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4 incumbents aim to retain their seats

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Four Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board members whose terms expire this year will be running for election on the November ballot.

Those members — Bob Abrams, Jill Shedd, Kathy Dayhoff-Dwyer and Rich Stenner — announced their candidacies for four-year terms during Monday’s school board meeting. Candidates cannot officially file until July 23.

It is the first year school board seats will be decided in the general election, which is Nov. 4. A 2011 law moved the election date from spring to fall in hopes of increasing voter turnout.

Since there is no presidential election this November, however, the four members said they don’t expect a significant increase in voting this fall compared with past spring primaries. In May, Bartholomew County’s turnout in the primary was just under 20 percent.

School board President Jeff Caldwell said he thinks the current board makeup is a nice mix of backgrounds and interests. He said no one on the board is afraid to speak up or disagree.

“I do like the vision,” Caldwell said of the board’s current makeup. “They want to do the right thing for the students.”

Bob Abrams

Abrams is running for election in District 4 after he was appointed to the board in 2011 to fill a vacancy. But it’s not his first time on the ballot.

He ran in 1998 and served on the board for one term but did not seek re-election because of plans to move that later fell through.

Abrams serves as vice president of the board.

He has 22 years of financial experience as an executive for Cummins. He retired from that job in 2008 but went back to work in 2009 as a project manager for Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015, an initiative that seeks to develop educational programs in growing fields.

“That has enabled me to get an even more comprehensive and broader understanding of the educational challenges and opportunities, not only in our school district but throughout southeast Indiana,” he said.

He was also part of the original effort to make major school building renovations and to convert Clifty Creek Elementary School to a project-based learning model.

He said he recognizes the challenges some of the schools are facing — including language barriers, high poverty levels and students who move from school to school — and the performance problems that accompany those issues.

“I think BCSC is doing the right thing in trying to be proactive about reshaping the way the school touches the kids,” he said.

Kathy Dayhoff-Dwyer

Dayhoff-Dwyer was appointed to the board in 2008 to finish a two-year term for a vacancy in District 6. She ran for that seat again in 2010 unopposed, and she is seeking re-election.

She has 29 years’ experience as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician and 23 years in emergency management.

Currently serving as the local government support branch director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Dayhoff-Dwyer said she brings a background in safety and planning to the board. Her career path led her to advocate purchasing school buses with seat belts and to install safety upgrades including buzzers at school entrances.

“If you look at the cost of a child’s life versus paying for seat belts or other safety measures, to me it was a no-brainer,” she said. “You can’t replace your children.”

She said her vision for the district includes continuing with positive developments including Universal Design for Learning and i-CARE.

Jill Shedd

Shedd, the longest-serving member on the board at eight years, is seeking re-election for a third term as the District 1 representative. She serves as secretary of the board.

As the assistant dean for teacher education at Indiana University School of Education, she has a background in education. She also has served as the executive secretary for the Indiana Association for Colleges of Teacher Education for about 10 years, where she worked with state legislators many times.

That puts her in a good position to keep an eye on new state education test developments, she said. Students will need to take two new standardized tests next year in order for Indiana to maintain independence from federal accountability guidelines.

“The teachers and school corporation have a healthy perspective about testing,” she said, but she described the amount of testing as a “heavy burden.”

She said she would like to make the testing burden fall less on teachers or stop the testing in general.

But until that happens, she said, she’s focusing on the progressive methods being used in the district, including Universal Design for Learning and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

She worked to establish Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School while serving as a school board member. She also helped guide the district’s Health Trust, which funds the insurance claims, out of an emergency. The fund carried less than $300,000 in 2006 but now has millions in reserve.

“My immediate hope is that we are in a position to offer prekindergarten to everyone in the community,” she said. “Our next step is very important,” she said referring to the school corporation’s referendum in the fall, seeking to fund prekindergarten for students who can’t afford either public or private tuition.

“The economic disparity isn’t well-recognized, but it’s something we see in schools every day,” she said.

Rich Stenner

Stenner is seeking a second term for District 2 after running unopposed in 2010.

Although he is in his first term on the board, Stenner said he is no stranger to the district. He has volunteered for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation and the district’s Districting and Facilities Committee.

While most of Stenner’s career has been spent at nonprofit organizations, he has a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in finance.

He said he thinks it is smart to spend most dollars and resources close to the classroom, focused on the interaction between the students and teachers.

“I think it’s effective and productive,” he said. “I’m happy that we’ve been doing that, and I hope it continues.”

He said some of that money he was referring to was to implement the Universal Design for Learning framework or the project-based learning model. And while there are many good schools in the district, there are others that could benefit from those models, he said.

“I’ve got kids in the system,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to make things better.”

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