Voters living within the confines of the Duneland School District have two
races they will vote in on Tuesday for School Board.
Four candidates are vying for outgoing board member Janice Custer’s at-large
seat – William Barkow, Dane Lafata, John Marshall, and Dan Vondrasek Sr.
Meanwhile, current holder of the board’s Jackson Twp. seat Nick Jurasevich
faces a challenge from Kristin Kroeger.
Jurasevich, whose background is in finance and customer service, has served
on the board since 2002, with two years as board president. He said he
brings leadership and integrity to the board as well as approachability. If
reelected, Jurasevich said the board will need to identify resources,
programs and initiatives that would enhance student achievement. He said the
school should strive to remain solvent despite funding challenges to the
school corporation’s General Fund budget which resulted from the state’s
decision to impose a new funding formula.
To foster cooperation between the schools and the community, Jurasevich said
he encourages parents to get involved as much as they can such as serving on
committees and school officials should be more involved in community
organizations. He said use of the referendum money should be transparent and
he supports a public item on the monthly board meeting agenda.
Kroeger said she can bring a new energy and change to the board. For twenty
years she has worked as a management consultant and has served on the
Duneland Education Foundation. Kroeger said she wants to bridge the
community and the schools together after seeing the near 50/50 split that
resulted from this year’s referendum to raise property taxes for school use.
The board should be proactive in defining and sharing its goals with the
community, she said.
If elected, Kroeger said she would like to see the board chair a community
action committee to petition legislative reform for school funding. She said
the referendum fund should be treated like other school budgets with a
review and public hearing. Referendum funds should be used to reduce class
sizes and hire more aides to help raise standardized test scores.
Barkow said the board should represent the citizens and interests of the
Duneland community. He brings to the table 32 years of experience working at
Bethlehem Steel where he handled budgetary duties and management. He would
like to see the board have an impact on state funding formulas. Barkow said
the School Board should become data driven to see if existing policies are
producing the results desired by the school board.
Barkow also supports public comment at school board meetings and pledged to
respond to each question a resident throws his way.
Lafata is a CHS graduate, a Duneland parent and owner of Lafata Tax Service
in Valparaiso. His goals include making all Duneland Schools 4-star schools.
To help parents who are too busy on the nights of board meetings, he would
like to set up a stream of the board meetings online and would like the
board to be more open and approachable to the public.
Lafata said he wants to provide students with opportunities just like the
ones that were available to him when he was a student. He would like to see
the referendum money be used transparently.
Marshall, who formally served on the board for six years, said he has a
strong business and management background. He is president of 1st American
Management Company Inc. He would like to see more parents attend meetings
and supports public comment as long as it is limited to the evening’s
business. The schools must provide the tools for the student to succeed, he
said, and the technology available at the schools should be updated.
All the money from the referendum needs to go back to the students’
education by keeping and expanding programs, Marshall said.
Vondrasek is a former diving coach of about 40 years, ten of those at CHS.
Use of the referendum funds should go to hiring back all those who were laid
off due to funding cuts from the state, he said. If elected, he would like
to see all expenses be posted on the corporation’s website and the Citizen
Review Committee that directs the referendum money be open at any time so
that residents can give input and keep an eye on spending.
He said he would like for the superintendents to sit in front of the school
board rather than sit among its members at meetings.