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Six candidates vie for three seats on Franklin Township school board

Franklin Township’s Bunker Hill Elementary School has the highest passing rate among township schools on ISTEP in 2013-14.

Six candidates are seeking seats on the school board for Franklin Township, where voters recently rejected a capital referendum to fund improvements.

Scott Elliott / Chalkbeat

This article was co-published by Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI as part of a collaboration ahead of the 2022 school board elections. Join Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI to hear from candidates for IPS school board at a forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Indianapolis Public Library, Central Branch. RSVP and submit questions here.

Six candidates are running for school board seats at Franklin Township Community Schools, a district of roughly 10,500 students in southeast Marion County. 

During the primary election in May, Franklin Township asked voters to approve a capital referendum, largely to fund an addition at the district’s high school as well as to make improvements at the district’s elementary schools. But it failed, with 62% of voters rejecting it. 

The latest ILEARN results showed that 35.2% of Franklin Township third to eighth graders are at or above proficiency in both English/language arts and math, the second-highest percentage in Marion County after Speedway, the Indianapolis Star reported. 

The latest state data shows that roughly 64% of Franklin Township students are white, 10.5% are Asian, 9.7% are Black, 8.7% are Hispanic, and 6.5% are multiracial. Less than 0.5% of students are Native American or Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

This election

This November, all three incumbents are running for reelection, but only two face challengers. Larry J. Walker, current board member, is the sole candidate for the seat representing the southeast portion of the school district. 

Board president Zach Smith Howard faces challenger Andrew Filler in the northeast district, and at-large member Dawn Downer faces two opponents for her seat: Tim McVey and Adrian D. Pettis Sr. 

Who votes and how to vote

All voters who are within the school district boundaries can vote for all three of the seats that are on the ballot this November. 

Voter registration ends on Oct. 11. Marion County residents can register to vote at indianavoters.in.gov

Early voting begins on Oct. 12 at the Indianapolis City-County Building at 200 E. Market St. Additional early voting sites, including one at the Franklin Township Government Center, open on Oct. 29 and can be found online at https://vote.indy.gov/early-voting/

On Election Day on Nov. 8, Marion County residents can vote at any of the county’s voting centers, which can be found at https://vote.indy.gov/

Meet the candidates

Larry J. Walker, southeast district

Walker is running for reelection on the school board. He is president and CEO of Timberwood Custom Homes.

Andrew Filler, northeast district

Filler is the parent of two students in the district and an engineer. If elected to the school board, he said his top priorities will be to make sure students, teachers and staff have the resources they need, increase transparency in the school board, and improve staff retention in the district. 

Filler also has a small rescue farm with his family, where they give community tours to educate people about livestock. 

Learn more at his campaign Facebook page.

Zach Smith Howard, northeast district 

Smith Howard is the current board president and was first elected to the school board in 2018. Howard said he’s proud of the board’s efforts at transparency, such as livestreaming the board meetings and posting recordings, as well as their ability to raise pay for employees and manage student growth without raising property taxes. 

If re-elected, his priorities are to make sure students are prepared for life after graduation, as well as continuing to manage student growth and building renovations without raising taxes. 

Learn more at his campaign website, Facebook, and Twitter

Dawn Downer, at large

Downer is the board vice president, an alumnae of the district, and the parent of a district graduate. She was the state’s First Steps director for more than ten years, and currently works as a consultant to support early education. 

Her campaign Facebook page says her priorities include making sure there is community involvement and transparency in decisions, as well as school safety, academic growth, and fiscal responsibility. 

Learn more at her campaign Facebook page. 

Tim McVey, at large

McVey is a substitute bus driver for the district and a district manager for Simply Self Storage. 

Adrian D. Pettis Sr., at large

Pettis is the chief of police for Warren Township schools. His campaign Facebook page states that he is striving for integrity, leadership, experience, and unity. He wrote that he wants to “enhance the culture and climate” of the district and listen to what the staff, students, and community need. 

Learn more about him on his campaign Facebook page.

This article has been updated to include a Franklin Township early voting site.

MJ Slaby is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact MJ at mslaby@chalkbeat.org.

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