GREENFIELD — Eight seats are up for grabs on local school boards for anyone interested in shaping the future of schools in Hancock County.
While the Nov. 4 general election ballot is set for federal, state and county races, a new filing period opened Wednesday for school board seats.
Those interested in running in the nonpartisan elections have until Aug. 22 to sign up. Current members of school boards have some advice for people considering a bid: The job can be time-consuming, but it’s also rewarding.
“You need to be out in the schools; you need to be attending events,” said Retta Livengood, president of the Greenfield-Central School Board, whose seat is up for election. “You need to get a strong sense of what’s going on out there and what the public’s interests and passions are.”
Livengood is completing her second term and said she hasn’t decided yet whether she will seek re-election. Still, she said anybody interested in the job should be visible and accessible to the public.
While boards generally meet once a month, members are also asked to serve on committees. When there is a special project to be done – like search for a new superintendent, which happened this spring at G-C and Southern Hancock – the board holds several special sessions in a month.
“We were very thorough in our superintendent search, and it required a great deal of effort and energy,” Livengood said. “We wanted to be thorough because we knew what kind of impact that person would make with the students, the staff and in the community, because that person is the face of our schools.”
Most school boards have districts in which candidates must reside to be eligible to run. To sign up, candidates must be registered voters and live within the boundaries of the district they would represent. Some board have open seats in which candidates can live anywhere in the school boundaries. Eastern Hancock has one at-large seat, and Mt. Vernon has two.
Interested candidates must also file a petition with the signatures of at least 10 registered voters who live within the school corporation’s boundaries.
As of late Wednesday, Craig Wagoner was the only person to have filed for school board. Wagoner is an incumbent member at Southern Hancock.
While the seats are for four-year terms, several board members up for re-election haven’t been in office long because they replaced members who left office early. Wagoner has been in office a year; Mike Lewis stepped into office at Eastern Hancock in April; and Brian Tomamichel was sworn in just this week in Mt. Vernon. All will have to file for election in the next few weeks if they want to continue serving.
Steve Menser, who was sworn in at Greenfield-Central in 2013 to fill a vacancy, said he plans to seek re-election and has enjoyed his time on the board so far.
Personnel changes have been the biggest issue at G-C in the past year, Menser added; not just with the search for a new superintendent, but also with the hiring of new principals and coaches.
“(Candidates) certainly have to be dedicated,” Menser said. “It’s kids first and education and providing that quality education. Anything we can do as we develop policies, we always have to keep that in mind.”
Other school board members whose terms expire this year are Brian McKinney, Southern Hancock; Vernee Eads, Mt. Vernon; and Tom Younts, Eastern Hancock.
School boards oversee spending, education policies and personnel. Livengood said members should always brace for the unexpected when it comes to mandates from the Indiana Department of Education. While internal staffing changeups seem to be settling down now at G-C, Livengood said school officials know a new statewide change is usually just around the corner.
“So many times, they institute policies, and there’s no funding for them,” Livengood said. “The challenges I don’t think will ever end. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a quiet period.”
ABOUT THE BOARD RACES
There are eight local school board seats up for election this fall. Here’s a list of the open seats and the school board members who currently hold them.
Greenfield-Central: District 2 and District 3 (Steve Menser and Retta Livengood). District 2 covers the eastern portion of Green Township and the northeastern corner of Center Township; District 3 covers the southwestern portion of Center Township.
Southern Hancock: District 3 and District 5 (Craig Wagoner and Brian McKinney). District 3 covers the southwest part of Sugar Creek Township; District 5 covers the eastern part of Brandywine Township.
Mt. Vernon: two at-large seats (Vernee Eads and Brian Tomamichel).
Eastern Hancock: District 1 and at-large (Tom Younts and Mike Lewis). District 1 covers Brown Township.
How to sign up:
Filing for school boards runs through Aug. 22. Candidates must be registered voters and live in the designated district. To file, fill out a statement of interest form and a petition with at least 10 registered voters within the boundaries of the school corporation. For more information, a specific description of district boundaries or to have forms emailed, call the Hancock County election Office at 477-1171. Forms can also be found at www.in.gov/sos/elections.