Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 26, 2012

Four candidates for two BCSC seats

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

-- — Voters will choose two of four candidates Nov. 6 competing for District 3 seats on the Batesville Community School Corp. board.

Why do they want to become school trustees? Chris Lowery, the only incumbent, answers, “Excellence in education, especially in the K-12 setting, is a passion for me. Studies consistently show that when high standards of education are offered to and attained by students, there are direct correlations to a more robust economy, higher levels of employment, higher levels of income, lower levels of poverty and generally a higher quality of life.” Cindy Blessing notes, “Having had two sons go through the Batesville Community School Corp., I have been involved in many aspects of their education .... I have seen what areas have been successful and also those which need continued examination and improvement. Being very involved with the youth of our community, I have seen what they are struggling with in their young lives. I hope to help make, at least their life at school, one that is safe, bully, alcohol and drug free, and one that is on a level playing field for all students.”

Adam Luhman explains, “I’m excited to become more involved throughout the community and I want to the see the ... school corporation continue to thrive and excel well into the future.” According to Ned Rogers, “I want to be a part of the team that is working hard to continue the tradition of educational excellence.”

Each candidate offers a different set of strengths. Blessing points out, “I am an open-minded, compassionate and eager to remedy (issues) person. The community knows that I am a very approachable person and that I have the good of the children of Batesville at heart.” According to Luhman, “My educational background will be a strong strength. Another strength I would bring to the board is my ability to listen to students, teachers, staff, administrators and community members. I feel that having an open mind and listening to all stakeholders is a vital role for a board member. I also have no personal connections or agendas and I will bring a neutral perspective.”

Rogers’ strengths are “corporate and project management experience, local business owner, community involvement and a passion for public education.” Lowery says, “My hope is that people who have been involved directly or tangentially with our schools have seen my commitment to working with people throughout our community, setting an aggressive vision, developing a solid plan and delivering on the results.”

The contenders discuss issues they would like the BCSC board to tackle in 2013. Rogers believes, ìThe biggest challenge facing our school system is maintaining and improving upon our current high level of achievement.î Lowery lists these goals: the joint venture with Ivy Tech Community College, one-to-one computing for students in grades K-8 by 2014, improving SAT/ACT scores, offering greater breadth and depth of foreign language programs and expanding curriculum and extracurricular offerings for high-achieving students.

Blessing says, “I believe, as well as do many others in this community, that the BCSC needs to implement drug testing at the high school level. We know that by having a drug testing program in place, it will affect at least 90 percent of the students at BHS” who participate in sports, clubs and plays or drive to school.  “I often refer to the following quote, from a respected person within the community, because it sums up why we should have such a program: ‘If all we do is give a student an excuse not to use, then we have been successful.’” According to Luhman, “I believe important issues in 2013 include making fiscally smart decisions for the future as the corporation continues to grow.”

Responses varied when asked what, if anything, impresses them about Batesville public schools. Luhman admits, “The high test scores, use of technology and high-quality teachers all impress me. The students and families of the Batesville public schools are also impressive while the commitment to excellence and the desire to always improve is great to see in a school corporation.” Rogers observes, “The overall stewardship of the corporation is excellent. Last year our schools ranked fourth in the state overall on ISTEP scores. This was accomplished with a state funding per student that was the 10th lowest in the state. Batesville is fortunate to have dedicated and talented professionals throughout the entire corporation.”

Among 10 advantages on Lowery’s list, here are three: “Our individual schools and school corporation have been graded with an A by the Indiana Department of Education ... During recent years, when funding was cut by the state, our school corporation did not have to lay off any teachers, unlike most school corporations, because of prudent budgeting ... Community leaders and volunteers came together to form the Batesville Community Education Foundation to help fund, with private money, extra teacher training, special programs for students, student scholarships and other needs.”

Blessing says, “BCSC has always been a leader ... in the areas of innovation, higher education availability, state-of-the-art facilities and promoting safe and drug-free schools. I am especially proud of Choices, which is a one-of-a-kind program in this area. Many other school corporations have inquired as to the success of such a program. I believe the current BCSC board has done a wonderful job in the recent building renovations and expansions. These were much needed and only offer up more opportunities for the students.”

Regardless of who wins, Lowery thinks important conversations will continue. “Over the years, I have heard of school boards in other communities that spend little time discussing and debating the big issues and where poor performance, whether in academics or in fiscal management, have been the result. In Batesville, there is a different standard and it is reflected not only in the results, but in the level of community commitment. Education can provide transformation in the life of an individual, in a community and in the direction of a society.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 113; or debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com.