Three vying for two seats on Seymour school board


Seymour voters will get to choose two of three candidates to fill at-large seats on the Seymour Community School Corp. board of trustees on Nov. 6.

Two of the candidates, Reuben Cummings and Joe Tormoehlen, are political newcomers, and the third, Nancy Franke, is looking to be reelected for a third term on the school board. Trustee Stu Silver, who has served for 12 1/2 years, decided not to run again.

Trustees John Kelley and Max Klosterman are seeking re-election and are unopposed. Kelley represents Redding Township, while Klosterman represents Washington Township.

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Cummings, who owns and operates his own company, said he decided to run for the school board as a way to give back to the school corporation for providing his family with a great education and wonderful experiences. His wife is a teacher and his children have gone through the school system.

“I want to protect K-12 educational experiences for future generations and increase the recognition of the value of a diploma from Seymour Community Schools,” he said.

Tormoehlen, who is retired from a local insurance company, said he always has been very interested in education and considered running for the school board when he was younger. He has worked as a substitute teacher and math coach and has his teaching license. His wife is also a teacher and his kids and grandkids have benefited from Seymour Schools too.

“Now that I am retired, I feel that I have the time to give to be a capable school board member,” he said.

Franke, an educator herself, said schools continue to face many challenges, and she wants to be part of the team to address those issues. Her children also have received their education through Seymour Community Schools.

“I continue to share a passion for education and working towards creating the best learning and working environment possible,” she said.

Seymour Community Schools’ search for a new superintendent will begin next year as current Superintendent Rob Hooker plans to retire at the end of the year. An interim superintendent will be named to help lead the school corporation through the rest of the school year.

Franke said the search for a new superintendent was a key factor in her decision to run again.

“We need not only an advocate for our schools, but also one who can connect with the stakeholders in our community,” she said.

Franke said the district needs a leader who is fiscally sound, has a solid understanding of policies and laws, has a clear vision for the district and shares in the board’s goals, is an effective communicator and manager, a good listener and who isn’t afraid to take risks.

Tormoehlen said if elected, he too will be looking for someone with vision, good communication skills and a good understanding of the financial workings of a school corporation Seymour’s size.

But he also wants to see a leader with practical experience.

“Someone who has had experience in the classroom and has not forgotten the rigors of being a classroom teacher,” he said.

For Cummings, it will be essential for a superintendent candidate to have a vested interest in Seymour, he said.

“… A superintendent that lives here, has or is raising kids here, intends to continue to live here and wants his/her kids to return here,” he said. “A candidate with passion for the area will, I believe, push our school system to be a pillar of southern Indiana.”

With continued growth in the Seymour area, many of the schools are experiencing crowded classrooms and facilities. School board members will have to address this issue in the near future.

Tormoehlen said he isn’t opposed to building a new school or expanding existing buildings.

“I have had people suggest to me that we need to build another grade school, a new fifth-sixth grade building, a preschool/kindergarten building or a major addition to the high school,” he said. “Any of these sound like a plausible idea, but it depends on where the most pressing needs are and where we are on current bond issues.”

Regardless of which direction the board goes, Tormoehlen said any new building project would require a major needs study and community input.

Franke said no solution will be forthcoming unless taxpayers are onboard with the idea, and that can be a slippery slope.

But a multi-million dollar project needs to be considered, she added.

“We have spent the last several years putting smaller projects forward to keep the schools’ portion of the tax rate steady, but we truly cannot move forward with greater projects without the support of our community,” she said.

She has suggested the corporation look into using portable buildings as an immediate, short-term solution.

Cummings said before making a decision as a board member, he would have to see current data and analyze both why and how the corporation places children in each school building.

“In the short term, we have to maximize what we have,” he said. “The data will determine the long term, and I hope to work with current board members, teachers, parents and community members to build a plan that provides for the future of Seymour schools rather than meeting only the needs of today.”

School safety and protecting students and staff is a major issue in education today and one school board members must support.

All three candidates said they feel Seymour has done a good job of improving school safety, but still more could be done.

Both Cummings and Tormoehlen said they feel adding more school resource officers would help.

“I would like to see a resource officer working with students in every building,” Cummings said. “Beyond the safety provided, I have seen how the students interact and enjoy the resource officer. They provide another resource for our schools to reach and connect to children and to further encourage change in our community through positive experiences in our schools.”

With increases in the number of students who don’t speak English, students with special needs and those who face difficult home environments, Franke said it’s important to realize the role public schools and teachers have.

“We need to continue to provide a strong support system for our teachers and staff as they work together to meet those growing needs in the midst of the continued challenges they face,” she said.

By working together to maintain success in the schools, Franke said the community will benefit.

“The schools are one of the first places new businesses and corporations look at when considering establishment in a community,” she said.

If elected, Cummings said he would like to see the corporation invest in more experiences and opportunities for students such as putting athletic programs back in the elementary schools and putting more time and money into community and educational partnerships.

Tormoehlen said if elected he will work to address how the school system is perceived by the public.

“I believe that we need to do a better job of promoting Seymour Community Schools,” he said. “We should not let a few unhappy people or a negative press release drive the narrative. In the same vein, we should always strive to do better and never accept mediocrity.”{p style=”line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; margin-left: 36pt;” dir=”ltr”}

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