Seven running for three seats
BOURBON — Seven area residents are running for three township positions on the Triton School Board for seats to be filled in January.
The candidates were introduced to the community for a question-and-answer forum at the Triton High School auditorium Oct. 21.
Louise Mason facilitated the event such as she did four years ago for a previous school board election.
Only a small audience showed up to hear the six candidates that attended (Joseph Choquette, running for the Bourbon Township seat was not present).
Mason directed the session using a list of questions accumulated from suggestions from community members, school staff, alumni, teachers, citizens and recent Triton graduates.
Each candidate took turns being the first to answer and each had two minutes to sum up their replies.
Present were incumbent Jerilyn Anders and Marsha Keyser for the Bourbon Township seat; uncontested candidate Terri (Teresa) Barnhart, running for the Tippecanoe Township seat; and incumbent Deb Shively, Sonya Riffle and Andy Cook, all three running for the Etna Green Township seat.
Each explained briefly why they chose to run and what they thought they could bring to the board.
Cook said he had always wanted to become more involved and that he felt “now was the time.” He said his 12-year tenure as an Etna Green Town Councilman could be an asset looking at the school corporation from a business standpoint, and that as a representative of the people, he could incorporate his leadership experience and apply it to what the people are concerned about “to work out a compromise to get things done.”
Cook said, “I think I could be a good ‘go-between’ between the city and the board.” In answering a later question, Cook said he wasn’t afraid to make the less popular decision if it was the right decision to be made. He said he didn’t have any direct goals or feel there were any immediate changes that needed to be made, adding that “sometimes when politicians have goals they are too busy focusing on them and lose sight of what really needs to be done.”
More hands-on experience for the students to give them better chances for a successful life after graduation was important in Cook’s opinion, as was less use of cell phones during school hours, and higher academic scores and better behavior from athletes (in comparison to other students) because “they should set an example because the other students look up to them,”
Riffle said her experience working within the Triton school system as well as her business experience could help on the school board looking at it from the prospective of it being a major corporation.
She said that her life motto of finding a “happy medium” could be helpful in bringing unity between all members, staff, parents and community involved in the Triton schools. She also said she had no specific board directives but that “there is always room for improvement.”
Raising the bar for students to assist them in acquiring jobs that pay enough to cover their needs was important to her, as was keeping the students that are involved in extra-curricular activities accountable with higher expectations and stronger GPAs. She said she would also expect more of students and would be strict with punishment.
“I know we had some wonderful computers and that within the first six months or so they were vandalized,” she said.
Riffle also said she would encourage the sports programs because successful sports teams bring attention to the school which in turn encourages “that you have more kids coming in ... which brings more money to the community. It’s a chain reaction,” she explained.
Shively said she wanted to be voted to remain in the seat because she had been on the board for six years and that “it takes about two to three years to really get comfortable and to learn all the terms and understand everything about the budget.” She said bringing in someone new would be “a step back” for the board in that a new member would have to learn from scratch.
She said the board had the responsibility to set up policies and to come together with what the state mandates, what the school needs, and what the parents want to make decisions. She said her strengths included her 14 years’ experience in the school system — from working in the classroom to the office — as well as not being “afraid to go against the grain if I think its in the best interest of the children.”
Shively said there were many things she felt the school could improve on but that money to do so is the biggest challenge. She said she also felt Spanish as a foreign language should be introduced to children at the elementary level and that more technical training within the high school would be an asset. She said that student discipline should not be up to the school board but left to the building administrators who know the individual children and can better make a judgment for discipline problems. Shively also explained that continuing sports programs was important to her and gave the example that she was an integral part in initiating the junior high softball program even though all her children are boys.
Keyser said she thought her more than 30 years as a Triton Elementary School educator would be an asset to the board and that she would like to “give back to the school corporation” by serving on the board. She said she felt she would be good at listening to what the community wants and working with the board to “see how we can work together to make this the best corporation for the children.” When addressing expanding training for students for after high school, while in high school, Keyser said, “Not everyone is going to college but everyone needs some sort of training beyond high school.”
She said she would like to see improvements to the outbuildings of the schools and would like to continue to encourage community and parent involvement within the schools.
Anders explained that she was committed to the board and the community and wanted to “do everything” she could “to do what is best for the children.” She agreed with Shively in that a school board member has much to learn to be capable to make informed decisions for the betterment of everyone involved.
She said the school should encourage children to succeed beyond high school in order to assure their success in international roles.
“Triton is doing a good job teaching the children what they need to know but we need to give them more technology so that they can continue to learn,” she said. Her main concern was to be able to maintain all the programs the schools offer and for everyone involved in the school corporation to “be careful how we spend money.”
Barnhart said she felt board members need to remember that their position is not a dictatorship and that they need to work together to do the best for the students and staff with what they have to work with. She said she is willing to listen to the children, teachers, staff and community and that her business experience would be helpful in running an efficient board. She suggested increasing the foreign languages for Triton students beyond Spanish, to make them more adaptable in the worldwide workforce and said there are a lot of things the school needed to do “but with the economy in the state that it is, it will be a difficult job.”