Not pictured: Carolyn Bowden and Vicki Harden
1. What motivated you to run for this position and what are your primary goals?
Carolyn Bowden (Dist. 1): I have been a board member since September 2007 and wish to continue to support our school corporation services for our students, staff and community. My goals are to keep the schools fiscally stable, to support the excellent educational opportunities for Pre Kindergarten to Adults. To use my knowledge and learning opportunities to promote Lifelong Learning and facilities/staff to meet that goal. To keep class sizes small whenever possible which does provide better learning experiences for students and opportunities for teachers and staff. To keep Arts, Music Band And Choir along with Theater going in Brown County.
Kevin Patrick (Dist. 1): I know that a sound education is one key component to having a meaningful and productive life. It must be based in strong values and objective truths. I received such an education when I attended and graduated from Brown County in 1985. My primary goal is to ensure that every child gets the same opportunities afforded me by engaging with their parents, the school system, and community. I know providing that opportunity is challenging but it must be done in a reasonable, responsible way.
Jenise Bohbrink (Dist. 2): As an active Sprunica parent, I have always had an interest in running for School Board. Now is the time to get involved at the Board level. It has been my observation that the decisions that the School Board makes affect the students, parents, teachers, and staff; often without them being represented. Therefore, my primary goal is to be an advocate for students, teachers, and staff. There needs be parent representation on the School Board, I will fill that role.
Vicki Harden (Dist. 2): I am running for my second term for the Brown County School Board. I have four children and 10 of my 12 grandchildren went and are going to Brown County. My goals are to try to keep the classes small. Keep the students at Brown County School and to help the teachers.
Kathryn D. Lane (Dist. 2): My motivation in running for school board is simple; I know that we can do better for the students of Brown County. I want to stand up and help. In my opinion, too many students are being left out, over looked, and forgotten about simply because they are not in “gifted” programs. My primary goal in being elected to this position is to unite the many stakeholders who are involved in public education. First, and foremost, we need to focus on the voice of the students and their parents/guardians/caregivers. If it were not for these people none of us would even be here. I also would work to erase some of the division between upper school administration and the local community. Far too many administrators have no connection to this community.
Kevin McCracken (Dist. 3): The Brown County Schools corporation is an example of educational excellence. Yet, several circumstances are against its ongoing success: dwindling state funding, demographics that drive down enrollment, obstacles to young families moving here (infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, limited well-paying jobs). Brown County will thrive long-term if it has an excellent public school system that rises to these challenges. I have the experience, education, and the passion to help BCS sustain excellence in the face of all these obstacles. I want BCS to be the district of choice for students and staff and a point of pride for Brown County.
Edward Wojdyla (Dist. 3): No organization touches more people in Brown County than the school. No organization is more critical to the future of our county. I have been watching declining enrollment and at the same time have seen very encouraging programs. I have heard community concerns related to the future condition of our schools. I want to help our school system become the “School of Choice.”
2. What are the duties of this office and what are your qualifications?
Bowden: The duties of a school board are to hire the superintendent, be fiscally responsible, to set and update policies based on current practices, legislative updates and for students, staff and community. We do not do day to day management which is the superintendent’s job but we do take in information from community members and pass them onto the appropriate party. We listen to community, student and staff input on their topics of interest and allow opportunity for them to speak in meetings appropriately. My qualifications are time on the board, extensive education done yearly on school law, polices, legislation, new programs/opportunities, department of education updates/changes resulting in nearly 900 credits from courses taken.
Patrick: The School Board must be accountable to the students, parents, and community by clearly defining how to provide a sound education. This must be done by engaging and encouraging input from all parties often. A School Board member needs to be actively involved in the education process and operation of the district. They must work closely with the Superintendent and staff, to gain a clear understanding of the challenges while developing proper policies to address them. That interaction will provide insight and lead to better solutions and opportunities for our students and community. My 20 plus years of experience in High Tech as a manager provided me with similar opportunities and the skills needed to be an effective leader in the district.
