The newest member of the Brownstown Central Community School Corp.’s board of school trustees may not be familiar with the ins and outs of serving the educational needs of nearly 1,500 students.
But Jerry Hounshel of Vallonia is no stranger to serving the needs of the community because he was the sheriff of Jackson County from 1999 to 2006 and a District 1 county commissioner from 2009 to 2016.
He also has been a member of the Driftwood Township Volunteer Fire Department for decades and the Fort Vallonia Days committee. He is chairman for law enforcement for that committee at this time.
Now, he’s ready to write another chapter in his life, and it started with the June school board meeting at the administration building in Brownstown.
“I was asked several years ago,” Hounshel said about serving as Driftwood Township’s representative on the school board.
He had turned it down at that time because he was already holding a public office and couldn’t hold two.
“So when Mary Lou (Burcham) decided to get off the board, the township advisory board came to me again and asked if I would still be interested,” Hounshel said.
Burcham’s third four-year term recently came to an end.
“I feel like my roots run deep with Brownstown Central Community School Corp.,” Hounshel said.
Although he was born in Virginia, Hounshel’s family moved to the Vallonia area in 1957 when he was 5. He attended school in Vallonia until the school consolidated with Brownstown in 1964 and a new high school was built.
“I went into Brownstown Central High School in Year 1,” he said. “The lockers weren’t even in yet. I was in seventh grade.”
At that time, students in seventh through 12th grade went to the high school. That system was only in place until the old high school was converted into Brownstown Central Middle School a couple of years later.
“I tell people it took me six years to get through high school,” he said of graduating in 1970.
Hounshel said he feels like he can contribute to the board, and if it gets to the point where he thinks he can’t, he will tell the township advisory board to pick someone else. He’s also presently working as a civil process server with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
One area Hounshel said he feels he can help the board involves the safety of the students and staff.
“That is a concern of mine, and I think with what’s recently happened in Texas, we have all have been thinking, ‘How safe are our local schools? Can it happen here?’” he said.
While Hounshel said he is not an expert in the field of school safety, he said he can get in touch with people who can come and tell school officials what they need to be doing differently.
“There’s always things you can do to improve safety,” he said.
During a board meeting earlier in June, Superintendent Tim Taylor said Brownstown Central schools are in a better place because of Burcham’s efforts during her 12 years as a board member.
“Speaking for myself, I really appreciate all you have done during the time I have been here,” Taylor said to Burcham. “You’ve been a great board member. You care about everything.”
Burcham said she wanted to thank everyone who had given her support over her years as a board member.
“I guess I have come to realize that it’s not just about the people behind these tables that makes things happen, but it takes everybody in every department to make a school system successful,” she said. “I feel like we have a lot to be proud of at Brownstown. We may not be as big as our next town over, but we do things right, and we do it with the kids in mind and our teachers, our staff and everybody who works together.”