Three Jay School Board seats are up for election this year. The lone contested race features two former Jay Schools employees.

Former Jay County High School director of guidance Vickie Reitz and former Jay Schools computer technology support staffer Ryan Wellman will face off for the board’s District 6 seat. They are seeking to replace incumbent Krista Wellman, who chose not to run for a second term.

Reitz, a rural Bryant resident, spent more than 40 years working for Jay Schools, first as a special education teacher before shifting to the guidance department. A 1970 graduate of Bryant High School, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in 1973 and went on to earn master’s degrees in special education and guidance from the University of St. Francis.

Wellman, also of rural Bryant, graduated from JCHS in 2007 and Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in computer technology in 2011. He worked in computer technology support for the school corporation for about seven years and is now a plant supervisor for Minnich Poultry.

Both candidates are making their first run for elected office.

“I felt like there were some things I wanted to change at Jay Schools,” said Wellman. “A lot of people will voice their opinion, but don’t act on it. I thought, what a better opportunity to take that chance to act on some of the things that are great but also some of the things that need to be changed.”

In looking at how the board and corporation have handled the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Wellman said he felt they’ve done a good job of trying to keep students and staff. He was also complimentary of e-learning when in-person classes is not feasible.

But he questioned the decision to delay the start of school from early August to after Labor Day, saying allowing athletic practices and events but not classes seems to be contradictory.

Reitz took a different stance, saying she felt the delay was a good idea as it allowed the corporation to evaluate some of the issues other school districts were dealing with early in the year. She also offered praise for the corporation’s efforts to make accommodations to allow high school students to continue to earn college credits remotely.

“I think they’ve done an excellent job,” said Reitz. “They’ve studied the situation, called other schools, delayed start so they could see what the problems were at the other schools. They left no stone untouched to get where they’re at. I think that’s probably why it’s going as well as it is here at the start of school.”

In addressing what they feel are other key issues, both candidates brought up curriculum.

Reitz noted the importance of keeping programs intact even as the corporation faces financial challenges.

“When you’re playing with less money, things go away,” said Reitz. “But I think you’ve just got to be creative about how you can keep programs for our kids.”

She added that some career and technical education classes were lost with the shift this year from block scheduling to a seven-period day. But, she said, one possible creative way to retain some of those programs might be to offer some of those classes every other year.

Wellman said one of his main goals is to build up the vocational department. He praised building trades and electrical classes, adding that the corporation needs to make sure it has such options available to students who may not be college-bound.

One of her focuses, Reitz said, is the importance of providing education that meets all student needs. She noted that dual-credit courses save college-bound students a lot of money and that career and technical education is key because that’s where many of the jobs are right now.

“I think we have excellent schools,” said Reitz. “I want to maintain that. That means curriculum from the CTE to the special education to the dual credit.”

Wellman said a complaint he’s heard from Jay County residents is that there are too many administrators who do not live in the county. He said he has no problem with the current staff, but would like to see that situation change in the future.

“I think if we have qualified individuals in Jay County, then I think we need to kind of maybe give them a little bit better shot at the same position as somebody who may be qualified out of Jay County,” said Wellman. “Going forward, I think hiring local is important.”

Both candidates expressed their support for school security initiatives that have been implemented over the last few years as well as any efforts by the school corporation to increase access to early childhood education.

Wellman said he feels working in technical support gave him a good overview of how the corporation operates as a whole.

“I got to see a unique perspective on what makes Jay Schools great and what do they think are some things that can be improved on,” he said. “I think that helps me in the sense that I’ve got a bigger handle on what Jay Schools is and what it could be.”

Reitz noted her love for education and her desire to put in the effort it takes to help lead the corporation.

“I will work hard to keep our schools successful,” she said. “I’ll work hard for the community and the students.”