When this column is published May 4, we will have learned the results of two important events for our school community.
Our Brown County Junior High School We the People students will have returned from the National Invitational competition at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. They will return as champions who have represented the state of Indiana for the fourth consecutive year, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the national competition.
Our students have worked as diligently as humanly possible in preparing again for the national contest. Their reward will be the complete experience, and our students will continue to reap rewards from the knowledge of our system of government, which they will have obtained through the process. They return from the experience with a wealth of knowledge that will go far toward making them productive citizens in their coming adult lives.
Our boys and girls will have again represented both our state and the Brown County community in an exemplary manner. I want to thank our students, our teacher Michael Potts, our parents, and all the good folks in our community who have contributed financial support to the fundraising campaign to take them to Washington. We will be the defending Indiana champions for another year in the six-year run we have had in winning the statewide event and the right to represent Indiana in the nationals.
The other important outcome today is the result of yesterday’s vote on the Brown County Schools referendum. If we were successful, we should be able to maintain current staffing levels; improve teacher salaries with the development of a teacher salary model, which will assist us in retaining quality teachers and in recruiting new teachers to the district; and keep our class sizes at manageable levels.
Success will also continue to assist us in funding a portion of our Career Resource Center adult education program. These goals are very important to the future of our schools and the future of our community.
We have tried to present our reasons for seeking the referendum in a clear and concise manner. As you read this column, the voters will have spoken and determined the outcome, which is how such a matter should be decided. One of the basic premises of the We the People curriculum is the role that voters play in our democratic system of government.
I want to express our thanks to the volunteers who supported our referendum campaign. We had a number of community members who volunteered many hours and much effort toward our campaign. I also want to thank those members of our community who took the time to clearly understand the issues. Whether you concluded to support us or not, we appreciated the debates and discussions which we had with many persons.
Most of all, we thank everyone who voted, whether they supported us or opposed us. Citizens of the United States and of Indiana do not vote in the numbers that they should. Generally, participation in the May primary elections is lower than in the November general elections.
This low participation is a practice which our We the People students know is not a precedent of which we are proud as a nation and as a state. Hopefully, both the We the People experience and the referendum campaign have generated more local interest in Brown County which resulted in greater election participation.
If the referendum was not approved, we will be making some difficult decisions about staffing and program reductions in the future. Many other rural, countywide districts like ours who are facing declining enrollments are looking at the option of the referendum as a method to supplement the raising of necessary revenue.
Our request for 8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of property was the lowest request of any public school district in Indiana this May. Referendum requests ranged statewide from 61 cents per $100 of AV to 18 cents per $100 of AV, while our 8 cents was the lowest by quite a few cents.
We made this request at a time when the General Assembly and the governor have increased financial support for vouchers by great amounts over the last three legislative sessions. I will urge voters to remember this fact in the coming November election, regardless of whether you supported or opposed our referendum.
I will close with another thank-you to all the voters in our community and to all those who have supported our schools this year in so many different ways. Our students, our teachers and our administrators have a record of success over the past several years.
As I retire from the superintendent’s position on June 30, I want to acknowledge the fine teachers and administrators on our team. They have accomplished a great many objectives with the work of our students and the support of our community. Those efforts have paid off in many accomplishments over the recent years, for which we are quite proud.
David Shaffer is superintendent of Brown County schools.