Madison schools have extended their switch from classroom instruction to virtual learning to include all of next week at both Madison Junior High School and Madison Consolidated High School.
Due to COVID-19 related issues among staff and students, and staffing issues unrelated to COVID, the school corporation originally decided to put the junior high on virtual learning Thursday through Monday. However, on Friday afternoon the schools start notifying parents by phone that both the junior high and high school will be virtual all of next week.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County’s COVID-19 death toll continues to climb with one new death reported Thursday, bringing the county’s overall total to 123.
While there were no new deaths in other area counties, high numbers of positive cases are being reported. In Jefferson County, there were 55 new positive cases while Switzerland County had 22, Trimble County had 27 and Carroll County had 37 new infections.
Jefferson County, curerntly in the “Orange” metric for medium to high spread, is at a 16.9% positivity rating. Switzerland (20.5% positivity), Trimble (34.84%) and Carroll (29.7%) are all in a “Red” metric indicating high community spread.
Indiana reported 16,563 new cases of COVID-19 to increase the overall total 1,410,021 with 75 new deaths for an overall total of 19,393 during the pandemic. Indiana’s positivity rate is 28.7%.
Kentucky reported 9,267 new cases of COVID-19 for an overall total of 962,007 and 29 new deaths for an overall total of 12,484. Kentucky’s positivity rate is 27.77%.
Jefferson County is back in the 9th US Congressional District after a decade in the 6th District, and it looks like that race will include some new faces for the May primary.
On Wednesday, current 9th District US Rep. Trey Hollingsworth announced that he will not seek reelection, stating that he will keep his pledge to limit his terms in office.
On Thursday, District 47 State Senator Erin Houchin announced her intentions to seek the 9th District seat along with Bill J. Thomas.
“Now is the time for proven conservative leadership to re-take the House of Representatives, and our country, and I look forward to joining the fight,” said Houchin, who lives in Salem.
Houchin ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 9th District Republican primary, losing to Hollingsworth. Thomas has also filed as a Republican.
Several new filings have also taken place for county-wide offices including Gary Copeland for Commissioner, Upper District; Ray Black Jr. for County Council, District 3; and Amanda Creech for County Assessor.
Copeland, elected to a County Council at-large seat in 2020, is seeking the seat currently held by Ron Lee, who was elected to the office in 2018. Black, first elected in 2018, will be seeking reelection to County Council and Creech is the incumbent County Assessor, elected in August by a Republican caucus to complete the unexpired term of Karen Mannix after her resignation.
New filings for the Town of Hanover include incumbent clerk-treasurer Keith Mefford and town council president Kenny Garrett. Mefford, first elected in 2019, is seeking reelection as a Republican. Meanwhile, Garrett, is seeking re-election for the at-large seat.
Also, Cree Green filed for the District 2 seat currently held by Kathi Scroggins, who defeated Green in the 2019 Democratic primary. Scroggins has held the District 2 seat since being elected in the 2007 election, each year winning over her primary opponents.
Previously, Debbie Kroger had filed for reelection in District 3 and Treva Shelton had filed for reelection in District, both as Democrats.
Randy Lyness, Republican incumbent state representative for District 68, has filed for reelection. With redistricting, his district now encompasses Milton Township in Jefferson County, along with all of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland counties. Previously filing for state representative are Republican Randy Frye in District 67, which includes seven of Jefferson County’s 10 townships, and Republican Zach Payne in District 66, which includes two of the county’s townships.
Other new filings include Township Trustees Lucy J. Anderson, Democrat, Hanover Township; Tara D. Cash, Democrat, Smyrna Township; and Kevin S. Fry, Republican, Madison Township. Filings for township boards are Ronald D. Anderson, Democrat, Hanover Township, Joshua Schafer, Republican, Madison Township; and Wil Goering, Democrat, Smyrna Township.
Additionally, there are three new filings for Republican state convention delegate — Laura Hodges, Rick Reuss and Patrick Thevenow.
The filing deadline is noon on Friday, Feb. 4 The primary will be held on May 3 and general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.
Other candidates who have previously filed include:
Prosecuting Attorney — David Sutter, Democrat.
Clerk of the Circuit Court — Tabatha Eblen, Republican.
County Auditor — Heather Huff, Republican
County Sheriff — Tim Davis, Democrat, and Dave Thomas, Republican.
Republican Convention Delegate — Bob Courtney and Joshua Daniel Webb
There will be opportunities to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday both in-person and virtually.
