Chesterton Tribune


Duneland School Board candidates Jurasevich and Kroeger tell views

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In the general election on Nov. 6, incumbent Nick J. Jurasevich will defend his Jackson Township seat on the Duneland School Board against Kristen S. Kroeger. Early voting begins on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

All seats on the Duneland School Board are non-partisan and all voters cast ballots in each School Board race.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

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

(1) Age, place of residence, occupation.

Jurasevich: 64, Jackson Township, customer service manager.

Kroeger: 40, Jackson Township, small business owner—management consultant.

(2) To Jurasevich: Why are you seeking reelection to the Duneland School Board? (50 words) I am currently serving on the Duneland School Board, serving since 2002. I have been past president twice. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and management from Indiana University-Northwest graduating with honors. I feel I bring integrity, leadership, honesty, and approachability to this position.

To Kroeger: What are your qualifications for service on the Duneland School Board? (50 words) I’ve spent 20 years helping financial institutions rethink how things are done and implement changes to improve services while maximizing resources. I understand complex financial scenarios, how to make difficult decisions, overcome resistance, build consensus, and communicate clearly. I confidently bring new energy and a valuable perspective to the board.

(3) Why have you decided to run for the board? (75 words)

Jurasevich: I seek reelection to continue to give back to the Duneland community. Since becoming a board member I have seen various challenges and celebrated in numerous student successes. I seek reelection to continue to live up to the community’s expectations in meeting future challenges and continuing to support and further the many successes. I am a firm believer of “Kids First” and in seeking reelection I will never lose sight of this first priority.

Kroeger: Our schools and community are best served when working together. One will not remain vibrant without the other. The referendum left this community divided on whether or not to invest in our schools. Seeing this division in our great community was a call to action for me. I’m passionate about the quality of education in Duneland and devoted to our community. I know I can make a difference with thoughtful leadership and a new perspective.

(4) What specific priorities would you propose for action by the board? (75 words)

Jurasevich: Board priorities would include to identify and support all initiatives, resources, and programs which improve student achievement, improve two-way communications between School Corporation and the community, to be fiscally responsible in light of increased state mandated programs and policies without the additional funding to support these mandates, continue to assure a safe school environment, and to review current policies for effectiveness and stature compliance.

Kroeger: The board should chair a community action committee to petition for legislative reform in school funding, ensuring it’s at the proper levels long term. Next, the board should develop a strategy to enrich its relationship with our community. Additionally, there should be a well-defined, multi-year vision for the corporation. This vision should be innovative and outline the most effective use of resources while keeping class sizes small and investing in our teachers’ training.

(5) Evaluate the record of the Duneland School Corporation’s administration. (75 words)

Jurasevich: I think the administration has been generally effective in its role: perfect no, effective yes. Their effectiveness has been seen in student achievement success, outstanding academic, athletic, music, and arts programs, the ability to work with decreased state funding with a minimum of student program cuts, and the safe and well maintained facilities that we as a community are proud to have. Perhaps the most room for improvement is open communication between administration and community.

Kroeger: These last four years have been difficult for every business, organization, and household. Each of us has had to make decisions to get by with less. The administration has done a commendable job in finding ways to save money, largely without impacting students and teachers. The challenge is to continue to look at how things are done and improve them in order to have enough resources to invest in our teachers and students.

(6) How would you encourage interaction between the school corporation and the community—taxpayers and parents? Do you support a public-comment item on the monthly School Board meeting agenda? (75 words)

Jurasevich: I would encourage making school facilities available for community educational, recreational, and social activities. I would ask parents/community members to serve on committees. I would solicit the support and involvement of community constituencies for involvement. I would support school officials to participate at community organizations and events. I would encourage the school corporation to use effective open, dialogue with the community members. I do support a public-comment item on the School Board agenda.

Kroeger: The board should foster its relationship with our community through a proactive approach in defining and sharing the board’s goals and challenges. In my experience, it’s easier to understand the decisions being made, if the public sees the intended path. To build understanding, the board should conduct a public discussion meeting prior to the regular voting meeting. Open discussions provide insight to the public of the board’s decision-making process.

(7) How transparent should the use of the school referendum money be? Should the Citizen Review Committee meetings be open to the public? (75 words)

Jurasevich: The use of school referendum money should be very transparent to the community. This would serve as one more way in which to encourage interaction and understanding between the community and the school corporation. Further, it would show the community how and where such public money will be spent. It is for these reasons that I believe the Citizen Review Committee meetings should be open to the public.

Kroeger: The Referendum Fund should be treated like every other school fund, with the budget reviewed and presented at a public hearing. The Citizen Review Committee is a tool that the administration is using to generate and validate ideas. The results of these discussions are ultimately presented at the public board meetings through budget discussions. I am encouraged that the administration has embraced this process. It shows a willingness to consider alternative ideas.

(8) Do you approve of the specific Duneland budget cuts since the state’s funding formula was changed in 2008? (75 words)

Jurasevich: I do generally approve of the budget cuts made. The reductions were made with the vision and purpose to keep most current student programs in place and to avoid reducing or eliminating any program or resource which might have an adverse effect on student achievement and growth at a time of state funding distress. The hope is that these budget cuts can be revisited, evaluated, and restored in the near future.

Kroeger: The administration has done a satisfactory job, but we cannot stop there. Improvement necessitates a continuous and critical evaluation of how we do things. We need to ask ourselves, “Is there a different way of doing this?” We also need to evaluate our decisions. “Did we get the results we wanted?” Continued progress requires a commitment to self-evaluation and meaningful review. As a board member, I will insist on critical examination of decisions.

(9) With the money from the referendum, should the schools work to restore positions and programs which have already been cut? (75 words)

Jurasevich: Yes, with prudent review the schools should work to restore positions and programs previously cut. Class size, I believe, should be small, resources which raise student achievement, including professional growth, should be identified and expanded, and the reduction in paid work hours as well as the elimination of health benefits in some employee groups should be revisited and restored.

Kroeger: As a parent of two children in Duneland schools, I have witnessed class sizes growing larger, the availability of classroom aides diminish, and the district’s average test scores worsen. These are all negative trends. The Referendum Fund should be used to reverse these trends, as promised in the campaign. In addition to restoring conventional staffing, we should look for new and innovative ways to elevate the quality of education. We should look forward, not back.


Posted 10/3/2012