Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Change coming to ACS board

·3 min read

Sep. 3—There is one certainty when the results from the November election are finalized.

Dramatic change is coming to the Anderson Community Schools board, with three incumbents deciding not to seek another term.

Diane Airhart served one term on the board; Jean Chaille decided not to run after serving several terms; and Jeff Barranco is forgoing another school board term to run for a seat on the Anderson City Council.

The only incumbent seeking re-election is Pat Hill, who has been serving as the chairman of the school board.

What has been missing from the ACS board for several years is the presence of a member of the Black community on the board.

Former member Robert "Buckie" Bookhart is seeking a return to the board and is being opposed by Peter Lyon and Denise Sanders.

Hill is being opposed by Andrew Jones.

One of the more interesting contests is for the at-large seat to replace Airhart on the board.

Former Anderson Mayor Kris Ockomon, whose wife is a teacher with ACS, is running against former board member Joanna Collette.

During the past few years, patrons of ACS have raised several issues dealing with the lack of diversity on the school board, the selection of Joe Cronk as superintendent, curriculum concerns and the district's graduation rate.

What changes can a new board expect to implement?

The first should be the elimination of the executive sessions of the board before the public meetings.

Even the attorney for the Indiana School Board Associations has advised against that procedure in the past, but so far, that advice has fallen on deaf ears.

By meeting before public meetings, an impression is left that decisions are being made behind closed doors, whether or not an actual vote was taken, and the outcome on issues has been previously decided.

Funding seems to always be an issue with local schools, so a partnership with the city when it comes to the American Rescue Plan funds could lead to some innovative programming.

A program could be developed to train students in a skilled trade that is currently in demand around the country.

A few years ago, the board discussed in an executive session requesting a share of the tax increment financing money collected by the Anderson Redevelopment Commission and the appointment of a non-voting member of the commission.

A member was appointed and attended several meetings, but since the Redevelopment Commission and school board meetings were on the same day and at similar starting times, there has been no representative of the school board.

To date, ACS has not moved forward with the request for funding that has to be connected to a specific academic program.

As the November elections approach, the candidates running for the school board should be available to parents and taxpayers to answer questions on what they want to see in the future of ACS.

The direction of ACS in the coming years could be decided by the voters.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.