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School board officers elected, finances discussed

New Fayette County School Corporation Board members were elected Tuesday evening.

Mark Beard Nominated Leslie Jacobs for board President, Lori Savoy for Vice President, Ann Kirschner for secretary and himself for assistant secretary. All of those were approved.

The Board of Finance elected officers Tuesday evening as well. Leslie Jacobs nominated Mark Beard for President and Chris Hunt as secretary. Those were approved as well.

Director of Operations Randy Harris discussed investment revue.

“The average number of students we have, we are unique but we are not,” he said. “We are similar to what rural membership is in about 75 of 92 counties. Almost all counties have seen a decrease in population, therefore a decrease in students.

“In the fall of 2012, enrollment was 3,730 students, the fall enrollment in 2020 was 3,101 students. The effect of that has a net decrease of 16 percent over that time, in real dollars it is about $6,500 a student, annually we have lost $3,000,850. We have seen a decrease in students so there is a decrease in revenue.”

Harris said the Rainy Day fund decreased. Harris said it was very responsible of the board on how the money was spent. He praised the board for using money towards the solar panel project, field house, and that money wasn’t borrowed significantly.

“There are federal funds in the negative because of revenue lag, they always trail but will be reimbursed,” Harris stated.

Harris said most funding comes from state revenues but the most stable funds received are local property tax dollars, which is used to maintain buses, buildings, transportation, facilities and more. The funds provide a solid foundation and stability.

“We will see a difference, we are down about 1.3 million this year in property tax revenue,” Scott Collins said. “We will see significant changes.”

Harris will be creating a 12-month look forward that will project budgeting over the next 12 months.

“We are looking at both directions, the past and the future. We may be looking into the future and see cash balances are decreasing on the other hand it may increase.”

Collins said he is continuing to remain financially strong.

“As we look at our current financial health in the Fayette County School Corporation as we begin a new fiscal year, we have continued to position ourselves to be financially strong,” he said. “With the low interest savings rates that have been in the investment market in recent years, we have utilized cash to finance projects that provides more savings to the district.

“When we pay for projects with cash, such as the solar field, that saves us over 2 percent a year in interest costs when compared to the earnings we would have with these funds being invested in CD’s or savings accounts earning less than 1 percent, plus paying around 3 percent for loans to fund the project over 15-20 years.”

The solar project on the high school campus is a guaranteed savings project that will save the FCSC over five million dollars over 30 years.

“These yearly savings help us with our operational costs which provides us with additional savings to address other needs with our aging buildings,” he pointed out. “Outside of the new field house and offices at CHS, our newest school building is about 40 years old, which is Everton.

“These buildings have been well-maintained and continue to serve our students well, but they do require a significant amount of funds each year to keep them in good repair and maintained for students and staff.”

Collins said they continue to be good stewards of tax dollars as we struggle with declining enrollment each year.

“This is an issue facing rural school districts across Indiana as jobs have moved to larger, more urban areas and families need to relocate due to the availability of good paying jobs to support their families,” he said. “As we have seen this decline over the last 20-plus years, we have tried to remain proactive in cutting costs as our enrollment has declined. We are also very aggressive in pursuing federal and state grants to secure extra funding to support our students.

With the current pandemic and the impact it has had on tax revenue, it is still not known what the full effects will be on our state and federal funding during the next couple of years.

The most recent news from our governor was that our cash surplus in Indiana and our state finances were in much better condition than expected in July 2020. That is good news for our schools as we have expected to receive significant reductions in state funding over the next two fiscal years. It sounds as if we may not be impacted in such a negative manner as was earlier predicted.”

After discussion of finances, the school board continued their regular meeting.

There was a donation of $842.50 from New Heights Christian Church to Frazee Elementary to be used for students’ needs; a donation of $1,500 from the Fayette Community Foundation to CHS to be used to purchase an AED for the field house.

The board approved to hire five new employees.

While discussing iLearning scores, some board members showed concern about how the pandemic is effecting grades and scores on testing.

