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Newcomers running for EH school board

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GREENFIELD — Four dads are hoping to give back by earning two of the open seats on the Eastern Hancock School Board.

There are three seats up for election this year in the county’s three eastern-most townships. President Scott Petry is running unopposed, and the four candidates running for two open seats are newcomers and parents that want to serve.

Neil Floyd and Jim Jackson are vying for the District 3 seat that is being vacated by Brad Hancock. Scott Johnson and Michael Schrope are running for the at-large seat being vacated by Teri Dunlavy.

All four candidates say that while there are no pressing issues for the district at the moment, they have ideas on how to better improve the finances and test scores at EH and they want to be available to hear new ideas from the public.

At-large candidates

While Eastern Hancock has become financially stable in the last two years, a grimmer outlook in 2010 had members of the community deciding on whether to pass a referendum to bring more property taxes to the district. But voters turned down the issue. Since then, there have been some staff layoffs but revenue shortfalls weren’t as severe as school officials originally projected.

For the two at-large candidates, the issue opened their eyes to wanting to learn more about how the school is funded.

Johnson, a 38-year-old married father of three, said he wasn’t educated enough to be for or against the referendum, and that lack of information encouraged him to research school funding for himself.

“I didn’t understand exactly what they were talking about as far as not having enough funds,” said Johnson, a state conservation officer. “I think a lot of people don’t understand funding in the way that it is obtained for schools. A lot of people, they see their taxes taken out of their paycheck and when more taxes are taken out that makes them upset.”

Johnson said it should be up to school board members to inform the public and let them know about upcoming issues.

“I’m a believer in, you have to live within your means,” he said.

Schrope, a 43-year-old married father of three, said he was against the referendum at the time because he didn’t think that other options were exhausted. He said it was a difficult decision, but he wouldn’t support raising taxes unless that was the only possible solution to a funding crunch.

Schrope, a research scientist for Eli Lilly and Co., said he has three specific ideas for the future of the school. He wants to make sure the school offers the best education possible, expenses are kept in check, and that more pride is built in the area. Agricultural programs, academic teams and sporting events should all be promoted to boost pride, he said.

“There’s really nothing that ties Brown, Blue River and Jackson townships except for the school, and I think we need to continue to have pride in the Eastern Hancock community,” he said.

Johnson said he doesn’t have specific priorities, but he has items he wants to look into. The school’s transportation department, for example, is one area that could be evaluated to save money. He wants to make sure the department is running as efficiently as possible.

Both are in favor of the raises recently given to EH employees. Last year, employees received a 4 percent raise, and this year they received a 1.5 percent raise plus a bonus.

Johnson said as long as the needs of the school are met, he’s in favor of giving some sort of raise to employees. Schrope said he, too, is in favor of the raises but is also looking forward to the rollout of teacher evaluations and merit-based pay because that is used in the business world. He says the system gives incentives for employees that perform well.

While both have children still in the school corporation, they said they’re going to try to make decisions best for the entire community.

District 3 candidates

While candidates running for the District 3 seat must live in Blue River Township, all voters in the Eastern Hancock district may vote for the seat. Floyd and Jackson are both trying to spread the word about what they have to offer the board.

Both said in 2010 they voted in favor of the school referendum but are also pleased with how the issue turned out. They said the school was able to find ways to cut back and save money, something both hope to do if elected.

“I think the biggest thing for anybody that comes on board is, they’ll have to learn the budget and what we can or can’t do,” said Floyd, a 60-year-old married father of two.

Floyd said he understands that the referendum failed because it would have financially hurt residents and farmers alike.

“It may have worked out for the best,” he said. “We’re doing a pretty good job out here at Eastern, so I do think it’s working out.”

Jackson, 54, said he’s financially conservative and also thinks the failure of the referendum may have worked out well in the end. He points out that while there were staffing cuts immediately, some positions were re-filled once school officials realized funds were available.

Jackson said he has a few key priorities, including making sure students have the best education possible while keeping the school’s budget in line. He also wants to represent all constituents, not just those that have students in the school. One area of concern, he said, is making sure the school has enough infrastructure and staffing support for its recent technology advances.

Floyd, the former president of the elementary school’s Parent Teacher Organization, said he wants to make sure the school has enough resources to improve student test scores.

Floyd is retired and has one daughter still in the school corporation. Jackson is an area business manager for Land O’Lakes Inc. He is married with three grown children, and he said the fact that they are now out of the school district was one of the reasons why he decided to run for school board now.

“I thought for me, the best time to do this was once the kids were out,” Jackson said. “I think there are no biases then.”

Floyd said he will strive to keep his family ties separate from making decisions on the board, but both agree that being fathers gives them background knowledge of how the school works.

“There are going to be times that people aren’t going to like what you do and say, ‘Well, you didn’t do this for my kid,’” Floyd said. “You can’t please everybody all the time, so you do the best you can and hope it’s right.”

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