Voters had it both ways Tuesday giving nearly 20-year Duneland School Board
member Mike Trout another term but denying member John Marshall his second.
Ralph Ayres, a well-known Republican who spent 26 years in the Indiana
General Assembly, unseated Marshall with 57 percent of the 7,838 ballots
cast in the Westchester/Pine contest.
The third candidate in that race, William Barkow, captured 10 percent of the
vote. School Board elections are non-partisan; winners serve four-year terms
beginning Jan. 1.
Commented Ayres, “I was very humbled by the results. I appreciate that the
voters put their confidence in me.”
Trout, currently School Board president, retained his At-Large seat pulling
3,750 votes compared to challengers Maureen Hurst with 2,841 and Kathleen
Downey with 1,301.
According to Trout, “My opponents ran respectful races; Maureen ran an
agressive campaign.” The fact the electioneering stayed positive “was a
valuable lesson to our students.”
Trout said he ran again despite his long board tenure because “I trusted the
community valued my experience. They have confidence in me and that I will
continue to serve the best interests of the children.”
Incumbent School Board member Ronald Stone of Liberty Township was unopposed
and tallied 5,315 votes in that district. Current board members Janice
Custer and Nick Jurasevich were not up for re-election.
experience wins out
Ayres was the top contested vote-getter with 4,486 to Marshall’s 2,568.
Ayres said, “My intention was never to run against anyone. It’s what I could
add to the board.”
Marshall said, “I’m disappointed. I was very hopeful in trying to be able to
win a second term but it didn’t work out.” He added he was glad Trout won
for board continuity.
Trout expressed his disappointment that Marshall was defeated. “People don’t
understand the heart and soul John put into his boardsmanship. Ralph will be
fine but the success of the board is to work collaboratively.”
Marshall said Ayres, who taught at Chesterton High School for 34 years, “was
a great candidate and I wish him well. The voters put Ralph in this position
in these tough times and I hope he can help.”
Marshall was the School Board’s non-voting representative on the Burns
Harbor Redevelopment Commission; Ayres said it’s an appointment he would
Ayres has served on the Porter County Council and was executive director of
the Indiana Retired Teachers Association; he is now retired.
Ayres said he was urged to run by constituents because of his broad
background in education and government funding; Duneland is a major area
employer with a $61 million annual budget, he noted.
Prior to taking office Ayres will be in Indianapolis as a private citizen at
the upcoming General Assembly reorganization day to rekindle friendships and
discuss issues that might affect Duneland.
Ayres said his lobbying background offers the School Board an expanded role
if they choose to accept it. The alternative is to do nothing, especially
when the urban schools are very organized and make their wishes known, said
Trout said lobbying on Duneland’s behalf would be greatly appreciated but
he’s not sure that’s the role of a board member. As a public school Duneland
can’t be singled out for special treatment, added Trout, but Ayres said that
would not be his goal.
He and his volunteers knocked on 4,300 doors during his campaign targeting
new Duneland subdivisions whose residents might not be familiar with Ayres’
qualifications. Voters expressed concern over the fiscal challenges the
school district is facing and how Duneland will react to them. Ayres said
his teaching experience will enable him to know how budget cuts will affect
students in the classroom; Custer is also a former teacher.
Ayres said a lot of parents are concerned about bullying as a huge problem.
He suggested Duneland host educational forums on various topics as well as
partner with area universities including Ivy Tech.
Duneland recently completed an expansion at Liberty Elementary School. Ayres
said whether Duneland needs to redistrict or modify other schools will
depend on when and where subdivisions get underway once the housing market
heats up. “It’s a big if.”
Ayres said he doesn’t believe the perceived “Duneland Difference” has been
lost but it’s being threatened by mandated budget cuts affecting programming
and class size. He added that ISTEP scores should not be the sole factor of
a school system’s success.
Trout was asked if he plans to do anything differently in his new term.
“Honestly, no. Probably the reason I was re-elected was people have faith in
us as a board to give quality education with the resources we are given.”
He said it’s a constant struggle to maintain Duneland’s position “when the
state is trying to bring us down to lesser levels.”
Hurst said during her campaign voters clearly indicated they want the
current School Board policy restricting public comment to agenda items to be
modified to address other issues in an open forum.
Trout said he’s willing to take another look at the policy but doesn’t want
public comment to become a public form of bashing with the board at a
disadvantage by not having all the facts. Duneland has had success with its
administration satisfactorily addressing concerns and problems outside the
meeting, Trout said.
“I’d like to thank everyone who supported me,” said Hurst, a licensed school
counselor. “I wish Mr. Trout and the board well.”
When asked if she’ll run again for School Board, “Time will tell,” replied
Hurst. “I’m passionate about education. I’d love to be part of Duneland
schools at some point in time.”
In an election where incumbent national, state and Porter County
officeholders were ousted, Trout said, “I’m very fortunate.”