Bohbrink: The basic function of a school board is policy-making. My professional experiences with the Brown County Community Foundation, Indiana State Fairgrounds and Purdue Extension, all organizations that actively work with policy making boards and decisions. Each year the Brown County Community Foundation updates and reviews all our policies and procedures. I have an active role in updating the Grants and Scholarship committee’s policies to better serve the Brown County community. The main duty, I feel, as a School Board member is to advocate for the educational needs of all our students. As a parent of two elementary students, we are constantly focused on the education of our all Brown County students.
Harden: I feel the duties for School Board are setting goals for the school corporation, setting policies, managing the budget and overseeing personnel. I have worked in accounting and human resources. I have some knowledge about budgets and policies. I have been in management, so I feel how to work with personnel. I have the passion to try to make the children from pre-K to 12 to have the best school years as possible.
Lane: One of the main duties of school boards are to establish and build district leadership. I am qualified for this role as I have an understanding of this community from living here, teaching here, and volunteering here. Another duty is to provide fiscal oversight. My previous experience in food service management where I was responsible for a half a million dollar a year budget gives me the knowledge to be successful in managing fiscal oversight. Being an advocate for public education is a duty that I can assume as my heart is in the value of public education. Finally, board members manage and revise district policies including student support services. I have many years of support services work and I have worked in classrooms.
McCracken: The school board hires and holds accountable the Superintendent. The board reviews and sets policy, adopts curriculum, and approves budgets for the corporation. I have been a hiring manager with bottom-line financial responsibilities for more than 20 years. I have managed multi-million-dollar budgets. I have a long history of holding people accountable to their work commitments. My management experience prepares me well for adopting policies and budgets. I have more than 20 years’ experience of non-profit board service. My studies in instructional design prepare me well for curriculum adoption. I have many more than 15 years’ experience teaching in higher education, and I worked as a K-12 school-based counselor for five years.
Wojdyla: Oversee the budget process; serve as the voice of the community in setting policy. I have been the lead financial person in charge of several entities with full financial and control responsibilities. I achieved my CPA Certified Public Accountant license in 1988 and my CMA Certified Management Accountant in 1990. I have been a nine-year Brown County Park Board Member and a seven-year State Wrestling Board Member. I have been a member of start up teams which have produced Human Resources Policy and the Operations Control policy Manuals. I have been constantly engaged in assuring policy compliance. My prior board membership and policy creation experiences fit directly into the position I seek.
3. What are your views on the current organization of the schools regarding the CRC, the new Early Learning Center, Eagle Manufacturing, the Elementary schools, Middle School and High School?
Bowden: I support the CRC due to the opportunities for High School students, graduates, adults for education, certifications, courses that provide new and updated skills in the working world. The Early Learning Center will provide Pre K education for families to set their children off on a great path. Eagle Manufacturing has grown and provided business, customer services along with skills for the students next chapter of life. The Elementary schools need to continue to support the students/families in their local area as is at this time. The Middle and High Schools are having increased opportunities with personal growth, life skills, exposure to Project Lead The Way, Steam labs-science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
Patrick: Thus far, I have engaged with the CRC and Eagle Manufacturing (EM) in the school system. EM is a wonderful program that builds key skills and reinforces important values. I know this program gives our students an advantage whether they are continuing their post-secondary education, joining a trade, or becoming an entrepreneur. The CRC program does a great job of supporting the community by making it easier to enhance skills and talent by offering educational programs in key professions and trades. I consider this very important, since learning is a lifelong activity whether it be professional or personnel. I look forward to further opportunities to become more involved and familiar with all aspects of the BC education system.
