HSE School Board Candidate Interviews: Fall Creek Position (with video) – June 18, 2019

The existing school board members narrowed down 24 applicants for the Fall Creek Township position that opened as a result of the resignation of Mr. Bottorff. The candidates were narrowed down to four finalists that were then interviewed as a panel in an open meeting on June 18th, 2019 at the Hamilton Southeastern Administration building. I attended the interview session and brought my camera!

There were not a lot of questions asked. Each question was addressed to all of the finalists, with the order of answering changed each time so that the person going first varied. I’ve included the video of the answers on my “The Other Side of the Tracks” YouTube channel, my “It’s all about the kids” Facebook page, and within this article. I tried hard to not comment within the videos; however, there were a few times where I did end up adding a bit of textual commentary. Generally this was when candidates made comments about what the school district should be doing on topics that the district has already been doing something.

I have a disconnect with people who apply for a position or job without taking the time to understand what that job or position is. As such, when a comment is made that indicates a person has not been engaged with the district and doesn’t know what the district is doing or has done, it is hard to not call them out. In a similar manner, it is mind-blowing to know that two of the four finalists applying for a school board seat didn’t show up at the last school board meeting.

But alas, your reading this to get to the videos. The meeting for the interviews actually started with the board members introducing themselves. If you have been attending board meetings, or if you were planning to run to be a part of the group, I would have expected you’d know this information already. As such, I’m not sure why the introductions were necessary beyond the fact that most of the candidates had not regularly attended any board meetings. These introductions were followed by a presentation on the updated 10-year plan for the district. I don’t include either the board introductions or the 10-year plan discussion in the videos here, but rather will consider a different article for that in the near future.

The first video I posted jumps into the first question asked of the candidates. This question was actually posed in three parts:

What is your motivating factor for applying for this board position. Is there something you would like to accomplish during your tenure? How do you see your role in that goal?

The second question posed to the candidates was:

Please give us an example of a time when you worked collaboratively with others, and what – if anything – did you learn, and what was your role?

The third question asked was:

What attribute do you have that can help our board work together and be more effective? We’d like your answer through some examples of how you’ve worked with different groups of people that have come from different backgrounds with different opinions.

The fourth question is one I considered important. I was hoping to hear answers that would relate to what a school board does and not general answers. I was a bit disappointed in that regard. The question was:

What do you believe the greatest challenge to public education is today?

Rather than break out the remaining questions – there are only a couple more – I’ve put them all in this last posted video. It contains the final questions as well as wrap-up comments from all of the candidates.

  • What characteristics, skills, and knowledge will set our students on the path for future success?
  • What is something that you are most proud of that this school district is doing, and is there something you believe our schools could do better? (7:20)
  • Final comments from candidates. (17:00)

My thoughts….

The board will vote at the June 26th School Board meeting for the person that will fill the vacant position. The board is not allowed to collaborate in advance on who they will vote for, so it should be an interesting vote.

Who I would vote for is irrelevant because I don’t get a vote. I will say that I heard a number of good comments by the candidates, but that I saw issues with each of the candidates.

After I ran for school board in 2016, I asked many people why the voted for the person that won my district (Amanda Shera). The answers were generally “I liked her school bus signs” and “because she was a woman.” I mention this because it is important to look at actions a candidate has done within our district and schools over personal characteristics or credentials. If a candidate has not to engaged with the district or within our schools enough to know many of the big things happening, then are they really the right candidate to represent each and every one of our ~21,500 kids?

EDIT: Fixed first video link

Last Minute Gift Ideas (Good for Any Time of Year)

Christmas is almost here, so you’ve likely completed your shopping. If you haven’t and aren’t in an a hurry to get the gifts, then this article contains a couple of items I recommend considering for yourself or those you know. My reasoning for selecting the items in this list is simple. These are products or services that are by small businesses I know.

Product One: Create a Castle

The first item is for kids of every age. While this product was originally developed for building sand castles, it quickly became obvious that the real value of the product for most people is in using it with snow to build snow castles. This product was developed by a person I worked with for a few years. His “out of the box” thinking resulted in a mold for building castles that doesn’t leave you with sand stuck in the bottom of your bucket. Rather, the mold clamps and opens to make it easier to create masterpieces.

Over the past year, Kevin’s product has gone from idea to reality. More so, it has gotten national attention on shows like Kelly and Ryan:

Recently Kevin mentioned that they will be on QVC as well. You can find them in a number of stores around the country as well as online. You can order the castle kids online from their site at www.createacastle.com or from retailers such as Barnes and Nobles online. I personally recommend the Deluxe or Pro Tower Kits!  If you are heading to the beach or expecting a couple of inches of snow, then this is the product to take your castle building to the next level!

Product Two: Funky Munchkin Candles

Yankee Candles are so last year. Today’s candle lovers want something a little more funky, which leads to the second product I’m recommending – Funky Munchkin Candles!

