The Norwood Public School’s Board of Education has three available seats, as four candidates are running during this year’s election. Jackson Ordean and Michelle Barkemeyer will continue their terms. Mike Morlang is seeking re-election. Also running for election are Nancy Browning, Nichol Bray and Larry Swain.
District Area Accountability Committee (DAAC) member Amanda Pierce ran last week’s forum, giving each candidate three minutes to respond. She read questions the DAAC had composed, which were given to candidates just before the forum. At the end of the forum, she read a few questions from audience members.
Regarding “philosophy with teachers and classes,” Bray said it’s important for board members to “be inside the walls” and to “be investigators to find out the good and the bad.” She said a board member should talk with the students and community, and not wait for the board or faculty to make reports.
Browning said she would be willing to sit in on classes, unannounced.
“Without knowledge that I am coming, they should be prepared,” she said.
Browning also said school board members should be at graduation, ball games and more. She said the public shouldn’t have to “fight” to find answers from the board.
Morlang said, with three children in the district, he feels he knows much of what happens at school. He said, while it’s great to be in the halls and present with the school community, his military background taught him the importance of “the chain of command.” He said it’s important to give the administrators “the ability to do their jobs.”
Swain said, while it’s important to be available, the board should be careful with student reports. He also said classroom observations “should be scheduled” and board members have to be careful “roaming the halls.” He said it’s important to ask “how” the board can get involved.
Regarding “addressing the school’s needs” as a board member, Bray said the school definitely needs a business plan, and to find out why 61 local kids are being educated out of district.
“That’s a big thing the school board is going to have to face,” she said.
Bray also said, regarding other funding, interim superintendent Bette Nickell should be consulted because of her experience and background.
Browning said the future of the school should include grant funding, but it could warrant a ballot question. She said community came together to make the sky box possible in the past. She said raffles could be an option.
“We’re going to have to step up,” she said.
Morlang said the board must stay proactive to keep moving forward.
“We are looking at limited funding; the funding changes every year during the student count,” he said. “We do our best and make decisions on the best interest of our kids.”
Swain said the district must make a five- or 10-year plan. He said a walkthrough of maintenance and state safety is crucial. He said professional opinions of inspectors are necessary, as is grant funding to pay for future costs.
Regarding the issue of “sports programs and lacking participation and programs being suspended,” Bray said the school should “go above and beyond sports.” She asked if a rodeo team was a possibility. She said a focus on extracurricular activities in general was key: wood shop, Spanish and other languages, a business club, and agriculture programming were important.
Browning said sports have typically been a big part of the school and help kids receive scholarships. She also asked, “Are the kids changing? Do they not want to play sports?” She added that one of her students had been negatively affected during a local sports program. She’d like to see more accountability for coaches and teachers.
Morlang said he wanted the public to know that the basketball program was suspended, not terminated. He said student bodies change, as do schools. He said the community shouldn’t lose heart, as the school is in an “evolutionary period.” He said he also believed having a “good coach” was necessary for a good program.
Swain said students need to get involved by taking surveys. He said the board could have one kid serve as a non-voting member.
“It goes back to communication,” he said.
He added that school is different now than it was 60 years ago.
“What’s important to the kids?” he asked.