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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Residents grill state reps, senators

Monday, January 17, 2011

Indiana House District 44 representative Jim Baird (left) and District 46 representative Robert Heaton both attended the Clay County Cracker Barrel Saturday at the Cory Firehouse. [Order this photo]
CORY -- Approximately 50 county residents attended the event at the Cory Firehouse, co-sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and Clay County Farm Bureau.

Indiana Representatives Jim Baird (Republican, District 44), Robert Heaton (R-District 46), and Clyde Kersey (Democrat, District 43), along with State Senators John Waterman (R-District 39), and Richard Bray (R-District 37) fielded questions from the audience.

Kersey opened discussion Saturday stating he wasn't used to being in the "minority," and adding the state could see more budget cuts this year.

"We've got some real challenges this year," Kersey said. "We're going to see some massive cuts."

Baird told the audience education and jobs were his top priorities.

"They are related," he said.

Heaton said he looked forward to the challenges he faced as a freshman representative.

"You want to help everybody," he said. "It's not about this side or that side. It's about listening before deciding.

"It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been very, very good. People are engaged. People want dialogue."

Many of the residents in attendance Saturday were concerned about education and proposed changes in county government.

In reference to education, many wondered aloud about teacher's tenure and a voucher system, which would allow parents to send their children to schools of their choice.

Both topics center on proposed upgrades to the state's education system by Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indiana Department of Education Supt. Of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

One resident suggested a merit board should be created in order to evaluate teachers while eliminating tenure.

"There's nothing wrong with evaluating people," Bray said.

"There are reasons to get rid of tenured teachers," Kersey added. "But principals have five years to evaluate (teachers who) aren't doing their job. In those five years, if a teacher is not good, they probably won't be. Principals and superintendents don't have the guts (to let teachers go)."

The topic of vouchers also came up, to which Heaton said he favored. However, Kersey strongly disagreed, saying vouchers could "destroy the public education system."

"We're not putting money where it should be," Kersey said. "If we want a good education system, we have to pay for it."

A handful of additional topics were discussed at Saturday's event, including the possible elimination of township trustees, a topic Daniels has discussed in the past.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen, but there will be some changes made," Bray said, adding volunteer fire departments wouldn't be affected.

Heaton added residents should avoid rumors, saying many residents had asked him about the possibility of doing away with township advisory boards.

"It's a sensitive issue," Heaton said. "Hopefully, we'll know something soon."

In regard to the possible elimination of county commissioners, Bray said that would probably not change.

One resident asked the officials what they planned to do regarding children's rights.

"Law enforcement can do something," Waterman said. "But they stand behind child services."

"Part of the problem is we have the laws there, but they're not being enforced," Kersey added.

Another resident asked what the representatives thought regarding inmates within the Indiana Department of Correction receiving free bachelor's degrees.

Waterman said the system is "broke" and needed fixing.

When asked about the move to Daylight Savings Time, both Bray and Kersey stated they did not support the initial change and believed the entire state should be in the Central Time Zone.

Baird also suggested all county residents take advantage of calling their representatives frequently if they had questions.

The next county Cracker Barrel is scheduled for 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Department.

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Vouchers, for parental choice in education, would "destroy the public education system"? Only where parents have no confidence in the public education system and what is wrong with that?

Tenure and other methods of entrenching employees in their position works only as long as non-performance is allowed to break it. There must always be evaluations of performance to insure peak performance although I believe that judging a teacher's performance on student performance is an error. To clarify that, there are many other factors that affect a student beyond what the teacher is teaching, even when the teacher is teaching everything that the state requires using the best practices, especially if you are only considering standardized test scores.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 3:36 AM

I don't know enough about the voucher system to know if it really would work or not. But what I do know, is that when Kirk Freeman was principal at Northview, he told me himself that he used to get 30 to 40 requests a year from Vigo County students requesting a transfer to Northview and that he had to turn all but a very few down because of lack of space and staffing issues.

Now maybe space isn't a premium like it was then, but there still would be a limit as to how many new students any school could accept because of physical space limitations or staffing constraints. So then how do you decide who gets the slot and who doesn't? It appears it would go back to the "who you are" scenario, which is never good, unless of course you are "one of the chosen".

I also agree on the time zone issue. Either we go back to not changing our clocks, which I thought was the way to do it, or change time zones. If we are going to keep moving the clock, then we need to be on central time to begin with. I personally don't need it to be daylight out at 10pm.

-- Posted by ClayCountyGuy on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 7:34 AM

Oh how to keep this short...lol

1] Student evaluations can be implemented as it has been proven over and over on college level that grade assignment does not reflect teacher evaluation of teachers. While this should not be total evaluation, it should be part of it. Along with a tone set from the top of administration that each corporation is committed to quality teaching and gives strong message to building administrator that THEIR evaluations will be determined by the time and their ability to correctly evaluate their staff. To date that has not been done here and is long overdue as pointed out by the last study done by ISU researcher several years ago.

