In the general
election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, four Dunelanders--Rhonda “Rho” Turner Day, Bob
Filipek, Alayna Lightfoot Pol, and Steve Rohe--will vie for the DSB’s open
At-large seat. The Chesterton Tribune invited them to respond to
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) Age, place of
Chesterton resident, Project Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Chesterton, Energy professional.
Chesterton resident, Educator
Rohe: I am 67
years old. I live in Porter and have for the past 40 years. I retired from
Duneland Schools as Director of Safety and Security.
(2) Why are you
seeking election to the Duneland School Board? (75 words)
Day: I am
seeking election to the Duneland School Board because I believe my
experience as a project manager and a parent could be an asset to the Board.
I would be a leader in the process of making our schools the best in the
state. I think there is an opportunity to leverage my experience in change
management with multiple customers while managing significant budgets to
bring about positive outcomes within our schools.
Filipek: I am
an honest and fair individual who cares about my community. I have over 25
years as business professional and MBA from Indiana University. I
volunteered for eight years as President of Trojan Basketball Club. I also
volunteered as coach for various Duneland soccer and basketball teams for
ten years. I am very active in my church. I want to work with the board and
administration to support our teachers, parents and students.
Pol: I am
seeking the open at-large seat in order to bring an experienced educator’s
perspective to the Board. The Board hasn’t had that perspective in some time
and could benefit from someone who understands how Board-created policies
and regulations impact the classroom.
I will bring a
different perspective to the district given my wide-range of past teaching
placements outside of DSC mixed with my homegrown upbringing from within the
Rohe: I have
been a Duneland parent, grandparent or employee since 1979. All five of my
children went through Duneland and eight of my ten grandchildren are
currently in Duneland. I have a personal interest in the schools. Above
that, the majority of my life has been in service to my community beginning
with service in the U.S. Army. I want to use my experience and abilities to
serve Duneland Schools.
(3) What specific
skill sets would you bring to the position? (75 words)
Day: I have 25
years of experience managing some very challenging projects for multiple
industries. Some examples include; Internet changes to 150,000 United
Airline’s users on the morning of September 11; Process training for
non-English speaking users in Brazil; etc. Duneland has been undergoing some
radical changes lately. As an engineering project manager, I would leverage
my experience gathering input from stakeholders and balancing complicated
budgets to perform smooth deployments of change.
Filipek: I am
hard-working and I have served on a couple boards in the past and would use
that experience on the school board. Since I would be new to the school
board, I don’t have all the answers and would be willing to listen to all
sides before I would make a decision. My decisions would be in the best
interest of the students, teachers, and community. “Together We Make A
Pol: I bring
value in my ability to relate to both parents and educators when looking at
issues and policies that affect each group. My comprehensive knowledge of
research based approaches, curriculum, and a strong understanding of the
functionality of classrooms will benefit future policy and budgeting
decisions. I also believe my past experiences in diverse teaching settings
will bring a well-rounded perspective to assist with the changing landscape
of education here in Duneland.
Rohe: I am one
of, if not the, senior School Safety Specialists in Porter County. I have
served on a variety of boards and committees from the Town of Porter
Economic Development Task Force in the early 80s through the Porter Storm
Water Board to local community theater today. If I may believe others, I
have an ability to bring calm to potentially volatile situations. By
training and disposition I can "pour oil on troubled waters.”
(4) What priorities
would you pursue if elected? (100 words)
Day: As a
member of the Duneland School Board, I would like to focus on stakeholder
communication and information transparency within the community. I want to
ensure that all constituents have a voice when we deploy the changes
necessary to continue to move our schools forward. A special needs family
will be affected very differently than single parent family, which warrants
serious listening to every situation. I want to perform reviews after each
change made to ensure that we are getting the expected results in a positive
way. Our schools should be in the highest demand of the state.
School Budget. i. Collaborate with State legislators to improve school
funding formula. ii. Renew the referendum to ensure an increase in our
teachers’ compensation. iii. Explore Corporation partnerships & alternative
funding sources. b. Address facilities and teachers’ needs. i. Provide
resources to help teachers address various learning styles of the students.
c. Attracting and retaining quality teachers. d. School Safety- Partner with
local police & Porter County Sheriff’s Department to have them conduct
safety audits on all our facilities and do annual updates to make sure we
are compliant. Improve parent/student involvement and the communication
elected, I would prioritize an evaluation of the procedures used to
communicate between DSC employees, families, and the community. I would make
school safety within each school another top priority. It is important that
we look for common sense approaches to school safety and an implementation
of proactive ways to mitigate school violence and other unwanted behaviors.
