Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

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June 20, 2013

Panel brings local government to GCHS students

Greensburg — Greensburg Community High School (GCHS) students studying government this summer eschewed the traditional classroom setting Thursday morning in favor of a panel discussion with several local officials.

The students, all aimed at being members of the GCHS graduating class of 2014, posed their own questions to the group, which included Mayor Gary Herbert, Board of Works member Dr. Rodney King, City Council member Terry Wagner, Clerk-Treasurer Bridget Weber and City Engineer Gary Murray. Presently studying local government, the panel allowed the students an up-close look at the duties of city officials as well as an opportunity to hear their comments on their work, their diverse backgrounds and much more.

Teachers Lisa Hayes and John Pratt combine their efforts in instructing the summer class, and both spoke highly of the opportunity afforded their large group of students Thursday morning.

“This panel was invited to our class to allow our students to have a firsthand experience with our local elected and appointed officials,” commented Hayes. “High school government class is a wonderful opportunity to learn how local state, and national elected bodies spend tax money.”

That opportunity was clearly embraced by the students, who offered a wide-range of questions to the distinguished panel members.

One student asked Councilman Wagner, “What is the most interesting topic your opinion has counted toward?”

Wagner answered that topics related to bringing businesses to Greensburg were at the forefront of his goals, namely in continuing to build a city in which people want to live and work.

Mayor Herbert seconded those comments when he responded to a query asking the mayor’s idea of an ideal level of Tree City population.

The mayor noted he couldn’t put a theoretical cap on a number of people living in Greensburg so long as enough good paying jobs remained to sustain the people of the city. “I want you to come back here,” the mayor told the group of students. “This community needs to support you. You are the heartbeat of America — the future of America.”

Mayor Herbert also called for feedback from students, recognizing the need to hear the voices of the young adults of the community. “I want your input; we need feedback from you guys,” Herbert commented. “We need to learn from what you have to say.”

Learning, City Engineer Gary Murray added, is a lifelong experience. Murray cited his college education, internships and multiple exams necessary to become a professional engineer as parts of an ongoing education.

“Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate high school or college,” Murray said. “Learning is a lifelong thing.”

Dr. Rodney King, a former educator as well as a principal of Greensburg Junior High School, perfectly embodies that statement having earned his doctorate at the age of 50. Dr. King encouraged the students to get involved throughout their lives. “Don’t be a spectator. Look to the future and don’t live day-by-day,” Dr. King said.

Bridget Weber, likewise, encouraged goal setting and forward-thinking. “We can all be a part of something if we want to be,” Weber said. “Set your goals and look toward the future.”

With many members of the future of Decatur County among the student body present at Thursday’s panel, the mayor called for student input in Greensburg government.

To that end, the mayor and teacher John Pratt came up with the idea of “shadow boards,” groups of students who will be presented with the very same information elected and appointed officials are given to work with at their respective meetings. The group of students, after being selected by Pratt, will then work as a student version of a city board, offering their own ideas on pressing local matters.

“The idea is to keep our brain trust in Greensburg, cultivate that and to get the students involved in local government,” Pratt said. The teacher added students may eventually propose an ordinance or legislation of their own.

Mayor Herbert assured the students their voices will be heard — now and in the future — and he spoke several times of his hopes the present young people of Decatur County will return home to work and be a part of their community. Councilman Wagner agreed and added that students shouldn’t pay attention to negative news regarding the economy and job prospects. “Do what you can and do your best,” Wagner said. “We love all of you and we want you to come on back.”

Hayes later offered her comments on the success of the program.

“Mayor Herbert made it very clear he would like to see young people stay in Greensburg after their education is completed. Many of the students have never heard that before. Greensburg is a great place to live and the mayor did a wonderful job conveying that point.”

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056

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