Funky Munchkin candles are being created and sold by my friends, John and Terra. They started the candle business as a way to earn extra money to help fund their adoption process. The business has continued as they’ve expanded their candle line to a number of scents.

Being a stickler for details, they have focused on building candles using high-quality materials. Specifically, their candles are made from palm wax, which burns more cleanly than traditional candles. It isn’t, however, this high-quality approach that causes me to recommend their candles. Rather, it is the fun, unique scents that they’ve brought to the mx! There are some expected scents such as apple cinnamon, blueberry muffin, Hot cocoa, lilac, and Jasmine. There are also unique scents such as Goji (a super-fruit blended with a classic flower), fireball (intense cinnamon), granny’s pumpkin roll, pirate (as in those bad guys that sail the seven seas), shire (like where hobbits live), vanapplemon (I have no idea…), and many others. For the holidays they have we three kings, Christmas spirit, candy cane, and humbug.  I’ve named a lot of scents, but also left out a number f them too. You can find all of their current smells at https://funkymunchkincandles.com/#!/Products/AllCandles

So as to keep up with the times, in addition to the candles, they’ve also started selling melts. You can find more information on their site at https://funkymunchkincandles.com. At the time I wrote this, they were offering free two-day USPS priority shipping on orders.

Product Three: Apex Taekwondo

Most people think of gifts as items that can be wrapped and placed under a tree or given at a party. Sometimes, a great gift is one that not only provides enjoyment, but also improves the physical well-being of the recipient. Based on that, my next product to recommend is a membership to Apex Taekwondo in Fishers, Indiana.

Apex is a newer business in Fishers, Indiana, so unlike many of the more established Taekwondo centers, you aren’t just the next subscription. Rather, the owner and his team are going to be able to give anyone that attends the attention they need to learn the art and skill of Taekwondo. Whether this is a gift for a child or for yourself, the end results are sure to be rewarding as you work to learn new skills.

The owner of Apex is Master Stephen McEwan, who is a fifth degree black belt. Not only is Stephen experienced in training (he has trained over 500 students), he is simply a great guy! Like John and Terra at Funky Munckin, Stephen is someone I’ve had the chance to get to know. In addition to knowing Stephen, several of my friends have been taking his classes. As such, it is easy to recommend Apex and Stephen to anyone consider a unique type of gift!

Product Four: Child Safety Playing Cards

Sometimes a simple gift is needed. Not only is the Child Safety deck of playing cards a fun bit of entertainment, it is also a learning and teaching tool! This is a unique set of cards that can be used in the same manner as any other deck of playing cards. It can also be used as a dice alternative. Each playing card includes the picture of a six-sided dice with a number of dots showing form one to six. This is great for those times when you want to play a dice game, but don’t have a surface for rolling!

The most important aspect, however, of this deck of cards are the safety messages that are included. Each card includes a safety message that is good for kids to know and understand. For example, the Queen of Hearts includes the message that lets you kwno that water temperatures less than 120 degrees won’t scald. The card also includes a kid-drawn picture to illustrate the safety tip.

The Child Safety Playing Cards are available for order at http://kin2kid.com/product/child-safety-deck/. At the time of this writing the price had been lowered from $8.95 a deck to just $5.95!

Products Five and Six: Discipleship Training Guides

The final products I’ll recommend are books that I’ve mentioned before that are available on Amazon. These books were written by my parents, so clearly I know the authors. These books are Discipleship Training for Followers of Christ and Discipleship Training for Christian Outreach. Both paperback books present a study guide approach to learning about discipleship. Each chapter of these books presents a relevant topic along with questions and Bible versus to guide in learning. The answers to all of the questions (along with versus) are included in the books.

At only $9.99 each, these are a great stocking stuffer or a gift for yourself!




So Much More….

These are just four products that are easy for me to talk about. All are worth checking out! If you are still looking for that extra gift, then all of these work. While it might be too late for getting these in time for Christmas, all make great things to have any time of year! If you choose to purchase any of these, feel free to tell them Brad sent you!

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Good Samaritan Holiday Assistance Walkthrough

My previous article presented some pictures from the Good Samaritan of Hamilton County’s holiday assistance program. It showed some of the rooms prior to the event. The event is now over for 2018 (although Good Samaritan will still be doing meals near Christmas). I was unable to get pictures that showed how the rooms looked at the end, but suffice it to say that the housewares were picked over, the food was all distributed, and the toys and books that were left were primarily the second hand toys, many of which showed a lot of wear and tare.

One thing I was able to do quickly was walk the path that clients getting assistance would follow. I took the below video the morning of the event right before clients were going to be allowed to sign in and start their “shopping”.

People who have signed up and been approved for this event start lining up the night before. When I arrived at the building about 30 to 45 minutes before the doors were to open, the line stretched out to the parking lot and down the sidewalk. It was hundreds of people standing in line in the cold. Out of respect for their privacy, I don’t have pictures to show the line, but take my word – it was long.That event started at 8:00am, which is when the line started moving. It kept going for 6 or 7 hours with the last of the people “shopping leaving between four and five in the evening.

