A Brownstown man asked trustees with Brownstown Central Community School Corp. to consider his proposal to make their jobs elected instead of appointed during a board meeting Monday night.
If they don’t do by the end of the present school year, Dave Hall said he plans to form a committee to draw up a plan and start the petition process so the proposal can be placed on a ballot for a vote those living in the school district.
“This is going to happen,” Hall said. “The community clearly wants it. I know you have all heard the saying ‘You can’t make everyone happy.’ This is your once in a lifetime chance to make a decision that 97 percent of the community wants.”
Hall, a present member of the Jackson County council, said several people have called, messaged him or sent him messages on Facebook about wanting to see the board changed from appointed members to elected members.
He said he could see the momentum for the move came following the resignation of former superintendent Greg Walker, who left for the superintendent’s position at Paoli Community School Corp. earlier this fall.
“There are two main reasons that people want to see the board change: Representation and accountability,” he said. “For 50 years, Owen, Pershing and Salt Creek have shared two seats on the board.”
Pershing Township, with 962 registered voters, and Owen Township, with 1,127 registered voters, rank second and third among the school district’s six townships. Brownstown Township has 3,725 registered voters.
Two of the board’s seven members are appointed by the Brownstown town council, while the remainder are appointed by township boards, each consisting of three members.
Pershing Township has no representation on the board at this time, Hall said.
“It’s time for the change to come so everybody has fair and equal representation on the board,” he said. “Voters want to be represented by someone they can hold accountable. They don’t feel like they have a voice with the board because they can’t hold the board accountable if they don’t do what they want them to do.”
Hall said he recently conducted a Facebook poll about the issue, and 15 people out of 488 voted to keep the present system in place.
He said although the poll was unofficial, it is a pretty good indicator of what people want in the community.
Hall said the present system of appointed school board members has been in place for since the 1960s.
He said he felt it was in the best interest of the board to make the change so they can control the details of transition.
“There is no one who knows and understands our schools better than the seven of you,” he said.
To file a petition for the change, the details of the plan have to be in place so registered voters can see what they are signing, Hall said.
“I don’t want it get to the point where there is a petition made that is not good for the school and it passes,” he said.
Hall said if nothing has happened by the end of the school year, he would begin the petition process.
The board would then have the opportunity to accept or reject the petition. If rejected, the petition would go to a ballot. It would then require a special election within six months.
Hall said his intention would be to include the petition with the 2020 general election to avoid the costs of a special election.
“But I would rather you guys do this,” he said.
Trustees did not discuss Hall’s request or ask for additional information during the meeting.
The merger that created Brownstown Central Community School Corp. in January of 1965, called for six trustees to serve on the board: Two from Brownstown, one from Brownstown Township, and one each from Driftwood, Grassy Fork and Pershing townships. Salt Creek and Owen townships were later added to the school system and during a board reorganization in June of 1989, Owen, Pershing and Salt Creek townships were to share two seats on the board on a rotating basis.
After the meeting, Hall said he recently checked and found that there were only eight school corporations in the state with appointed board members.
In 1982, Washington Circuit Judge Robert L. Bennett dismissed seeking a move to an elected school board for Brownstown Central after the petition seeking that change didn’t contain the required 20 percent of the registered voters in the school district.