do something about this, and I’m crazy enough to do it and I feel like I can make a difference [and what I’m trying to say is] if not now, then when?
Lucas Hostetler: I’ve had teacher’s husband showing up to things but the teachers themselves didn’t, they didn’t want to be associated due to fear… I knew then I am running for a very good reason. That was what kind of solidified me to want to run even more than I already did. I want you guys to hold me accountable because I will hold you accountable if you’re working your tails off in the classroom and you’re not getting what you want, you have to hold me accountable to speak for you.
How will you handle people who disagree?
Next, an audience member asked, “What happens when the people speak up and you (school board member) don’t agree with what they have to say, how will you respond?” The candidates responses are as follows.
Janelle Fitzpatrick: Any time you have more than one person in the room, you can have a difference of opinion. I’d like to see more balance. There needs to be more balance and then the more you all can bring up, it will be listened to because it needs to be listened to. We need to get more ideas and poll our people; I believe we will really go along way.
John Buckwalter: You’re the voice and when you work for the people that’s what it’s about: take what is said by the majority and then make educated best decisions with it. I would like to hope that there’s a symbiotic relationship between you and your board members so that we’re helping each other here and I’m making the best decision. You know sometimes you might not make best decisions, but you made it with the facts you had in front of you.
Lucas Hostetler: When you create an atmosphere and an energy that people want in a school, business, or corporation, it’s a positive. I hope and I pray that [the atmosphere] changes with this next election and you can go to school board meetings and actually say “I don’t want this.” And myself, hopefully, can say, “I really don’t think they want this, but what’s best in five years?” I think with better communication, we can get to that point and stronger leadership is needed for improvement.
All the candidates claim they can make needed changes to the system. We’ll see who has the chance after the election on Nov. 6.
By Haylee Hedrick