As many as three Shelbyville Central Schools board seats could get new representation after Tuesday’s General Election.
One will certainly change with Mike Warble finishing his term and stepping down as the district two representative. Amanda Bunton is running unopposed and will fill the seat beginning in 2023.
Two district four seats, currently held by David Finkel and Dr. James Rees, are up for election with both incumbents running.
Three more candidates – Maria Bachman, Mary Harper and Holden Stephens – have emerged seeking those district four seats.
Here is a brief look at the five candidates.
The Southport Middle School eighth-grade teacher lives in Shelbyville and is engaged to City of Shelbyville Plan Director Adam Rude. The daughter of a lifelong teacher, Bachman believes the time is right for her to get involved.
“I’m at a time where I have time,” said Bachman at Wednesday’s Meet the Candidates event at Shelbyville Middle School. “A lot of people say they have kids and can’t dedicate time to this. Adam and I are getting married next year. I have the time now to be proactive in my future children’s education at Shelbyville Central Schools. I can dedicate my whole time to that right now.”
Bachman wants to be a teacher advocate while serving on the board.
“I look at the climate of my school I teach at in Perry Township. I know teachers feel like they have a lot on their plates,” she explained. “I have gotten to know a lot of really good Shelbyville school teachers and members and faculty and I want to help lessen that load for them and help get them their voice back a little bit while also maintaining that balance between parents and the community.”
Bachman understands she is a fresh face and name in the Shelbyville community. She has found campaigning to be an enjoyable experience and found the community to be receptive to her ideas.
“The biggest thing I’ve had to overcome is my name. No one knows me,” said Bachman. “It’s hard but it’s also been kind of a blessing because I am creating my own name for myself.
“Over the past five years of living here, I’ve become very involved in the processes because Adam talks to me about it every single night. Through watching his meetings and listening to his conversations about how boards function, I know what type of people they look for on boards. I am prepared in that way but education is my passion and I’ve kind of intermingled those two things and prepared myself to step into this role as a teacher.”
A three-term member of the school board, Finkel is seeking a fourth term.
“The primary reason I am running is we have a lot of bonding still coming up and that’s what I do,” said Finkel, owner of 251 Consulting. “I am also an advocate for the teachers on the state level and the national level. We really need some help.
“Teachers are asked to do things they are not trained to do and, quite honestly, should not be part of their profession. That leads to burnout and it leads to turnover.”
Through his consulting company, Finkel advises school boards on public finance issues as well as public and private boards on board development and boardmanship. Finkel also is the director of the Strand Theatre in downtown Shelbyville.
Finkel strongly believes schools boards should remain under local control.
“School board service has changed because there is an assault on public education by trying to limit local control,” said Finkel Wednesday at Shelbyville Middle School. “An elected school board is the epitome of local control. We are non-partisan. We are there for the good of the children. The more that the state mandates, the more that the state controls the funding, the more that the state controls what is bargained and not bargained for by our bargaining unit, that’s all taking away from that local control.
“Part of what we need to do is be champions to keep local local. We are best served by the members of our board that can make a difference where you can come and talk to them at the ball game, at the play, at the concert, at the restaurant and at any of our stores.”
Over his three terms, Finkel believes SCS has positioned itself well financially but cautions that could change based on the economy.
“Our position financially is very good but it is very good at the loss of certain things,” said Finkel. “When you look at what’s going on with the economy, it could change in a heartbeat.”
Married to an educator, Finkel is well-versed on the day-to-day struggles of teachers.
“Things change so rapidly and there is so much assault on what the teacher is doing in the classroom,” said Finkel. “The people from the outside don’t understand what the teachers’ day is all about. She and he need to have the ability to be the educator. They all have degrees. It’s a very learned faculty. Everybody has a minimum level of collegiate work, many have master’s degrees and some have doctorates. You have to trust your professional staff and I certainly do.”
After four decades with Shelbyville Central Schools serving from teacher through superintendent, Harper retired in June.
“I feel like I have some unfinished business,” said Harper of her potential return to education as a school board member. “I feel there have been some major changes in education in the last 10-15 years. There are initiatives that I couldn’t do as an administrator or superintendent. I feel school boards have a platform that can make changes and I want to be a part of that.”
As a former principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent, Harper has dealt with the teacher shortage issue first hand.
