EAGLE CORNER: ‘We’ll do what we need to do’: Superintendent’s thoughts after referendum fails

By EMILY TRACY, Guest Columnist

As Superintendent of Brown County Schools, I want to express our sincere gratitude to the community members that came out to support us last week on Election Day.

While the outcome of the operating referendum for Brown County Schools was incredibly disheartening, the outpouring of support for the schools and our staff was affirming of our mission to create world class opportunities that foster small school relationships, ultimately leaving a lifelong impact for our students.

We want to thank each of you who helped campaign, stopped to talk in the IGA, advocated for our teachers and of course who came out to the polls to vote “yes” for Brown County Schools. Thank you.

Brown County Schools is funded by the State of Indiana to educate students from kindergarten through their senior year; however, like many rural school districts, we recognize the importance of supporting our young working families with early childhood education.

We also recognize that some of our adult community members seek opportunities to skill up or return to school to better themselves and their families.

Part of this referendum was to ensure we could support both our youngest and our adult community members as they look to better themselves and their community.

The remainder of the referendum sought to ensure we could support our teachers and to ensure we could remain competitive with our neighboring districts and to continue to offer world class opportunities for our children.

It is important to point out that Brown County Schools is the second largest employer in Brown County and thus the investment in our schools is not only an investment in our children, but also, it is an investment in the economy of Brown County.

This past year, due to a generous donation from a local philanthropist, Brown County was able to expand its Eagle Manufacturing opportunities to more students. Eagle Manufacturing is a school-based enterprise aimed to provide students with an opportunity to experience work based learning experiences in advanced manufacturing, sales, accounting and IT.

Unfortunately, we will be faced with some difficult decisions to absorb the lost revenue. The current referendum will expire in 2023, leaving us with a deficit of $1.2 million a year.

Yet, we feel confident based on the close outcome of this referendum, that we can run a successful campaign in 2023. Our goal will be to work with community members to ensure we do the following:

Continue to offer world class opportunities for the students of Brown County Schools. In addition to the expansion of Eagle Manufacturing, we are dedicating money from the pandemic relief to support entrepreneurship, career exploration and college and career credentials.

Work with our local legislators to create greater transparency with the referendum language. The language required by state statute is misleading in that the increase of 33% was not how much an individual would pay in property taxes, instead, it was the increase in the tax rate. If the Brown County Schools referendum would have passed, the median assessed value home owner would have paid roughly $3 to $6 more per month in property taxes.

Continue to expand opportunities for the community to learn about Brown County Schools and what it has to offer the children of Brown County and the community as a whole. This past year, Brown County Schools began a community engagement program called Brown County Schools Ambassadors. The goal of this program is to better engage the local community in our current offerings; to listen to our community; and to empower community members to be advocates of the work of our teachers and our schools to ensure Brown County is a lead partner in driving the workforce and the economy of Brown County.

For Brown County Schools, we have one year remaining on our current operating referendum before it expires. We will get back out there and do what we need to do moving forward.

I want to thank our incredible educators and entire school community for their efforts with the referendum. It is each one of them that champions our students daily. We will continue to serve and lead across Brown County to ensure we continue building out world class opportunities that foster small school relationships, ultimately leaving a lifelong impact for our students.

Emily Tracy is superintendent of Brown County Schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or [email protected].