Two candidates are seeking a spot on the Franklin Community School Corp. School Board, running for the Union Township seat.
Incumbent Becky Nelson, of Morgantown, will take on challenger Matt Cree, of Bargersville. Nelson was elected to the school board in 2018.
The Daily Journal asked the candidates questions about their experience, reasons for running and goals for the school district. Here’s what they said:
What drew you to run for this office?
Cree: I have been a Hopewell Tiger, Custer Baker Cub, Grizzly Cub and finally graduated as a Grizzly. My father taught in the Franklin Community School Corporation for over 35 years. Now, two of my boys attend Union Elementary. My love for this community, education, and their attendance made me want to become more involved. I want to ensure that they, and all children, have a great education with a solid foundation, that our children emerge from Franklin ready to tackle an ever-increasing competitive world and that it is done in a fiscally responsible manner.
Nelson: I want to continue my goal of making decisions that positively affect our students. Over the last four years, there have been many ups and downs in education; Franklin schools has been a great example of how putting student growth, collaboration, communication and systemic continuous improvement as priorities has made us stronger. I am proud to say I have had a small part in that success.
What qualifications do you have to serve on a school board?
Cree: As a graduate from Franklin College with a major in both general business and finance, and a minor in economics, and a practicing bankruptcy attorney, I have a solid understanding of finances and the need to practice in a fiscally responsible manner. I am trained to evaluate facts, to make critical decisions based on the evidence and law, and come to conclusions in a logical manner. I would use these skills to ensure that our children’s educational needs are met and that they emerge with the skills necessary to compete in a financially responsible manner.
Nelson: First, I have served on the school board for the last four years. I have gained a wealth of knowledge on how the corporation operates. I have enjoyed learning about the budget, the curriculum, policies and procedures, and the success of our students.
What are the most pressing issues facing your school district, if there are any?
Cree: The most pressing issue currently is ensuring that our children have a solid education foundation to compete in a changing market. From personal observation and discussion with families in the community, there is a growing concern that our children are falling through the cracks; especially in a post-COVID-19 world. There is a concern that our children are not being educated adequately in the base fundamentals, such as reading, writing, mathematics and science.
Nelson: Staffing. There is a worker shortage all across the U.S. This is true for Franklin Community Schools also. We need to continue to recruit and hire qualified for our schools.
What are your top three goals, if elected?
Cree: First, I would encourage and implement methods to improve communication between families and the school board. The board exists to serve and provide representation for the people of the community. I would welcome discussion and encourage individuals to contact the board with their concerns.
Second, I want to enact, review and improve processes to reduce the educational harm suffered by our children following the COVID-19 shutdown. None of our children in the Franklin Community School Corporation should have to be part of the “lost generation.” Further, it would be my goal to review, evaluate and improve on Franklin Community School Corporation’s safety plans for our children.
Third, I will oppose any introduction of Critical Race Theory, or CRT, into our children’s education. It simply does not belong in the classroom at the K-12 level. What originally began in the 1970s as a law school course and thought experiment at Harvard Law School has been appropriated, twisted and radicalized by various groups bent on sowing racial and social division.
Nelson: My top priorities are the kids, safety and staffing. First, providing the students with the education they deserve, helping them realize and reach their goals and dreams, and preparing them for adulthood. The reason I am here is to help all of our students succeed.
Second, I believe safety should be a top priority because when students and staff feel like they are in a safe environment, learning can occur more easily. This includes making sure our buildings are secure, having procedures in place to keep students and staff safe and resource officers to assist when needed.
Finally, hiring and retaining quality teachers and staff is important. We want to have the best staff to support, educate and inspire our students for the future.
How would you define social emotional learning? Do you think it has a place in schools?
Cree: Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, is exactly what it sounds like. SEL curriculum should focus on developing self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills for school, work and life. SEL is already a component of Indiana’s early learning competencies and should continue to hold a place in schools. However, I would object to any variation of SEL which involves a discussion between the teacher and student concerning gender preferences and identity, sexual orientation and political beliefs.
Nelson: To me, social emotional learning means understanding your emotions and how to control them, understanding and communicating with others, building relationships, making responsible choices and showing empathy to others. It’s a collaboration between parents, family, schools and the community to teach life skills in order to cope with everyday challenges.
How would you define critical race theory? Do you think critical race theory is being taught in this school district?
Cree: CRT is a thought experiment conducted in the 1970s by Derrick Albert Bell Jr., a Harvard Law School Professor. Posed in two legal articles, and taught in a course at Harvard, Bell proposed looking at American law through a racial lens. Bell argued that despite being “race-neutral,” American law generated and legitimized oppressive social structures and an unjust caste system. While an interesting concept and philosophical debate at the university level, it has been appropriated and radicalized by various “social justice” groups, such as Black Lives Matter. It is now being used to cause children to question their “white privilege” and value to society. Instead of celebrating diversity and inclusion, it causes feelings of guilt, negativity and divisiveness. It has no place in our classrooms.
Nelson: It considers the impact of historical laws and social structures on today’s racial inequality. It suggests that they enforce racism and oppression of people of color. No, I do not think this is taught at FCS.
What else would you like to say to voters?
Cree: The Franklin Community School Board of Trustees is here to serve as your voice in the school corporation. I want to be that voice, and I intend to listen, evaluate and fight for the best interests of our children. I encourage you to contact me via email [email protected] with your concerns. Only by working together can we ensure that our children have the best education possible and emerge ready to take on an ever-changing world.
Nelson: I would like to let them know if I am re-elected, I will do my best to protect their tax dollars. I will listen to them and do my best to always choose what is best for our children.
The Cree File
Name: Matthew Michael Cree
Family: Married; three children
Educational background: Franklin Community High School, Franklin College, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law
Political experience: None
Memberships: Johnson County Bar Association, Indianapolis Bar Association, Board of Directors for the Humane Society of Johnson County.
The Nelson File
Name: Rebecca “Becky” Faye Nelson
Family: Married; two children
Occupation: Registered nurse, school nurse at Northwood Elementary School.
Educational background: Franklin Community High School, Marian University.
Political experience: School Board member since 2018.