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SH board race offers a study in contrasts

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The candidates' answers to a series of questions can be found in the election grid on Page B3.

NEW PALESTINE — The differences between the two candidates running for Southern Hancock School Board could not be more distinct.

Longtime board member Barbara Snyder backs the current administration and defends the difficult decisions officials have made to deal with budget problems, including voting in 2011 to close a school.

Her opponent, Larry Lee, has been a frequent critic of the board’s decisions, and his disapproval of Superintendent Jim Halik’s performance is well-documented. He has publicly called for Halik to be replaced.

An impetus for Lee’s decision to run for office was a change the administration made in bus service. In an effort to save money on fuel and maintenance costs, the district two years ago eliminated door-to-door pickups for middle and high school students. They are now picked up at nearby neighborhood stops.

Lee, whose own child was affected by the new policy, has vehemently opposed it.

“When you look out the window of your house and you can’t see your child, that is a safety problem,” Lee said.

Lee also criticized Snyder’s support of the failed 2010 tax referendum and her vote in favor of closing the old Doe Creek Middle School.

Lee says Doe Creek could be reopened as a career center.

Snyder said lower enrollment and higher costs have demanded difficult decisions from the board. But she pointed to years of success and said she wanted to continue to serve to help the district build on those successes.

“I believe Southern Hancock is on the right track, and I want to continue to be a part of that success,” said Snyder, who has been board secretary for eight years.

Snyder pointed to a new pre-kindergarten program promoting early intervention; and the implementation of one-to-one computing at the middle and high schools as two of the more recent achievements of which she’s proud to have been a part.

She also pointed out that SH schools have frequently received Four Star ratings from the state. And recently, the federal Department of Education presented New Palestine High School with a National Blue Ribbon award recognizing the school as one of the best- achieving in the nation.

Lee, who has 15 years of technology experience, believes the district should do more than pass out lap-tops for students to use in class. 

“Teaching a boy to get their A-plus certification so when he comes out of school he can get a job repairing computers… that’s a technology strategy,” he said.  

Lee lists spending money wisely, finding a better superintendent, and training students to be self-motivated, self-sufficient and productive as some of the biggest issues facing the corporation.

Lee also wrote in a questionnaire to the Daily Reporter that while highly performing teachers, administrators and good employees should be rewarded, expenses for benefits such as health insurance may need to be reined in.

Snyder said during her nine years on the board, she’s taken her responsibilities seriously and has missed only one board meeting.

As secretary, she is the board member who spends numerous hours each year reviewing and updating the district’s bylaws and policies.  

She is also a proponent of making sure board members are properly trained on rules and regulations.

“I believe continuous learning is essential to being an effective school board member,” said Snyder, who noted she frequently attends workshops put on by the Indiana School Board Association to stay up to date on statutes and legal rulings.

Snyder and Lee are running for a seat in District 1. However, all registered voters in Sugar Creek and Brandywine townships will have a chance to vote in the race.

Incumbent school board members William Niemier and Tom Tucker are also up for re-election but are unopposed.

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