Bohbrink: Personally, I have experienced classes through the CRC, observed the plans and open house at the Early Education Center, operations at the Sprunica and High School. Having volunteered in the preschool rooms and volunteering as a reading superhero (all pre-COVID), I am always very impressed with the caring, organized, and engaging environment observed at each of these locations. It is such a joy to just be present in the buildings and help teachers and students. Once elected to the Brown County School Board, it is my personal mission to volunteer, without disrupting daily activity, at each building. This will allow me to observe and get a better experience of what happens on a day-to-day basis in each building.
Harden: I think the CRC has been wonderful to the county and the citizens. It has helped adults get degrees and licenses to improve their lives. Eagle Manufacturing is great for our students. It has prepared students life and technical skills for after graduation. I feel our schools from elementary to high school are great. We have wonderful principals and teachers at each school. The schools have lots of extra curriculars for the children to participate in. We feel like a family and we take care of each other.
Lane: I feel that the CRC is vastly underused. It’s sad that our community has to bus our students to Columbus to participate in C4 when we could have opportunities here. The CRC site was a former school there is a commercial kitchen that could have been used to create a culinary program. The food prepared could go to Mother’s Cupboard, for a win-win situation. I am hopeful that the Early Learning Center will open itself up to teaching our students about Early Childhood Education. We have Brown County Music Center here, why send our students to YES Cinema for Business Management and Finance when they could do it here? Eagle Manufacturing is a fantastic asset. However we need building trades to return and agricultural learning opportunities.
McCracken: I like that BCS offers a full continuum of educational opportunities. I believe that the current structure should be the default structure. It is the responsibility of the Trustees and the corporation to secure sufficient resources to support the structure. Equally important is the full consideration of implementing measures to increase efficiency and effectiveness, essentially holding down expenses while still maintaining excellence. The latter ought to include the consideration of partnerships with agencies and institutions to help provide education, especially to adult learners.
Wojdyla: I will start with very positive. We are headed in the right direction. That direction must always look to the future while not ignoring the present. When one looks at the current organization, current and future needs of the children/community we appear understood. I have started taking a closer look, by talking to a number of current participants, and have had my positive impressions reinforced. I am encouraged and want to help provide the best situation possible for our kids and for the community as a whole.
4. The School Board Code of Ethics provides guiding principles. Could you give examples of those you consider important and how you would support them?
Bowden: Children are foremost in our community and support of all of BCSC staff; Making and updating policies; Making and updating Mission and Vision with students, staff and community; Financial support, fiscally responsibility for safe, functional facilities with resources and wages/benefits for teachers and staff; Supporting the superintendent full administrative authority; Working with legislators for best support of public schools; Making decisions after educating self on and review of consent agenda, new programs, donations, staff education opportunities, grants.
Patrick: “Thinking always in terms of children first” is a principle that is critical in education. Education is about focusing on the needs of the student, by implementing the best curriculum and programs, while instilling strong values and objective truths in an environment that is safe, well maintained and effectively operated. To be successful means that the student MUST be the focus, more so than the wants of the organization. “Conducting all school business transactions openly” ensures a trusting, effective relationship between the Board and all parties involved with the school system. Without this, it will be difficult to successfully provide the best education possible for our students.
Bohbrink: Reading through the School Board Code of Ethics, I find each of them important and crucial to being a good board member. Being raised to treat other as you wish to be treated, each of the 27 codes ties back to being kind and respectful to everyone. Once elected to the BC School Board, I will honor the high responsibility of membership demands, demonstrate respectful relationships with other members, maintain desirable relations with superintendent and other employees, and maintain a commitment to our community. One way to help demonstrate a strengthening of the code of ethics would be as simple as demonstrating random acts of kindness throughout the school district.
Harden: I think they are all important. My concerns are safety for our children, educational welfare of the children, community confidence that all is being done for the best of the school and the children.
Lane: Students first, should be everyone’s highest guiding principle when serving on the school board. Board members need to be a voice for all students across the district, this means even students with diverse cultural backgrounds. I would support these students and their families by actively listening to their concerns and taking proper actions to revise policy if needed. Another essential principle is to be aware of the present and future community needs of public education. I would support this by continuing my education and seeking out professional development opportunities. I also believe that there needs to be transparency so that the community knows what is happening in their schools.
