The Herald Bulletin

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April 26, 2010

South Madison candidates make case to voters

Six running for 3 seats participate in forum

PENDLETON, Ind. — Three incumbent school board members and their challengers answered questions about issues facing South Madison Community Schools on Monday at a forum coordinated by Pendleton Heights High School seniors.

The candidates agreed that the schools face tough decisions and laying off teachers was likely inevitable due to a budget deficit facing South Madison and school systems around the state. But how to work through those issues revealed some differences.

Chad Roots said that South Madison’s vote this year to accept transfer students and the revenue they bring could create more problems than it solves. “This is a Band-Aid fix,” he said.

Roots is running against incumbent Michael Gaskill, who championed the policy, and noted that South Madison was the last district to allow transfer tuition students. “We had to make this decision or get left behind.”

Joel Sandefur, who is running against incumbent Patricia Valentine, said board members should have had more foresight to deal with the financial shortfall. “We knew this was coming in 2004” with property tax caps, he said. “We should have acted sooner. That’s what leadership does.”

Valentine urged candidates who hadn’t served on the board, “Don’t make big promises you can’t keep.” She noted she’s seen many board members come and go after five terms, and said, “it takes a quorum — a majority of the board to get things changed.”

Marilea Wyatt said she had been attending school board meetings since 2008. “I will do lots of research,” she said, “and I’ll talk to lots of people out in public.”

Wyatt is running against incumbent Jon Trippeer, who said “with the challenges we have in front of us, it’s very, very important to realize as potential board members that kids come first.”

Monday’s forum was coordinated by the Pendleton Heights High School Advanced Placement U.S. Government class, and students moderated the forum with questions from the nearly 50 people who attended.

Addressing the questions posed by students, candidates found general agreement on a number of issues, including:

-- South Madison will have to ask teachers to pay a greater share of their health insurance costs.

-- Athletes and participants in extracurricular activities likely will be asked to pay fees to participate in an effort to cut costs.

-- The school district probably will have to make use of a recently approved law allowing funds to be transferred from the capital projects fund that pays for school construction to the general fund that largely pays salaries and benefits.

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250,

Who’s running

  • Adams Township: Jon Trippeer (incumbent), Marilea Wyatt
  • Fall Creek Township: Michael Gaskill (incumbent) Chad Roots
  • Green Township: Joel Sandefur, Patricia Valentine

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