Candidates vying for spots on the Brown County School Board of Trustees faced questions from students, parents and teachers during a League of Women Voters forum Oct. 18.
Two at-large seats are up for election, and both incumbents are running again.
Stephanie Kritzer faces challenger Daniel W. Harden for the District 2 seat. Tom Jackson, who was appointed to finish the term of the late John Mills in 2015, faces Marlene Barnett for the District 1 seat.
The school board is the governing body of Brown County Schools. Board members play a role in the hiring of teachers, administrators and non-certified staff; approve programming and the school’s budget; and represent the interest of the students.
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The night did not have many disagreements, with Barnett and Harden complimenting the work the board and administration are doing for Brown County Schools.
Barnett said federal Common Core standards need to be evaluated and adapted, with alternatives to teaching material to students with different learning needs.
Barnett said there are four to six ways a child can learn. She said students may be able to retain more information if it is provided in a way they understand best.
Common Core are academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. The standards outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade.
Indiana was the first state to opt out of Common Core standards in 2014; the state developed new ones the same year.
Mandating what teachers can teach is not something Harden supports.
“There are certain things they have to teach, but I don’t believe we should be mandated by the state or federal government, period,” he said.
In theory, Common Core is great because it allowed students in families who moved often, like military families, to come into a school and be on the same page as all of the other students, Kritzer said.
But she said the approach Brown County School teachers take is better, and Kritzer said she doesn’t “care much for Common Core.”
“They feel like one of the things we do best is to meet kids where they are. When they walk into the classroom, they figure out where they are academically, emotionally. They address those needs rather than trying to fit them into a peg,” she said.
Standards help prepare students for success in a global economy, Jackson said.
“But also it needs to be mixed with the local school board and their understanding of the community and what will make their students most successful,” he said.
One question centered around the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind. The act focuses on accountability. The question was if the Every Student Succeeds Act applies to home-schooled students, and if there are any steps the school board can take to make sure home-schoolers are well served educationally.
Barnett said home schools should be held to the same standards as public schools.
“I know there are some cases where home schooling has been excellent for students. I also am aware of other ones where they say they’re home schooling their child and they did absolutely nothing, so they decide to put the child back into public school and the child is sitting there not knowing what to do,” Barnett said.
Making sure home-schooled families are aware of opportunities available in Brown County Schools was something Barnett, Jackson and Kritzer all agreed upon.
Kritzer said she had issues with allowing home-schooled students to participate in activities like athletics since there are home school associations that offer similar experiences and may not follow the same regulations as public schools.
Home-schooled students would not fall under the school board’s accountability, Jackson said. “But I think we are accountable to every student who lives in the district to offer opportunities for them if they choose to participate,” he said.
He also spoke about the need build relationships with home-schooled families so the school district can offer resources when appropriate.
Harden’s eldest daughter home-schooled her four children, and he said he could see the point of home schooling. However, he said the opportunities in home schooling were not as “great to me if they were to be in a public school,” like the opportunity to interact with other students.
“We can be there to tell them what we have to offer and how can we help them, but I don’t think it’s in our jurisdiction,” he said.
Drugs in school
Candidates were asked how to solve the drug problem in the county, which is affecting students.
“I think there needs to be an outrage from the community and the people who don’t do the drugs. By that, I mean we have to be able to stop tolerating it,” Kritzer said. “I think we have to get really outraged about it and then be therapeutic about it to help the people in a meaningful way.”
She encouraged parents to tell their kids that it’s OK to tell someone when they hear about or see drugs in the schools.
Jackson said schools have a responsibility to drug test students and make sure drugs are not getting into the schools. “Then, it has the opportunity to affect other students who might not have drawn into that normally,” he said.
Harden said he didn’t have an answer that would solve the problem.
“Addicts, they can’t reform unless they want to reform,” he said. “If I could solve that one, I would give anything to solve it, but I don’t know how to solve and I don’t think anybody else does either.”
Barnett said one approach would be to talk with students individually who are using.
“Finding the underlying problem why they are using these drugs, and help them find a reason to live,” she said.
Brown County School Board of Trustees candidates answered questions on other topics, including declining enrollment and retaining teachers and staff, in a League of Women Voters questionnaire, which was printed in the Oct. 5 Brown County Democrat.
Read their answers at bcdemocrat.com by searching “Candidate Q&A Brown County School Board.” Access to that story is free to all.