This year I spent more time helping with issues in the toy/kid room, but still took the time to walk a few families through. I was joined by high school kids, parents with middle aged children, and adults who were also working with families, by helping them work through the kids clothes and toys. While it seems like an easy task, it is tougher than you’d think. It also, however, is rewarding to help families find that near perfect toy for their kids.

For me, the hope is that when they get home, they will have what they need to have a very merry Christmas holiday.

 

Paying for a Trail That Already Exists: The Fishers Nickel Plate Trail

The Fishers City Council approved an increase to property taxes to pay for the first phase of the new Nickel Plate Trail that has been proposed to replace the Nickel Plate rail. This tax increase is to help fund the $7 to $9 million cost for the first of three phases of the trail.

What is worth noting is that the tax increase is roughly double the initial cost estimate for the total trail, even though it is only for the first phase. At the time of this writing the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) site for the Nickel Plate Trail still shows an estimated cost of roughly 4.4 million for the Fishers section.


Figure: Trails and Tracks

The first phase of the Nickel Plate Trial will run from 106th Street to 126th. What hasn’t been stated clearly is that there are already trails that run from just north of 106th all the way to 131st Street. These trails are within two blocks of either side of the tracks where the new Nickel Plate trail is expected to be. In fact, parts of these trails run next to the tracks. This raises the question, that if existing trails already run from 106th near the tracks to 131st, then why will seven to nine million be spent building another trail?

The Existing Trails

Just north of 106th Street at the rail road tracks, you can find the Cheeney Creek Loop trail that runs through Cheeney Creek Natural Area. Not only does this park include walking and biking tails, but it also has a small lake (pond), lots of trees and a picnic area. The park and trails go from 106th Street to just north of 116th Street.


Figure: Cheeney Creek Area

North of the Cheeney Creek loop, the path crosses the road and winds through trees, around a pond, and through a neighborhood. In this area the trail winds through Big Wheel Park. This park on the path includes playground equipment, a hilly sidewalk for kids to have fun, more picnic tables, and other amenities. Next to the park are both a creek and a pond.


Figure: Big Wheel Park

The trail continues from Big Wheel Pond  across 116th Street and through the downtown area. You’ve likely noticed the cross walk just east of the tracks on 116th. Ironically, while the city expects to spend $2 to $5 million to build an underpass for a new trail where the tracks are located, there have been no comments about the crosswalk that is less than a stone throw away. What has been noted (but I’ve not confirmed), is that there are drainage issues in that area which could result in extra costs to try to build a trail that goes under the road.

If you continue on the path through the downtown area, you’ll find that forks around the library and Lantern Road. One part of the fork is a path that winds across Lantern Road and the railroad tracks and goes through the Tech center area. The path then follows (parallels) the railroad tracks going up towards and then past the Launch Fishers facility. You can see parts of this form in the next figure. The area near Launch Fishers includes a few more picnic tables just off the path.


Figure: Trial in the Fishers Tech Park area.

The other fork going from downtown goes from the library area north along Lantern Road. This is a newly updated trail  that follows Lantern Road all the way to 131st Street, where it turns West to Allisonville. At Allisonville, the path then turns North and goes to the entrance of Conner Prairie. Why the city build a path from downtown to a facility that charges admission is unclear, but the path has been built. Currently the construction on Allisonville at 131st Street disconnects the part of the trail that is in front of Conner Prairie. That part of the path has been built and torn up (the grass and landscaping) several times in the last 12 to 18 months as road work is being done. Hopefully it isn’t tax dollars paying for the repetitive task.


Figure: Trail from Lantern Road to Conner Prairie

Building New Trails

The existing trails from Cheeney Creek to 131st are within a block or two of the railroad tracks. These trails are all relatively new and paid for with previous tax dollars. As such, turning the rails into a trail between 106th and 126th as a first phase seems not only redundant with what is already there, but possibly unnecessary. The fact that the city is raising taxes to build a trail nearly on top of existing trails, should cause many citizens of Fishers to raise there voices in concern with how their tax dollars are being spent.


Figure: Trails from 106th to 126th

If the City wants to add trails, then, it would make more sense to build the trail from 96th to 106th connecting to Cheeney Creek’s trails and then build a connection from the 131st and Lantern trail to the tracks and go North. This would add new trail areas.

Of course, when a trail already exists in the same area, then there is the question of how much is this new trail worth. While the city posted $4.4 million as a base cost in the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs, I’m not alone in estimating a cost that is likely to go over $30,000 ,000. That, however, is a topic for another article.

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A Bit on the Busy Side

As you can clearly see, my blog and site are a bit out of date. My day job, family, and other activities have monopolized my time. I hope to get back to regular posting in the near future. There is a lot happening not only around my local community, but in the world as a whole, so there is a lot to talk about!

Stay tuned!