Missing member

School board struggles to fill open seat


Emma Herwehe

The Perry Township school board meets for a regularly scheduled board meeting on Dec. 10.

For common situations, like an icy, below-freezing winter morning, students look to the Perry Township school board. With this, it is necessary for the school board to have all seats filled, but as of now, there remains one empty seat.

In December, three members on the school board, Jon Morris, Collin Fultz and Ed Denning, had their terms come to an end. With three seats up to be refilled, it was expected that there would be multiple people running to fill them, but there were only two candidates on the November ballot.

Fultz, one of the candidates running, successfully retained his seat on the board. The second candidate was Hannah Dale, the former Executive Director of the Perry Township Education Foundation. Even after she was elected, there was still an empty seat.

Keesha Hughes, who manages media relations for the school district, states that the school board is still taking offers for the position.

“One seat is still empty, so we invited interested candidates to send a letter of interest and resume,” Hughes said.

The letter must state and explain why the applicant would want to serve on the board. The board will then select and vote on the candidate, whose duties as a member would be effective in January of 2019.

According to Hughes, one of the responsibilities that board members take on is being sure that taxpayers’ money is being used not only for the benefit of the schools but also for the community as a whole.

The board also focuses a lot on the needs of Perry Township citizens, which is one of the reasons that the school board holds committee meetings that are open to the public. Members of the community, school faculty and students are able to speak out about what they believe is important at these meetings, which board members take into consideration when making decisions.
The community can get more involved in the school board by attending the meetings that are open to the public. These are held the fourth Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at PTEC, according to the Perry Township website. Members of the community are allowed to go into the meetings to listen and voice their own thoughts and ideas.

Another focus of the school board is maintaining the budget and ensuring that it is “fiscally sound,” Hughes says. This means that the school board must make sure that the budget is balanced with the state government’s spending levels and tax rates. When the state government adjusts its spending levels, nearly every business or public service center, including the school district, also has to adjust its spending levels. This can affect what the district and school are able to provide for students and different events that the schools hold.

Hughes also states that the school board has a key job in making sure that students are benefitting from their days in school. Members must set the standard for achievement, meaning that they have to try to set proper requirements to help students be as successful as possible during and after their school years.

In regards to the vacant seat, school board member Steve Johnson, who has been on the school board since January of 2017, says in an email to The Journal the board must have seven members on it to meet certain requirements and laws.

“It is the responsibility of the school board to appoint the new member of the school board,” Johnson wrote.

Other than this, he also states that the school board and the Superintendent have a significant amount of power during this situation since they interview and choose who will be serving on the board.

Other than appointing members, another one of the most important responsibilities within the school board is advocating for the students and the community.

Some students have started taking more notice of the school board as a whole due to the recent opening. Junior Luis Tavarez believes that it would be helpful to see the school board be more involved with the students on more of a personal level, like getting to know students and focus on their lives.

“We have guidance counselors, but if students had more than just one or two people to talk to, then that would help (them),” Tavarez said.

He thinks it would be beneficial for the school board to help students on a more personal level.

Tavarez also finds it important for the school board to acknowledge what the students find to be significant within the district and school. He feels like the school board can help make changes in the district if students want them, so it is key to have dedicated school board members.

“I’d like the new member to listen more to what the students want in school,” Tavarez said. “One that listens to students, not just the teachers.”