Valparaiso School Board appointment draws fire
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 20, 2013 9:44PM
Updated: July 22, 2013 6:58PM
VALPARAISO — When the Center Township Board reappointed Mark Maassel to a second four-year term on the Valparaiso School Board on Thursday, the decision was met by disappointment from the crowd, to say the least.
“This is an absolute outrage. It’s a political sham and you know it,” Christopher Pupillo, who attends most of the school board meetings, said after board chairman Stephen Buck and board member Douglas Miller selected Maassel. The third board member, Scott Tuft, could not attend the meeting.
Valparaiso is the only school corporation in the region that has an appointed board — the other four members are selected by the City Council — and it’s a process that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, especially as the school corporation faced a $3.2 million budget deficit last year.
The City Council is expected to make its appointment Monday; candidates there are incumbent Jim Jorgensen and newcomer Joseph Espinosa. The new term for Maassel and that candidate begins July 1.
Buck commended the quality of the three candidates for the seat, which also included retired Valparaiso educators Stephen Cronk and Debra Fray.
About 15 people gathered in the commissioners chambers of the Porter County Administration Building for the board’s selection. Most of them appeared to be there to support Cronk and Fray.
It was Buck’s fourth time selecting a school board candidate and, as someone who served on the school board for 10 years, he said he knew the first term was when he listened and took notes. He admitted hesitating in selecting Maassel.
That didn’t appease those in the crowd, who expressed disbelief over the selection.
“It will be your last one — I guarantee it,” Kevin Cornett, who has been working on a petition for an elected board, told Buck. “You had your mind made up before you even began this process.”
The outbursts took the board by surprise, and Buck said he wasn’t going to go into a dialogue about it.
“I’m not going to believe you’re going to do this,” Cornett said as he and others left the chambers and gathered in the lobby.
“I’m embarrassed for some of you,” Miller shot back.
Buck shook hands with Fray and Cronk before they left. “If I had another appointment — if I had two of them ...,” he said.