2]"Our man Mitch" is VERY good at shifting financial responsibility to local government while making him look good by making things look better on state level. A ploy to make him look like a good presidential candidate. Talk of charter schools and reducing prison costs are just the most recent rhetoric. Several years ago on state level he and our legislators "reduced" property taxes by implementing them ILLEGALLY according to our state constitution and then had homeowners duped into amending our state constitution telling them that their pocket books would benefit by lowering property taxes. What has actually happened is that county income taxes have made up for that lowered property tax revenue and in some cases people are paying more than what their property tax was reduced.

Now talk of cost reduction in state prison system is only going to again shift financial responsibility to local government as there is talk about state pens. not accepting those sentenced for drug offenses. How are the county jails going to afford to keep all these offenders?

Again not a savings but a shift of responsibility.

3] One thing our state legislators CAN do to help cut costs at our public schools is to amend the law that keeps teachers union contracts IN EFFECT until a new one is agreed upon. Teachers in this state DO NOT work without a contract and don't let them tell you differently. This law cripples any chance of any real bargaining for teacher union contracts and lowers chances of updating health insurance coverage as is done in other companies in industry.

The Public education system is already broken and these very legislators are ALSO too afraid to step up and change that law but prefer to shift it to locals just as our governor has. I have mentioned this to Amos Thomas and Nancy Michaels when they were involved with state government. Nothing happened. No feed back at all. No word that they had even looked into it. It's time and would be a step in right direction. Yes local school administration leaves a lot to be desired but time to stop shifting responsibility and for each level to do their part. These guys can get rid of that law.

Have a good day.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 8:35 AM

And by the way I mentioned this law to Jim Baird at the Clay County candidate forum .... No word from him about looking into it either..yet.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 8:37 AM

For those of you that missed the Clay Co. Republican meeting last night, the speaker was our state treasurer. The more he talked the more it became evident that our great state has a lot to be proud of these days and that in itself is saying a lot! We are only one of three staes that are in the "black" Us, Texas and I want to say Nebraska (?). Our state is being run like a business and yes, my man Mitch has made quite a few citizens angry....but you know what! It's working for us! We may not have a ton of money and you all might think that education is taking a slide backwards but we do have a lot to be grateful for. Our taxes didn't go up 66% like our neighbors to the west in Illionois so look for our stae's population to grow from that mess too! So many things on the horizon for Indiana so keep on keeping on our state will be on very frim ground as the rest crumble around us! Just my thoughts....

Have a great day, I know I will.

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 11:29 AM

Sorry for the typo's....it wouldn't let me go back in and fix them! hahahaa

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 11:30 AM

Proud of my Country:

Many states are mandated by their state constitution to have a balanced budget. North Carolina comes to mid as used to live there and it was one of them.

Yes Our government at state level is doing well but only because those in state government have shifted some of the responsibilities to local government....Now one can say that is good because then communities can have more control, but some things are mandated by state laws and if the state money isn't there to pay for enforcement it isn't really "balanced"

Just like the federal immigration laws that rely on states to enforce them. If one entity is going to make the rules, they need to pay for enforcement.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 3:36 PM

Isn't_it_obvious_to_us - You quote "facts" in your post, could you supply references? Most of the studies that I've read say that class size is an important factor, especially in grades 1-3, and in some high school classes such as math. I agree that the teacher is probably the most important factor in education. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold, a poor teacher can ruin a child's education in a minute, but, one must remember also that the perfect teacher and perfect teaching method for one student may not be the perfect match for the next student. We are dealing with individuals, after all.

You state that 99% of Indiana teachers are rated as effective. That bothers me, not in what you say, but it doesn't fit a probability curve. I would expect a larger percentage to be falling short of the lowest acceptable average, as I think you are.

However, I was privy to a conversation between an administrator and a teacher recently that illustrates part of the problem with standardized testing to evaluate the teacher by the student's performance on these tests. It appears that students were tested on material that had not yet been covered in the course. (This also occurs in AP courses when tests for college credit are administered, as I understand.) Due to the "local control" of the school year, the course curriculum standards set by the state, and deviations in curriculum mapping, the only way to fairly evaluate teachers on student performance based upon what the teacher has taught to date would be to standardize the week of the school year during which to administer the test and standardize the curriculum map as to what s taught and when it is covered in the course statewide. This would basically eliminate the teacher's ability to respond to students by slowing down and speeding up coverage of course materials as the need became apparent, but would more accurately indicate the teacher's effectiveness in getting the course material across to the students. However, the ultimate goal is to teach the student, not evaluate the teacher.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, Jan 18, 2011, at 9:10 PM

But Leo...