Trinity United Methodist Church will host its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration starting with a video presentation at 11:30 a.m. with a program to follow at noon. Adam Carter, senior pastor of More Than Conquerors Christian Church in Louisville, will be the keynote speaker. The event is free and located at 412 Main Street.
Hanover College will host “Call to Community,” a virtual reflection and discussion of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. William Rodriguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Bethune-Cookman University, will lead the interactive event, which includes a video presentation of King’s moving 1963 address in Washington, D.C.
“Call to Community” is open to the public and free of charge beginning at 10 a.m. To register, contact the Hanover College Office of Multicultural Affairs at 812-866-7025 and a Zoom link will be provided upon registration.
Meanwhile, there will be several local closings in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
City of Madison offices and the City of Madison Transfer Station will be closed Monday. Trash, recycling, and compost will be delayed by one day all week. Hanover Town Hall will be closed Monday along with all Jefferson County Government offices.
All Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches will be closed Saturday, Jan. 15 through Monday, Jan. 17 in observance of the holiday and the U.S. Postal Service will be closed Monday with no mail delivery.
Board members and Superintendent Jeffrey Studebaker voiced their concerns that legislation currently before the Indiana General Assembly is an attack on public education at Wednesday’s Madison School Board meeting.
Studebaker said the set of bills for consideration by lawmakers are “a direct assault on public education, and we need to stand up now. We need to do something to make our voices heard before they enact a lot of this legislation.”
In particular, Studebaker cited legislation that would require school board candidates, now a non-partisan election, to claim a political party affiliation.
“That’s totally inappropriate,” Studebaker said “This is supposed to be an apolitical organization and this is nothing but another attempt by the legislature to politicize the situation and control Indiana school boards.”
Board member Larry Henry said the legislature is “doing things that I believe are going to cause big problems.”
“There’s a lot going on in the statehouse in regards to education policy, so if our community and voters could at least look at what those policies are, get in touch with your representative to express your opinions and thoughts on those,” Board member Lori Slygh said. “ I know our teachers and students would greatly appreciate it.”
House Bill 1182 would add political party identifiers to currently nonpartisan school board elections. House Bill 1134 and Senate Bill 167 would limit topics discussed in the classroom and require teachers to post curriculum materials and allow parental input.
Studebaker noted that by posting daily lesson plans online, if the parents don’t like it “they can call in and say my kid is not participating in your class today. I need an alternative assignment. There’s just some cumbersome stuff” in the proposed legislation, he said.
In other business, election of officers was held during the board’s statutory meeting for the new year. David Storie was elected as the new board president replacing Jodi Yancey who was elected vice president. Slygh was elected secretary.
Storie noted it’s been one year since he and Jay Roney began serving on the board and he looks forward to working with board members.
“When I was running for this, I was having people come and say to me, ‘Are you crazy?’ but I can honestly tell you it’s been great,” Storie said. “This is a great team that we have. With me stepping into the presidency I have no concerns because each one of these guys are fantastic. When we’re working for you guys, we’re really trying hard.”
Storie added that the potential negatives that he heard while campaigning proved unfounded. “I’ve seen really positive things and we’re doing everything we can to make it the best that we can,” he said.
School board committee assignments were also made for 2022 with Yancey and Henry on the policy committee; Storie and Yancey on the negotiations committee; Slygh on the educational foundation; Henry the Indiana State School Board association liaison; Roney and Slygh named to the wellness committee; and Henry and Storie assigned to the facilities committee. In addition, Madison Consolidated High School Principal Michael Gasaway was named Redevlopment Commission advisor.
Other appointees were Danica Houze, treasurer; Amanda Conover, deputy treasure; and Pam Smith, executive secretary to the school board. The law firm, Lewis and Kappes, was appointed as the school corporation’s legal counsel.
In the board of finance meeting, German American Bank was again established as the school corporation’s depository. Bonnie Hensler, director of Finance and Human Resources, said interest rates for the year totaled $29,945.84, which is down from the approximately $80,000 last year. She noted with interest rates are currently significantly lower than the previous year, and there were no other options available that fit into the state’s investment policy.
The board also approved the new school calendar for 2023-2024, and a revision in the 2022-2023. The adjustment was to move a elementary virtual learning day from September to Oct. 27 with parent/teacher conferences from 7:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. that day.
Studebaker said the move “gives them more time to get through testing and get to know their students a little better.”