The two candidates for District 7 seats on the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. school board bring different ideas on ways to ensure academic success for students.
Incumbent Jeff Caldwell, who was appointed to the board in 2011 and won election the following year, is seeking to retain his District 7 seat against challenger Dennis White.
Caldwell, who is an executive director at Cummins, said he believes the school board’s primary role is to ensure a safe, secure and productive educational environment for every student.
“Hiring a strong superintendent and securing funding to provide great teachers and high-quality facilities are close seconds,” Caldwell said. “I think our recent board has performed well on these fronts.”
The board hired Superintendent Jim Roberts in April to replace John Quick, who retired at the end of June.
Caldwell said he wants to support Roberts’ vision for the district if elected to another four-year term and believes Roberts has done a good job so far.
“He’ll help drive performance and I want to support that,” Caldwell said.
White, who is retired from his position as director of administration at IUPUC, said he believes the most important thing he can do on the school board to facilitate student achievement involves establishing goals and life skills for students.
“Each student should be reviewing the past day and then setting new goals for the day, week, month, semester and year,” White said.
He said he believes all students should have individualized education programs, or IEPs, to help provide a plan for success — starting as young as possible.
White said he is in favor of implementing IEPs, which are typically given to students with disabilities, because he believes many students don’t have an established plan to guide them.
“Why not have students be exceptional right off the bat?” White said. “Every student defines what their purpose is, what their agenda is.”
In addition, he is in favor of weighting classes for academic difficulty to encourage competition at higher academic levels. By doing so, that will better prepare students for higher education and ensure that they are being challenged academically, White said.
The two candidates differ in how they would deal with potential funding challenges, regarding what programs would be cut and what their priorities would be in reaching decisions if the district were faced with such scenarios.
Caldwell pointed to the fact that BCSC remains on solid financial footing and credited the efforts of the administration over the past decade for getting the district to that level. Still, he said the state has taken away much of the control from local boards and he would like to see that returned.
Caldwell said taxpayers expect the school board to be responsible and thoughtful of its needs, and said public feedback is important in doing so.
“I want to help the community be better,” Caldwell said.
White said if the district were faced with budgetary constraints, he said his priority would be to look for ways to be more efficient.
White said he would look at how buildings could be better utilized, whether bus routes could be improved and how technology could be better implemented. He said getting input from a broad range of people within the community would be needed before making a decision.
“If you attempt to cut what some would consider fat, there is a good chance (that) some of the muscle would be cut,” White said.
Coming Thursday: Preview of race for state representative to serve District 59 in Bartholomew County.