By Claire Rightley | Editor-in-Chief
At the primary election on May 8, Avon residents will have the ability to vote on a referendum for the Avon school district. Superintendent Dr. Margaret Hoernemann has been visiting different community areas around Avon to answer questions about the referendum and what all it would entail.
“A referendum is a ballot question where the school district asks the public to voluntarily pay additional taxes to support the schools,” said Hoernemann.
This referendum is following the failed Avon referendum in 2011 and is actually asking for more money, 35 cents on every $100 of assessed valuation as opposed to the 17.05 cents they asked for in 2011.
“Right now the bulk of our funds to educate our students comes from the state of Indiana, and the state of Indiana hasn’t kept pace with inflation. This year, the state of Indiana gave us 1.3 percent more money to help educate our students. That sounds pretty good, 1.3 percent, but the problem is inflation was 2.1 percent last year, so why do we have to ask for so much? Because for years, the state of Indiana has not been able to keep pace with inflation.”
A major issue the referendum is intended to remedy is class sizes. Currently at Avon schools, class sizes reach 35 or more students for some classes.
“You can’t get to know your teachers and your teachers can’t get to know you if there are too many of you in a class,” Hoernemann said.
The lower class sizes are also going to allow teachers more time to work one-on-one with each of their students.
“For me, math was really hard and science was really hard, and I needed extra help in those subjects, but if my teachers had 30 or 32 kids in a class, they would never have had time to give me the help that I needed to get prepared and go on and be successful, so what our students are going to see is an immediate reduction in their class sizes,” Hoernemann said.
Reduced class sizes is just one of the many issues the referendum hopes to fix for the Avon school district.
“[Students] also going to see some additional support in terms of counselors. We need more counselors in our school system absolutely no doubt about it,” Hoernemann said. “They’re also going to see increased opportunities in every area. We don’t want to be cutting classes. We want to make more opportunities for students.”
Another major concern right now for the Avon school district is that other school districts in the area offer higher pay to their teachers.
“Your teachers are staying here with larger class sizes and less salary because they love Avon schools. That’s just not right,” Hoernemann said. “Our teachers are loyal, but they’re only human, so we aren’t going to be able to make up that gap that we have in competitive salaries right away, but if this referendum passes, over the course of the next eight years, we will be able to make steady progress and keep those fabulous teachers that you all love and attract great new teachers.”
If the referendum were to fail, the issues that the referendum hopes to fix would only worsen.
“In general terms, think of your biggest class right now, and I know we have some in the high thirties, they’re going to get bigger,” Hoernemann said. “Think of some of the electives that you really love to have. They may disappear. Think of our teachers who can go someplace else and teach fewer students for more money. I think we will see some exodus of some of our teachers. ”
Students and adults alike are able to become involved in the process of the referendum by volunteering with the political action committee, Yes 4 Avon Schools.
“They have a website, they have volunteers, they have a yard sign coordinator, election coordinator, a phone coordinator, get out the vote coordinator,” Hoernemann said. “They are a very well organized, wonderful group of volunteers.”
Even students who aren’t able to vote in this primary are able to make a difference in the election.
“A very powerful way for students to be involved is to use their voice,” Hoernemann said. “There is nothing as compelling as a student telling the story of what makes a difference for learning in his or her life, whether that’s extracurriculars or athletics or cocurriculars, or whether that happens during the day, so I hope the students are speaking up about their experience in Avon schools.”
If you’re interested in volunteering, you can visit yes4avonschools.org to donate, volunteer or just view more information about the referendum.
“I hope students will get involved to the extent that they feel comfortable and their parents feel comfortable, but let there be no doubt: students could be the difference in this referendum passing or not,” Hoernemann said.
Don’t forget to register to vote and then vote on May 8 in the primary. When voting for the referendum, Avon residents can show up to the polls and ask for only the referendum ballot and aren’t required to declare their political party when doing so.
“The main point, I think, that we want to share is that we’ve done everything we can ourselves, and now it’s up to the community to decide,” Hoernemann said. “Do you want a school district that’s continuing to cut because the state doesn’t provide adequate funds, or do you want a school district that’s like the many around us, the 95 around us, that have passed referendums?”