Contrast in ideas from school board incumbent, challenger

Facility improvements and financial issues are two of the key issues in the race between two candidates vying for the District 3 school board seat with the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

Incumbent Polly Verbanic is seeking another four-year term against challenger James Persinger, who is seeking public office for the first time. Verbanic is a former associate director of admissions at DePauw University. Persinger is a manufacturing engineer at Faurecia.

The two candidates differ on potential facility improvements for the district.

Persinger said he believes a technical center is needed to expose students to different trades, adding that many students don’t go to four-year colleges or have the ability to do so.

“There isn’t enough promotion or acceptance to trade skills,” Persinger said. “I believe that a temporary small-pennies increase to local taxes would be more than enough to support the building of that facility.”

He said the proposed tax increase would be an investment in skilled workers, adding that he believes welders can earn more than someone with a liberal arts degree in some cases.

Verbanic said creating a technical center would be duplicating efforts, with extensive partnerships with local industries already in place.

In addition, Verbanic said BCSC was able to secure Build America bonds that allow the district to keep reinvesting in facilities. Those bonds were made available after the recession and were intended to spur investments, she said.

As a result, a larger circulating bond repayment schedule also helps BCSC continually maintain its facilities on schedule, she said.

If enrollment were to drop and the district were to be confronted with budget challenges, the two candidates would also approach that differently.

Persinger said he would start with nonessential extracurricular activities. He would look at cutting the amount of money being allocated to athletic teams.

“Schools are for educational and intellectual growth, not being able to score a touchdown or making a 3-pointer,” Persinger said. “The schools are a system of education, and sports are not a part of that.”

Verbanic said she disagrees with Persinger’s approach, saying that she would have to consult with other board members and Superintendent Jim Roberts before reaching a decision on what to eliminate.

Verbanic stressed that the district is in solid financial shape and pointed to its $2 million surplus this year and $6 million in reserves.

If unforeseen circumstances were to occur, however, she would want to maintain programs and support that affect students directly, pointing to teachers as just one example. Verbanic said she would explore opportunities to economize or consolidate functions such as purchasing.

Verbanic said she is opposed to cutting extracurricular activities, noting that such programs provide students opportunities to develop leadership skills and participate in athletics.

“It certainly would not be the first thing I look at,” she said.

What's next

Coming Tuesday: Preview of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. school board District 5 race.