Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Stone facing Custy in Duneland School Board race

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By LILY REX

and KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, incumbent Duneland School board member Ronald “Red” Stone will face a challenge from Brian Custy for the DSB’s Liberty Township seat. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) For Stone: Age, place of residence, occupation.

44 years old, Valparaiso, Vice-president of Metropolitan Steel Inc.

For Custy: Age, place of residence, occupation.

40; Liberty Township; lawyer.

(2) For Stone: Why are you seeking re-election to the Duneland School Board? (75 words)

I am seeking re-election because I truly love being involved in my community and making a difference in kids’ lives. I feel I provide leadership, honesty, integrity and provide value as a board member.

For Custy: Why are you seeking election to the Duneland School Board? (75 words)

I worry about my own kids and their peers. I’ve become more involved in the community in recent years and have coached my sons’ sports teams and mentored other children. Being a member of the school board, however, would allow me to make a broader positive impact on more children and our community. The school board sets policy that impacts our children and their futures on a daily basis.

(3) For Stone: What specific skill sets have you brought to the position? (75 words)

I engage stakeholders (students, teachers, and community members) in an ongoing dialogue about the state of our schools. I am a people person who brings a commonsense approach to problem solving and who listens to all sides of an issue. I am willing to make tough decisions to bring about positive change. I am not willing to settle for mediocrity.

For Custy: What specific skill sets would you bring to the position? (75 words)

I was a student-athlete and earned a degree in civil engineering at VU before law school. I also worked for one of the largest law firms in the world and one of Indiana’s most successful businessmen before starting my own practice.

However, the skills that I feel are most important are work ethic and ability to have honest and respectful conversations with others. Open communication will go far in our schools and community.

(4) For Stone: What priorities would you pursue if re-elected? (100 words)

My goals, as well as the School Board, are as follows: continue to improve student success, retain highly qualified staff, support implementation of STEM programs and college readiness, develop culture of efficiency and effectiveness, and support a collaborative environment.

For Custy: What priorities would you pursue if elected? (100 words)

I’d solidify the environments that our children learn in. First, our children need to be safe from external and internal physical threats as well as distraction. Next, we need to strengthen the rights of teachers and empower them to do their calling with personal discretion. The aim should be to attract, train and retain exceptional teachers for the long term. Decisions from the school board and administration must always take into account their impact on children. Finally, technological advancement should be moderated to ensure we are helping children to be well rounded through socialization, activity, reading and writing.

(5) The 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)

Stone: I am in support of the referendum that allows the continuation of the many programs offered to our students that makes Duneland “unique.” The referendum provides additional support to fund teachers, nurses, counselors, tech integration specialists, along with other positions. The people of our community deserve a top-notch school system, and the referendum provides the dollars to do that.

Custy: I will ensure that tax dollars are spent with intention and each expenditure has a positive impact on our children. Tax referendums should not be business as usual. I am in favor of a referendum only if it is impossible to operate our schools optimally without it.

That said, there must be 100% candid communication with the public. I won’t permit voters to be under-informed regarding their money and the school board’s intentions.

(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 words)

Stone: I would like to see Duneland use e-learning days for inclement weather and NOT use them for a regular instructional day. A computer cannot replace a licensed teacher. I believe students being at school with their teachers and peers is where students get the best education. We can find alternate ways for teachers to get professional development training.

Custy: I oppose the current 1:1 e-learning days and phasing out books. I believe excessive technology and “screen time” hinders human interaction and negatively impacts children.

Technology use should be balanced to ensure children are engaged in active traditional learning. I believe e-learning days should have been phased in instead of having six days in the first year. Moreover, the e-learning days stress working families who must make arrangements for their children.

(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)

Stone: I am in favor of closing the open enrollment policy. Duneland has approximately 318 transfer students. We receive approximately $5,800 per transfer student. Duneland spends approximately $9,200 per student district-wide. The difference is made up by the local taxpayer. If I am re-elected, this policy issue will be discussed and voted on in January or February 2019.

Custy: Less than 5% of Duneland students come from outside the district and bring roughly $1,800,000 in state revenue. The school board has delayed addressing the current open policy since July. I support open enrollment to a limit established by the school board prior to each school year. That limit needs to be based on the input of taxpayers, teachers, principals, the CFO and the superintendent. See my Facebook page Custy4Dunelandschoolboard for more.

(8) New 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)

Stone: The new legislation will not affect Duneland negatively. In fact, it will provide some flexibility and local control over our financial resources. We are fortunate to have one of the best CFOs in the state. Our School Board will continue to make sure we are funding both education and operations adequately.

Custy: The intent is to give districts more flexibility with the use of funds. Previously, there were fund buckets for debt service, capital projects, transportation, bus replacement and the referendum fund. Now those funding buckets will be consolidated into education and operations funds. I’m confident the existing CFO will ensure compliance based on the August 20 school board meeting I attended. I would also ensure internal controls are established on behalf of taxpayers.

(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)

Stone: The administration presented our students with an opportunity to voice their concerns over gun violence at a forum in place of a walk out. Because of this forum, we had very few students walk out. Those who chose to were respectful and returned to class afterwards, but Duneland is responsible for the safety of our children and could not condone the walkout. I thought the administration’s response was appropriate.

Custy: I’m for standing up for your beliefs as well as consequences of doing so. That is an American core value. Here, the Superintendent informed the students of the punishment before their walk-out, so they knew the penalty. Our Superintendent said “[w]e want to respect and value students’ opinions and thoughts but at the same time it’s our responsibility to maintain a safe community in which students may learn.” I agree. Good job to all.

 

Posted 10/11/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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