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April 28, 2010

GESENHUES: Vote like you've never voted before

— Next Tuesday, May 4, is our opportunity to vote for our next batch of elected officials including: US senator, US representative, state senate, state representative, sheriff, assessor, school board members, and more. Between now and then, you can find the Floyd County 2010 Primary Candidate listing at http://www.floydcounty.in.gov/ (it's the third link listed in the middle of the page).

Columns telling readers to vote are a bit like articles that preach fast food is bad for you. We know what we should do; what we don't consider often enough is what will happen when we don't vote (or eat one more large fry and plain double cheese). The people we put in office-across all levels of government-will decide how our state budget is allocated. They will decide what will get cut and what will get funded.

Let's use the New Albany Floyd County School budget as an example. We have seen significant cuts happen to our school system in recent months, budget cuts that have impacted several neighborhood communities. From all the reports, quotes, and articles devoted to the recent school administration budget reduction plan, we don't appear to be at the end of this bleak, no-money road. More cuts will be made to school programs as fewer state and federal dollars are put into our school funds.

The senators and representatives we elect on a US and state level will have influence over the amount of funding available to our public school systems. Who we elect to our school board will impact how those funds are managed.

    There are four seats on the seven-person school board that are open for election. One of these seats will be filled by an incumbent as the two candidates up for the District #1 seat are current board members that must run against one another. The District #2 seat is already determined as the candidate running for this post has no one running against him. That leaves two “at-large” seats-seats not determined by a district. There are eight candidates vying for these two very important seats.

    I'm not one to hold back when it comes to writing about our school system. I have criticized comments made by the president of the Teacher Association, I have endorsed education reform, and I have asked Dr. Hibbard what was next…twice.

Most recently, I was quoted in a Tribune article covering school board campaign policies. While waiting for my husband in Scribner Middle School's lobby, I was handed a pamphlet that was an endorsement of three school board candidates by the New Albany-Floyd County Education Association and Community Coalition. Per the NA-FC Consolidated School Corporation's administrative guidelines, it is against policy to distribute such literature inside a school.

Regardless of the policy, a bigger concern for me is whether or not to vote for candidates endorsed by the Teacher Association. In many cases, it is the school board's responsibility to vote on teacher association issues (contracts, salary, benefits, etc.). Having some breathing space between these two entities helps avoid any conflicts of interest. Sure, the Teacher Association has the right to tell their members which candidates they support as an organization. And no, I do not believe that candidates should be disregarded solely because they are backed by the Teacher Association.

What I do believe is that it is in everyone's best interest to consider the school board elections from all sides and not (blindly) vote for whomever the New Albany-Floyd County Education Association and Community Coalition would like us to support.

Whatever you take from this column, please know that I am not here to tell you who I think you should vote for; your vote should go to the candidate you believe will best represent YOUR interests. I just want us as a community to show up to vote, and to vote as conscientiously as possible. With all that is going on in our world, we must vote as if we've never voted before. We must vote with a renewed sense of vigor, knowing the candidates we choose beyond the number of yard signs they have displayed.

You have five days to research the candidates online before the elections. If you have a specific question-for any of the candidates, school board and others-take the time to contact them. Many of the candidates have their emails listed on the 2010 Primary Candidate Listing mentioned at the opening of this column (again, you can find this at http://www.floydcounty.in.gov/).

It's never too late to become more informed when considering who will get your vote-unless, of course, you wait until after May 4.

Amy Gesenhues is a freelance writer in Floyd County, Indiana. You can read her daily commentaries at www.AmyWroteIt.Wordpress.com or email her at amy@amywroteit.com. 

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