Local elections can have direct impact; students, teacher promote research, due diligence to select candidates

Jenny Li and Helena Wang

The midterm elections on Nov. 8 will also include the Carmel Clay School Board elections. Current President Katie Browning and Vice President Louise Jackson will continue to serve; however, all three district seats are open. 

Candidates Sheldon Barnes, Jenny Brake, Stephanie Flittner and Kristin Kouka are all running for the District 1 position. Lori Long, Jennifer Nelson-Williams and Adam Sharp are running for District 2. Greg Brown and Jake Nichols are running for the District 3 position. 

Six of the candidates are campaigning together in two three-person slates, with Brake, Brown and Sharp representing one slate and Kouka, Nelson-Williams and Nichols representing the other. In order to gain a better understanding of all candidates’ positions, Carmel Education Foundation, OneZone Chamber of Commerce and Carmel Clay Public Library Foundation presented the “Conversations with Candidates” series. The video conservations allowed each candidate to answer questions on a variety of topics, including on supporting staff, effectiveness of existing policies and more. The series can be found here: District 1, District 2, District 3.

U.S. government teacher James Ziegler said it is important for voters to research all candidates thoroughly, especially in local elections. For example, Ziegler said school board elections can have a direct impact on local communities.

“The most direct way (the school board elections) can impact a school is what kids will be learning,” he said. “So, from a curriculum standpoint, students here can be 100% directly impacted by the outcome of the election.”

Additionally, Ziegler said Carmel’s election results may have ramifications in other school districts.

“Carmel Clay School District is the biggest school district in the state, so a lot of times what we do in Carmel sets a precedent for other districts around the state,” Ziegler said. “Who makes up our Carmel Clay School Board will influence not only students in our classrooms and our district but also neighboring districts statewide as well.”

Regarding local impact, senior Jordan Seigel, who said he plans to vote for the first time in this year’s election, said he is concerned about the respect teachers will receive if certain candidates win.

“I think that if (certain candidates) win, that’s just going to make things worse for teachers. Teachers are going to be more overworked, they’re going to be more scrutinized even though they’re doing a great job and those candidates just want to encroach on a teacher’s space and basically force them to teach things,” Seigel said. 

Ziegler said, on a broader scale, he is also concerned about future teacher treatment after the election.

“There are candidates that have no bones about it, whether it has been at school board meetings or in their public statements, where they want to have parental oversight and control over curriculum, which puts teachers in a difficult spot,” Ziegler said. “We already have a teacher shortage. These types of candidates that are trying to control what these teachers teach in classrooms will only worsen the teacher shortage.” 

Superintendent Michael Beresford emphasized his support for teachers in a video posted on the CCS YouTube channel on Nov. 1. 

“Targeting teachers in political narratives is insulting to the thousands of committed educators and staff across our district, state, and nation. I will never forget the teachers who shaped my life and my children’s lives,” he said in the video. “I hope you will take a minute today and reflect on those teachers who made a positive difference in your life and your student’s lives. I believe in our teachers, I am thankful for our teachers, and I support our teachers and I hope you will too.” 

Like Ziegler, Seigel said he believes candidates who try to control what teachers teach in classrooms would only worsen the teacher shortage issue.

Seigel said, “(The election results) might cause teachers to quit because they’re being basically watched at every step and the process is going to get a whole lot more political.” 

Senior Brandon Anderson said he won’t be eligible to vote in this election. But, he said, he continues to research candidates because they have the possibility to control many aspects of local life. In regards to the school board election, he said he believed the changes implemented by winning candidates, regardless of who they are, will not be noticeable in the beginning, but the results can impact student activities over time.

“Local elections are where you will find the most immediate change that affects you,” Anderson said. “I don’t think it’s the second (candidates) get elected the school board will get rid of DEI or SEL. I think it’s more that there will be slow and minor changes that people may not notice. It will be slow things like not providing for clubs like Black Student Alliance, Advancement of Asian Americans in Arts and Athletics, Latinx Student Alliance and more. So the slow changes will either improve or make worse the quality of life in school.”

Beyond the potential impact of this specific election, Jacob Bailey, president of CHS Young Republicans and senior, said he is excited to see students getting civically engaged. 

“I believe that being educated is the most important virtue you can have as a high schooler, and learning to understand your current events and how you as a young person can really be involved in those things, I think is just amazing to watch,” Bailey said. “Seeing how students nowadays are going out and getting involved in local canvassing events and supporting their politicians, not just (by) voting, but really taking in and educating themselves, I think that’s amazing to watch. I’m hopeful for the future, if we have students like that.”

Anderson said he agreed with Bailey, and said it is important for everyone to stay engaged and educate themselves on all elections and candidates. 

“It is absolutely necessary for you to go out and elect the people that will be most directly impacting your life,” Anderson said. “Even if you are just turning 18 and you aren’t sure that you know enough about politics to be making a decision, you need to educate yourself and pick someone who is going to support what you believe in.”

Alan Huang
19