I would also highly prioritize an evaluation of DSC’s approaches to
instruction. I feel a balance between traditional and innovative methods is
critical, while also adopting methods that promote critical thinking and
deeper learning strategies over an increase of digital programs.
Rohe: One of my
top priorities is to work for more local control for schools. Home rule is
being enacted in places in the country and I'd like to explore that. I want
to see that we continue to do all we can to keep students and staff safe
while continuing the educational mission. I was dismayed that not one word
to safety is in the four year Strategic Plan. The "business model" of
running schools is creeping in, and I feel it is a cancer in our schools to
supplemental property-tax rate approved referendum in 2012-which took effect
in 2013 and levied an additional rate of up to 22 cents per $100 of assessed
valuation on property owners’ tax bills-will expire in 2019 and the current
School Board is exploring the possibility of setting a new referendum next
year. Would you support such a referendum? Why or why not? (75 words)
Day: I am
cautious to make a statement of endorsement on any spending referendum
without knowing the details surrounding the cost and consequences. I fully
supported the previous referendum and went door to door to communicate these
details to our community. I support funding for the continued growth of our
school and the continued support of our teachers and curriculum. Everyone
benefits from a top rated school system. Stronger education leads to higher
supported and will continue to support the referendum. School funding is
complex. Before 2008, communities paid their local property taxes for a
portion of the general fund and the state contributed. Then, the State cut
what they were paying by 5% to all schools and said if you want to pay for
it, you have to do it by referendum. We also need to work with State
legislators to address the school funding formula.
Pol: I would
support a renewal of the referendum to provide additional assistance and the
expansion of best practices in the classroom, such as low student to teacher
ratios, innovative curriculum options, and professional development, all of
which directly impact the quality of instruction students receive.
small investment for an individual taxpayer would have a significantly
positive impact on each student’s overall schooling experience and would add
value to the greater community.
Rohe: Maybe. I
think the Duneland Community will do whatever is necessary to maintain a
quality school system. I also think the schools owe the community,
especially those on fixed incomes, a duty to operate as fiscally responsible
as possible. Are we concentrating on needs and not wants? If elected and
able to look at projected scenarios with or without the referendum, I'll
make my decision.
(6) Do you support
1:1 e-learning days--on four of which, in academic year 2018-19, K-12
students will not actually attend school but work on their devices from
home--and the gradual phasing out of print materials? Why or why not? (75
Day: I support
1:1 e-learning days. It’s the natural progression in integrating technology
into the education process. Schools and businesses are expecting our
students and graduates to function seamlessly in an environment online
across the world. All of the top rated schools in the state have already
adopted this process. I feel that the communication around the roll out
could have been more effective and as a board member, this would be my
E-Learning provides our students with digital learning opportunities and
also creates scheduling for professional development. With any new
initiative, I believe that this year’s program needs to be seriously
analyzed and evaluated, with parent, student, and teacher input. I believe
that we should not completely phase out print materials. We should deliver a
combination approach because students learn differently and screen-time
overexposure can be an issue.
Pol: While I
highly prioritize setting time for teacher professional development, I
believe e-learning days should be reserved for secondary students and
inclement weather days. Additionally, I disagree with phasing out print
sources. Print sources must be an option if we are to truly take a blended
and balanced approach to learning. I also feel strongly about the need of
enacting a screen time policy based on the age and developmental
appropriateness of our students.
E-learning is the future. A decade ago while involved in planning for a
possible flu pandemic, we dreamed of its abilities. We do need to make sure
it is used so as to enhance a teacher's ability to teach and not hinder. As
e-books cost less than hard cover, hopefully e-textbooks will reduce costs.
I foresee e-learning allowing students to advance at their own pace.
(7) The School
Board has promised to address, early in 2019, the question of whether
Duneland Schools should continue to accept out-of-district transfer students
and the transfer student policy in general. Are you in favor of accepting
transfer students? Why or why not? (75 words)
Day: I am not
in favor of open enrollment without additional structure. We need
consistency in our teaching goals and strategy throughout our schools. We
have a responsibility to those students and families that have become a part
of our system, but we should consider new requests for out of district
students more closely than we previously have. I do not believe students
coming into our system beyond sixth grade would be appropriate.