“A lot of students are doing well but a lot of them aren’t,” Ann Kirschner said. “How is this going to effect them down the line? A lot of kids have shut down, these are issues we are going to have to face.

“Students need to be in the classroom learning. So many parents have had to turn into teachers, it has given them an awareness. Parents were glad to have their kids back in school for a variety of reasons, they have done the best they can do.”

The Fayette County School Corporation’s Education Hall of Fame Selection committee respectfully requests patrons and staff to nominate retired or deceased educators for this award. Criteria for nominees include the following:

Any certified educator from the Fayette County School Corporation;

A minimum of fifteen (15) years of service as a teacher or administrator, five (5) of those years of employment being in Fayette County School Corporation;

Noteworthy and extraordinary employment contributions; and

Either have been retired one (1) year or be deceased at the time of induction.

Nomination forms can be obtained at these locations: Any Fayette County School Office, FCSC Administration Building, click the following link https://5il.co/obit or call 825-2178 and a nomination form will be mailed to you.

Nominations will be accepted from February 1, 2021 to March 1, 2021. We anticipate the 2021 Hall of Fame Induction Banquet will be held in June 2021.

Local woman recalls trip to Trump rally in D.C.

When Connersville’s Joni Harrison heard that President Donald Trump would be giving a speech on Jan. 6, she wanted to travel there, believing that the event would be historic.

“It was actually completely on a whim,” she said. “My sister and I were talking to my dad about politics, and he said that this was really something, and that we would probably never see anything like this again.

“He’s 85 and lived through the Martin Luther King stuff, and he felt like this was something we would never see in our lifetime again.

“After listening to him, I really wanted to go, and then my mom said that she would watch my kids. She’s not even a Republican, so I was really blown away with her offer.”

So along with her friend, Jo, the duo made the 8-hour trip to D.C., arriving at about 8:30 a.m. on the day of the rally.

“Neither one of us had a big political stance, but we just really wanted to go,” Harrison said. “We didn’t have any ulterior motive. There was nothing behind it.”

By the time they had arrived, a massive crowd had already gathered.

“I am still getting chills thinking about how many were there,” Harrison said.

Seeking to get a better view, Harrison and her friend worked their way forward in the crowd.

“I was right up front,” Harrison said. “Another one of the reasons we were there was that I was at least going to show the people of Fayette County what was going on.

“I decided that I was going to document it all, which was easier from up front.”

From that position, Harrison was able to film the pushing and shoving that eventually devolved into men and women making their way inside the Capitol building, a development that some are now calling an insurrection or a coup attempt.

“I was thinking about climbing up on this wall, so I could show how all the people were reacting,” she recalled. “In order to do that, however, I would have had to stand up there, and it was about a 30-foot drop. I didn’t want to risk that.”

Harrison said that the do’s and don’ts of where to gather weren’t as clear as some might think.

“That’s the kicker,” she points out. “Nobody told us where we were not supposed to be and where we were supposed to be. There were no signs, no nothing. And there weren’t that many police officers there, either.

“To be honest, at the time, I didn’t know if I was where I was supposed to be or not. It looked to me like (security) just let us all go.”

Eventually, Harrison and her friend found themselves at the Capitol door ... faced with a decision.

“When we got to the Capitol doors, we had the option to go in or not,” she said. “I told Jo that I didn’t care, but I was worried that they might shut and lock the doors behind us. I didn’t know if we were supposed to be in there or not, but if the doors were shut then we would be locked down in there.

“We really didn’t want to go that route, so we didn’t go in. We could have walked right in, but we decided not to.

“But it still needs to be said that we didn’t know that we were not allowed to go in.”

Many others failed to show that same restraint.

“They just opened up the doors and people just started walking in,” she said. “There was even some lady who was telling everyone that if they went in this door, they could go out on the other side.

Inside the Capitol, there were violent confrontations between police and some protestors. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer who was struck with a fire extinguisher, and a female protestor who was shot by police as she tried to climb through a window to gain access to the House Chamber.

While she was saddened that people were killed at the event, Harrison pointed out that was something that didn’t have to happen.

