Chesterton Tribune



Duneland Schools shuffles top administrators, new principal at CHS

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Dirk Baer triggered something when he broke the news at the start of this year that he would be retiring his job as Superintendent of the Duneland Schools.

Not only is July 1 a goodbye for Baer but it will make way for a whole new “restructuring” of the school corporation’s central administration, at least that is how it was described by Baer’s replacement, current assistant superintendent of operations and human relations Dave Pruis.

“We’re in a situation similar to what we were in 2003,” said Pruis at a special DSC board meeting Monday to appoint personnel. At that time, Baer became schools superintendent after working as assistant superintendent of operations which Pruis was then hired for. Changes in the administration office stretched down to the high school and some of the intermediate and elementary schools.

The board on Monday approved recommendations for the two assistant superintendent positions, Chesterton High School principal and a new chief financial officer.

Almost like a Rubik’s Cube, where one move shifts another, whenever one administrator moved up the chain it left a vacancy to be filled. All the appointments, except for one, were persons already within the Duneland Schools system.

Under a unanimous decision by the school board, as of July 1 the Assistant Superintendent of Operations position will be assumed by the current Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Monte Moffett.

Filling Moffett’s shoes as the next Assistant Superintendent for Instruction will be current Chesterton High School Principal Jim Goetz.

Current CHS Assistant Principal Jeff Van Drie will assume the duties of CHS Principal.

In Duneland’s business office, Bonnie Gaston is hanging up her hat after 45 years of service as DSC’s business manager. Gaston will be succeeded by Lynn Kwilasz and her title will be Chief Financial Officer and she will also act as Treasurer for the corporation.

The CFO will handle more of the budgeting than the previous Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Pruis said. The latter will be more involved with personnel duties than in the past, and will work the CFO on structuring health insurance for Duneland employees, among other things on which they will collaborate.

The Assistant Superintendent for Instruction will continue to focus on programming, such as High Ability and improvement activities, Pruis said.

Pruis said there are four basic goals to the restructuring - improve operations, monitor finances properly, meet and comply with standards set forth by state law, and provide support to all teachers, administrators, and staff.

“We looked at our various experiences and our options and believe the reassignments will fill our essential responsibilities and will benefit our schools, our students, and our community,” said Pruis.

After five months of searching out the best candidates for the positions, school board president Mike Trout half-jokingly said his fellow members have met more times in closed-door executive session this year than in all his 22 years on the board.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Trout said. “We’ve all put a lot of thought into this. We’re looking forward to these changes and I would concur with Dr. Pruis’ recommendations.”

Board member Ralph Ayres told the Tribune after the meeting the school district can expect a smooth transition.

“There is a lot of expertise inside the school corporation. I think it bodes well. They (new administrators) are very excited about the current challenges and the future for Duneland Schools,” said Ayres.

Moffett has been with Duneland for 10 years as an assistant superintendent.

Goetz started as assistant principal at CHS in 1999 before becoming principal in 2003.

Van Drie has been assistant principal at CHS for eight years. Earlier, he was principal of River Forest High School for two years and for 20 years taught school mostly in Michigan, where he is from.

The new principal told the Tribune he would like to expand the use of technology in the classrooms. CHS has quite a few new and young teachers, Van Drie said, and he will be meeting with them to make sure they will work to uphold the community’s vision for the school.

New to Duneland, Kwilasz has worked the past year at Tri-Creek school district in Lowell as its business and personnel manager. Before that she was the chief financial officer at Valparaiso Community Schools in 2011, business manager for School Town of Highland starting in 2007 and worked in the offices of East Porter County Schools a few years prior to that.

Pruis said Kwilasz is the current president of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

Contract and salary details for the new appointments are still being “figured out,” Pruis said, and he expects those to emerge once everyone is “assimilated” with their new positions. Pruis said the contracts will be for 12 months.

Baer, who gave his final farewell at the board’s earlier meeting this month, said he is “proud of this school to develop a cadre of people to fill these positions without missing very many steps.”

Baer’s last day is June 30 and he plans to continue to live in the Duneland community.

Other business

Also on Monday, the board approved a transfer of $750,000 from the DSC transportation fund into its rainy day funds. Pruis said the state code allows school corporations to transfer any unused or unencumbered balances to rainy day funds up to 10 percent of its fiscal year budget.

He said $750,000 is well within what is allowed since the School’s budget this year was $62.5 million.

Lastly, the board voted to approved Director of Transportation Jim Bonfield’s recommendation to replace four conventional 66-passenger school buses, one 48-passenger special needs bus with lift, one Type-A 21-passenger special needs bus with lift, and one Type-A 21-passenger special purpose vehicle. Total in purchases was $521,743 which is below what was allotted in the budget this year, Bonfield said.

The board will meet next on Monday, July 15.



Posted 6/25/2013