“It’s no surprise there is a shortage of teachers,” she said. “We’ve been talking about this for 10 years. There were years when I was principal at Hendricks (Elementary) that I had 300 applicants for an elementary position. When I was assistant superintendent, there were times we would have five (applicants).
“We have to find a way to attract people to teaching because it doesn’t look attractive to young people because of the salary, because of the benefits, but more so than that, it’s the perception of public education. It’s almost like there is a lack of respect or a lack of value for the profession. I think we can do something. School boards have a platform. They can actively work toward promoting legislation that promotes public education. I want to be part of that process.”
Harper touts not only her 40 years of experience in the educational field, but that experience all came locally as a selling point for her to be a board selection.
“I haven’t just heard about the issues, I’ve lived them,” said Harper. “I’ve seen the changes that have been happening. I come with a different perspective. Not that I have all the answers because I don’t have all the answers. I am definitely open to working with more groups, educators and staff and finding unique solutions to what’s happening. I think my educational background will help with that.”
Dr. James Rees
Rees was “appointed” to the Shelbyville Central Schools board in 1994.
“I was the last appointed school board member,” said Rees in a recent radio interview with GIANT fm. He has successfully run for school board since then and is seeking another term to continue to advocate for a strong school system that helps boost pride in community.
“I believe that we have built a highly-effective school system here,” said Rees. “I am proud of the things we’ve accomplished.”
Rees first appeared before the SCS board in the 1990s when Algebra was slated for removal from the middle school’s curriculum.
“I created an organization of parents that were like-minded and approached the school board and said, ‘Why are we doing this?’” explained Rees. “Through several conversations they ultimately agreed with that. Today, in the middle school we not only have Algebra but several high school credit classes being taught.
“One of the proudest things we have here is if students want to, they can graduate from Shelbyville High School with two years of college already under their belt. We’ve come a long way. I feel it is so important to have a good school system. It has the community’s pride. It’s a reflection of the community and I enjoy continuing to see that progress.”
There are educators in Rees’ family and is a continued topic of discussion at family gatherings.
“It’s not the students that drive people away from teaching,” he said. “It’s the culture of the building or the mandates placed on them that take them away from teaching. That is the thing I want to see us work on.
“Obviously, they should be paid as professionals. We need to pay our people more than in surrounding communities to keep them and attract them. And we need to look at additional things that may not be monetary that will attract them.”
Rees believes his vast experience as a member of the school board makes him a strong candidate to retain his district four seat.
“I want people to know the board has made some mistakes in the past and have learned some things the hard way,” he said. “I think by having someone with experience there, we will not repeat those mistakes. We need to be familiar with our history. If we are not familiar with our history, we are doomed to repeat some mistakes we made in the past. I carry that institutional knowledge with me, and I think I can help make sure we continue to move forward.”
Stephens did not follow the traditional track of post-secondary education and wants to champion alternative educational routes as a member of the school board.
“I want to tell students that traditional college is not for everyone,” he said on a recent radio interview with GIANT fm. “It used to be vocational schools had a stigma but that’s not the case anymore. I’m living proof of that. If elected to the school board, I would like to see the expansion of vocational schools and more advertisement of vocational schools, letting students know it is OK to pursue a vocational education over a traditional college experience.”
The 2010 Morristown graduate has a degree from Vincennes University in Supply Chain Management and Logistics. Stephens spent time managing a small warehouse while traveling as a musician.
Stephens learned about the Indiana Next Level Jobs program, qualified for a grant and earned an Information Technology (IT) certificate.
Cyber security is important to Stephens and he wants to make sure students are learning the dangers associated with using the Internet.
“(Cyber security) is a big thing for any elected official,” said Stephens. “The No. 1 priority should be the security of the people you represent.
“We need to teach our students to be safe when it comes to Internet protocol as well as the physical security of our buildings. Not just while the students are in school but also while they are outside of school.”
This is Stephens’ first attempt to run for a school board seat but he has been involved in campaigns for government positions. He believes his ability to listen and discuss ideas is a strength he would bring to the school board.
“I like to tell people I am brutally honest, sometimes to a fault,” he said. “I won’t beat around the bush with people. One thing I have going for me is I like to listen. I like hearing what people have to say.
“Everybody has a story. … I will bring to the table on the school board is the ability to listen. I am more than willing to meet somebody halfway and listen to what they have to say.”
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