Editor's note: This is the first candidate announcement The Brazil Times has received. We are happy to publish these announcements by the candidates, in their own words.
The announcements should be submitted to Editor, The Brazil Times, 100 N. Meridian St., Brazil, IN 47834 or delivered in person or sent by e-mail. If e-mailed, please follow e-mail with a telephone call to assure delivery to the newspaper.
Hello fellow Clay County residents. My name is Brian Atkinson and I am taking this opportunity to announce my candidacy for school board in the election this coming May.
I believe the school board is one of the most important jobs in a community. Service on such a governing body should not be taken lightly. Rather, it should be done with the best interests of students, corporation employees and the community at heart.
It is with such careful consideration that I have decided to run for this important post.
I began to look into school board service a year ago when the Clay Community School Board began discussing the closure of one or more elementary schools. Fortunately, the public - myself included - came to three consecutive board meetings to support the endangered schools.
At that point the board president directed the superintendent to delete the closing of schools as an option and the needed budget requirements were found among other options.
Newspaper articles at the time of these discussions, indicated that four board members were in favor of keeping the neighborhood schools while three were in favor of closing. In the up coming election one of those four, after more than 40 years of educational service to Clay County, has decided not to run this spring. This means we could revisit the school closing issue after the May election with the balance being in favor of closing.
I do not believe any of our neighborhoods is in favor of closing their school. As an at large member of the board I can promise you I will never raise my hand to close your school.
The main area of concern for our corporation is the general fund budget. After a decade of state government giving yearly monetary increases to individual school systems, the faucet has been turned off.
State government expects school corporations to do more with less. During the 1990's a college freshman could have been in charge of a school corporation's multi-million dollar budget and looked like a hero. This was because they knew the state was always going to provide a larger amount of funds the following year.
As the financial situation exists today, state government is likely to give no increase for the next school year.
Most school systems consider it a blessing if they receive the same amount as the previous year. This situation will exist until the state is once again running in the black.
As part of the budget problem, the spiraling cost of health insurance is eating away at the general fund budget to the tune of 2% per year. If this trend continues until 100% of the budget is taken up with salaries and benefits, there won't be any money to pay the utility bills.
We must understand 2 things. First we have to find compromises that everyone can live with to settle our budget woes.
Second, we are in tough times now but if we work together we can still have a good school system that benefits students, employees and the community. The state will get its financial house in order but for now we need to find more creative solutions to our problems. I believe my education, experience and background can help in this endeavor.
I am a life long resident of Clay County. I attended Van Buren Elementary and graduated from Brazil High School in 1979. In the fall of 79 Indiana Sate University was next on the list.
I come from a family of teachers. My father taught in the Clay Community school system for 44 years. He was licensed in Industrial Arts and Foreign Language.
My sister was an elementary teacher in Clay Community Schools for 20 years.
My uncle, Wayne Atkinson, was a junior high math teacher for 35 years. His two children are teachers also. One in elementary and one at Purdue University.
It only seemed natural for me to become a teacher. Upon graduating from ISU in 1983 I attained a k-12 teaching license in Industrial Technology Education.
However, opportunities opened up for me in the field of manufacturing so I went into the private sector.
I kept my teaching license valid for 10 years and did some sub. teaching in our local school system. So I am a teacher by training and a manufacturing professional by trade.
Most of my professional life has been in material procurement to run manufacturing assembly lines, either as a Purchasing Agent or as a Buyer. However, I started out hanging cooling units and fuel tanks on freezer trailers at Great Dane in 1984. I moved on to the fabrication shop as a machine operator and then to Inventory/Purchasing in 1988 where I began my current career in material procurement. I left Great Dane in 1994 and became a Purchasing Agent at Wabash National Corp in Lafayette.
As a purchasing agent I dealt with many companies in setting up and securing national contracts for production materials at the Wabash facilities. This experience gave me the insight into how other companies handle shifts in the economy and how to interpret trends for future business. I believe this experience will be of great benefit to the board of education.
In 2003, while working in procurement at Wood-Mizer Inc. (the nations number 1 producer of sawmill equipment) I was offered the opportunity to come back to Great Dane in the buyer position. This is where I currently continue my career.
During all of this time I have lived in Clay County. Even when I worked in Lafayette and Indianapolis I always commuted. The reason for that is simple.
This is a great community to live and raise a family. With my wife, Rebecca and our two children Drew and Lauren, I am the fourth generation to own the family farm.
The farm was started by my great grand parents- Walter and Nina Rissler. It has gone through many changes over the years. My grandparents, Paul and Elizabeth (Rissler) Atkinson, continued to raise livestock on it.
When my parents, Bob and June (Decker) Atkinson, took it over, they added more land and it grew some more.
Now it is in the charge of my wife and I as we hope to pass it down to our children, the fifth generation, so it can enrich their lives also.
I view education in much the same way. Education must meet the needs of present while building on the good efforts of the past, with the future in mind.
My children, while elementary age, are beginning to understand the importance of home and education. For this community to be a viable home, for all of our children, there has to be opportunity. That opportunity is dependent education. All facets of the school corporation working together for the benefit of all who use and work for the schools as well as those who live in the community.
If the citizens of Clay County elect me to the board I will work with the other members of the board to build a strong majority that will keep all our current schools open, provide the necessary upgrades to keep them competitive and I will work with our local citizens and businesses on the solutions for issues facing Clay Community Schools.