Filipek: I have
listened to community members and followed the board discussion regarding
the transfer student policy. There are several issues that need to be
addressed. The transfer students in Duneland that are here and succeeding in
good standing need to be grandfathered into policy changes. Our first
priority must be the students and families of our community. The policy
needs to be tightened up and future transfer spots should be considered on
data and availability.
of in-boundary DSC students is down and has been on a downward trend for a
few years now. The number of students transferring into DSC remains lower
than the number of students we are losing. Although a very complex issue, it
is in DSC‘s best interest to keep enrollment open at this time. The district
needs to reevaluate the current policy and address the reasons families are
choosing outside options for schooling.
Rohe: Yes, as
long as class size is not adversely affected. We should be proud that people
wish to come to our quality schools. In my experience, out-of district
students have by-and-large been an asset to the student body.
legislation, HEA 1009 and HEA 1167, mandates that Indiana public schools
must consolidate their various funds based on whether expenses directly
impact students or directly impact operations. Duneland CFO Lynn Kwilasz has
said that four currently distinct funds must be consolidated into two (while
the debt-service and referendum funds will remain separate). What financial
moves do you think the School Board could take to field these new budget
requirements? (75 words)
changes to the school board funding requirements will provide greater
flexibility to the overall budgeting process. It does not reduce the
financial obligation of the board to track expenditures. It is important to
understand the overall funds have not changed, only the categories in which
they are tracked. The board must adhere to the same diligence when tracking
individual line items regardless of the overall funds category where they
reside in the budget.
funding is extremely complex and the changes made to school finances by HEA
1009 will take some time for the administration and board to understand.
This will take at least one budget cycle. We as a board and administration
need to monitor and understand this. We need to develop base line data from
this first year and make needed changes. We need to apply consistent
spending percentages from past budgets.
Pol: The state
mandated switch from a previous organization of four funds to an Education
and Operation Fund will require DSC to develop a strict long range plan for
spending. Flexibility between the two funds could create a false sense of
security and diligent balancing of the Operations Fund will be necessary. We
should seek quarterly analyses of the two funds and make projections based
on enrollment and other relevant variables to properly budget.
Rohe: 2019 will
be a learning year for school districts across the State. It is my
understanding that it will be easier for monies to be moved between the two
funds, which should help. The key will be what is educational and what is
operational. Certain things, transportation, are obviously operational while
instructional materials obviously educational. The Board will need to create
the two funds and decide which functions belong where within the new law.
(9) In March,
students who participated in a school walkout to protest gun violence and to
honor the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Florida were marked truant and assigned an “alternative discipline” that
included writing a short essay or completing half an hour of community
service. What are your thoughts on the administration’s response to the
walkout? (75 words)
Day: My son
helped organize the walkout in March and I was very proud of him. I hope we
continue to foster environments that allow our students to peacefully engage
in issues that affect them and teach them how to use their voices to bring
about change. He understood that there would be consequences to his actions,
and we support the decisions the administration made to control the
situation while allowing for civil discourse.
Filipek: One of
our most important goals for Duneland schools is to develop students into
participating citizens that are engaged in democracy. Many of the problems
that we face in our country are because of apathy. We need students to
engage in the democratic process, objectively analyze all sides of issues,
and to participate respectfully. The administration worked with students and
made appropriate consequences that resulted in real world learning
Pol: I felt the
administration’s response and requirements for participating in the walkout
were fair. Requiring students to complete a written reflection or 30 minutes
of community service not only ensured students weren’t arbitrarily skipping
class, it also helped initiate important conversations surrounding the
issues. I feel that it opened up a dialogue that may have been lost if
students were only “punished” for participating rather than asked to reflect
and share their thoughts.
Rohe: We want
the students to be socially aware and socially active if they choose.
Violence in schools is a highly emotional issue, one I've trained
extensively to fight. There are also school rules. It’s my experience that
students do not respect rules that are not enforced. The "alternative
discipline" allowed a consequence to result without a suspension on the
student's record and also made a disciplinary action a learning experience,
as all discipline should be.