“As far as those Patriots going into the Capitol, I don’t think that most of them had any kind of political agenda. I think that some of them just wanted Pelosi and the rest of them to know that, ‘Hey, we can get to you.’

“Of course, I don’t really know what they were thinking.”Impact, apart from the rally and riot, was felt almost immediately.

“Facebook is part of big tech, so it didn’t surprise me when they started trying to stop me from uploading videos while I was still at the event. I had all kinds of trouble doing anything on my phone after uploading that first video.“I just got out of Facebook jail for posting the videos. They have already taken four of them down.”

“I find that interesting because, if you look at my Facebook page, you will see that I didn’t get political until I returned from the D.C. trip. Prior to that, I didn’t say a word. I just wasn’t vocal about politics then.”

With Jan. 6 now more than a week in the rear-view mirror, does Harrison think that the worst is now behind us, that things might quiet down somewhat?

Sadly, she says no.

“Oh, I know there is more to come, it’s scary,” she said quietly. “I now feel like, when I talk to people, that they are looking at me like a conspiracy theorist nut job.

“But it’s all there, you just need to do a little research.”

Moving forward, in addition to an official investigation, those attending the event will face some personal reflection as well.

Harrison has already gone through her share of that.

“It made a difference in me, it opened my eyes,” she said. “Hopefully, in a few days we will find out if it actually mattered.

“But it will always be a part of history.”

Volunteers helped at Crosspointe Biker Church Tuesday morning as they handed out boxed food from Gleaners. Food will be available the second Wednesday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon at 1130 E. Baseline Rd.

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Writer and author wears heart on his sleeve

Art wasn’t his first love, it was writing.

Dana Byard describes his work as abstract surrealistic poetry.

“I sort of just made that up,” he laughed. “Since I was five years old I have wanted to be a writer. The art came second. Painting became a way to get the words out. Whenever I was stuck with the writing, I would turn and do a painting to help me get over the block.

“As I worked on the canvas, I would write poems or phrases that I wanted to remember and then paint over them. After decades of doing this I sort of have my own style now.”

When Byard started college and his writing started to take off, he realized he needed both to create.

“The writing and the painting go together,” he said. “Perhaps consider my work like a band you saw in a bar on a night you would never forget. Raw, full of energy and the mistakes are part of the art form. That may get ya in the ballpark.”

Fast forward to the last five years.

“I have spent that time doing the Bohemian thing. I have traveled the country living in my car and on couches. I relied on selling my paintings and my books,” he said. “I never asked for more than I needed and always tried to pay it forward. I would sit in bars, coffee shops, restaurants, parks, any place I heard the song in my heart. I told folks different stories as I painted and they sat with me and shared their life.

“At the end of our visit they would take the painting, sometimes paintings, and the poems I created and trade me food, alcohol whatever the moment called for. I did this fighting some very serious chronic pain that I covered in the most recent novel. Have been dealing with that monster off and on all my life.”

The artist believes in his heart that painting and getting his song and soul out on the canvas and sharing it with people has helped him heal and keep going as well as heal others.

“I believe we all are in this together and I keep searching for that music between the music in life. I keep trying to find the notes between the notes that give life the song worth living. Since the plague I no longer do the Bohemian thing,” he said. “I have spent all my life living in bars, restaurants and never having a home and my body is now paying for it. It is expressing itself quite clearly how that time is over. I am back in my hometown where I went to high school. I am resting, healing finishing another novel and painting everyday.

“I do five to ten paintings a week. If I don’t create, the pain comes back. Thankfully, I have done this for so long that I now have a decent enough following across the country that when I usually need something in life, the paintings sell enough to accomplish that. I do hope to have an art show after the plague.

“I have had that thing in my head for decades now. I want to have a stage where we microphone the canvasses and as each artist pounds and paints we have musicians play along. I have always thought this would be amazing thing to see if done correctly. I guess time till let me know if that happens.”

Byard’s style constantly changes when he gets bored with himself.

He recently released a new book, “Ghosts Dancers Reunion: You and I don’t know what it is like to give up.”

His books can be found on Amazon.