McCracken: Each element of the Board Member Ethics is important. Board members have a responsibility to interact ethically with fellow board members, the superintendent, and the broader community. I would certainly include parents of BCS students as an element of the broader community. Board members also have an ethical responsibility to focus on policy, not administration; stay informed of issues relevant to the corporation, be prepared for meetings, and to avoid politicizing issues. These are practices I have employed over the course of my 20-plus years of board service.
Wojdyla: All mentioned in the ISBA and BC document are important. A board member has no authority as an individual to make binding decisions; only when in session as part of the school board can one speak with authority. This speaks to Indiana Open Door concept that all discussions / decisions, with very few exceptions, must be open to the public. Transparency is critical to any organization especially one as important as an educational institution. Representing the entire school community requires acceptance and understanding. To achieve this, one must open to listening and one must be careful in gathering facts while considering the whole community in every decision.
5. How would you “determine and assess citizen’s desires” before decisions are made by the school board? (reference School Board Philosophy from School Board governing document)?
Bowden: Citizens, staff and students have had the opportunity to speak at board meetings with questions with policy in place since I have been on the board. We will listen, forward questions to the appropriate party and clarify what is being presented for vote and for education of the board. Any community member, student or staff who approaches me with questions, comments or concerns will be heard and will have me attempt to get them answers or get them to the appropriate party who has the answers.
Patrick: To ensure I make a properly informed decision, active interaction with parents and the community is needed, along with extensive research on my part. This means providing frequent and regular opportunities for the citizens to engage with the School Board members beyond the School Board meetings.
Bohbrink: When elected to the Brown County School Board, I will maintain two-way communications, keep everyone informed of the progress and problems of the School Corporation, while urging citizens to bring their aspirations and concerns to the attention of Board. I will help establish policies, make decisions based on declared educational philosophy and goals. Be a representative body for citizens in all matters related to programs and operations. I recognize the ultimate responsibility for public education rests with the State, but as a School Board member has been assigned specific authority through statute, and the Board shall not relinquish or fail to exercise that authority.
Lane: I think there are a couple of ways to determine citizen desires in terms of school board decisions. Polling citizens is a great way to get feedback. Since not every family has access to internet we need to offer paper polls that can go home with students and then returned later by the students. Another way would be to set up subcommittees where parents/guardians/caregivers could have their voices heard on multiple topics that affect their students and community. I feel that the school board needs to remember that we work for the community and represent the students of the county above all else.
McCracken: A primary method of assessing citizen desires is to listen during school board meetings. I would support the implementation of town hall style meetings convened solely for the purpose of soliciting input form parents, teachers, staff, students, and community members. Trustees should also have awareness of articles and letters in the local media. Finally, trustees should be accessible to the public via email and at certain public events, keeping mind that trustees are also private citizens who live and sometimes work in our community.
Wojdyla: I will create an email account specifically for school related communication. I am diligent in reviewing all emails. Personal concerns forwarded to me will be reviewed. A legal requirement is that any policy change have at minimum two readings. The board meets every two weeks so there is time for review and comment on all proposed policy changes. I will have reviewed all emails and investigated concerns before the second reading and raise them to the full board in a public forum when necessary. Like many Brown County residents, have lived here long enough to call this home. Most of the people who know me know that I am always open for a good conversation. Those same people know that I am always open to honest feedback.
ABOUT THE OFFICE
The school system is governed by a five member nonpartisan board of trustees who are elected to serve four year staggered terms. Two of the members are elected at large; three must reside in the district from which they run, but are voted on by all county residents. No more than two trustees can reside in any one district. The school board sets policy and hires a superintendent to administer the system.
SOURCE: The League of Women Voters Brown County