One of the problems is that material that SHOULD be covered in the classes isn't being covered for one reason or another and not all of it is controlled by the teacher. In the past several years our administration has combined courses such as Physics I and II [Basic Physics and AP physics] and expected the teacher to cover material for both courses which is next to impossible as it takes time she doesn't have to cover it all. In turn the student gets cheated at both ends if they aren't self learners from just reading material on their own.

On other end of spectrum, we have teachers who seem to have no syllibus at all for their course nor lesson plans so no goal as to what to make sure is covered in the semester or even for each marking period. Statistics is one of those courses. Statistics is a good course if you look at material that is covered in the text but in actuality it is well known to be a course for those who don't want to take a math course but have to to graduate as teacher doesn't cover even half of the material he is supposed to.

In both of these cases it's the administration who is not doing their job. They aren't standing up FOR the student in the first case to make sure they truly get educated so they can do well on AP exam. In the second case they aren't monitoring the classes to make sure that teacher is sticking to some sort of lesson plan schedule to make sure material is covered and class isn't just chatting every day while teacher plays on his computer.

To do that however the building administrator needs to commit time to monitoring his teachers and central administration doesn't want to support that time commitment nor do they honor the decision of the building supervisor. And I include board who micromanages in areas where they are not trained. We have seen too many reversals where contracts and renewals are concerned as they haven't dedicated time to building administrators to do their job properly. Then they are not able to correctly document the building supervisors in turn either.

A real monkey court....

And legislators say we cant do vouchers as it will ruin public education??? It's already there. Best to fire everybody and officially close the school down in spring and rehire with brand new contracts those who REALLY dedicate their time to teach. They are there but now are being treated exactly the same way as those who don't.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:55 AM

By the way, the bachelors degrees offered at correctional institutions are not free.

-- Posted by joneichelb on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:58 AM

Isn't it obvious:

But in some cases, the teacher isn't actually following set plan and isn't getting material covered....Without principal IN the classroom on regular basis to compare what goes on in class and compare it to the syllibus, this can go on for years and does in some classes.

Not unless the student, parent, another teacher or other stakeholder in the community reports this type of thing will things improve. Many students just see that they don't have any work in that class so don't complain. Many tell their parents but the parents don't complain as they just want their kid to have that diploma even if they aren't truly educated and prepared for next step in life.

Not until the entire community really values literacy and education and demands quality academics at school board meetings as they demand athletics will the message truly filter down to the classroom. Yes there are self motivating teachers who are self motivated but that does not fix the problem for those who are not and need the supervision.

It is a chronic problem in our schools in general and in this community academic and literacy importance is pretty much at the bottom of the list. That's made obvious by the lack of support for a countywide library system. Getting preschoolers into the library to start to read at an early age is so critical for furthering their academic drive and achievements in later years.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 9:40 AM

Murphy's Laws of Combat: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

You could have done everything to date "by the book" and according to schedule, yet if a standardized test were to be scheduled for tomorrow the weather has affected the result beyond the control of the teacher or the administrators.

We actually have a good group of educators within the corporation compared against the state-wide group, but in any group you always have those who are above the average, the average, and below the average that is established by the group.

There are two different evaluations that go into evaluating a teacher, that of the reasonable expections of any employee, such as showing up, following rules, ...etc, and then a measurement of how well they teach. On the first, I know of several who have fallen short at particular times, one incident that springs to mind where one person tried to teach two different classes in two separate classrooms to cover for another person. In most places that I've worked, that would be grounds for immediate termination.

My concern is with the second evaluation, that of how well do they teach. If you give great weight to standardized tests, it behooves the teacher to "teach the test" instead of the subject. Even then, the teacher's evaluation is at the mercy of the student's answers on the test. This point was drove home to me when my grandson and one of his friends decided to have a race during NWEA testing. Thank Heaven, no teacher's job hung in the balance based upon those scores as they both completely answered the test questions in under three minutes by hitting "A" and "Enter" as fast as they could. Of course, graphing my grandson's NWEA scores, it looked like he had backed up three grade levels in the subject. Must have had a really poor teacher that year.......NOT.

Evaluating people is not an easy thing to do, especially when you have to evaluate people whose job entails dealing with people.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 10:15 AM

Isn't_it_obvious_to _us?:

Bingo! You pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Until Academics and literacy is at the top of people's list of importance, our community will not improve. I was pretty much slammed with that when moving here in '95 and being turned away from the public library...When someone doesn't want to invest in their community as a whole, it can't thrive.

Our community is like our stock portfolio or our house. If we don't invest to maintain and improve it, we will come out the other end with very little. the wealth of the community directly reflects that value of one's own property within it. Too bad so few realize this.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 7:06 PM

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