Retired principal to be part of Valparaiso school board
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 25, 2012 11:24PM
Updated: June 26, 2012 9:56AM
VALPARAISO — Retired Thomas Jefferson Middle School principal Paul Knauff will take on a new role with the Valparaiso Community School Corporation next month — as a school board member.
The Valparaiso City Council voted 5-2 on Monday to place Knauff on the board. Incumbent board member Brigid McLinn had reapplied for the position and while the council considered her and Knauff the two strongest of the five candidates for the post, Councilman Jan Dick said Knauff was best for the position.
“He above all the rest made his comments about the kids,” he said.
Councilmen Robert Taylor and Joey Larr dissented, but the council agreed the school corporation, which faces a $3.2 million budget deficit and a superintendent search, needed a board member with internal knowledge of the corporation.
Reached at home, Knauff, who retired as principal last year, said he looks forward to joining the board next month.
“It’s a wonderful responsibility and something I look forward to. Obviously, there are challenges to all schools these days, and Valparaiso is no exception,” he said.
During the interview process, Knauff noted his daughter is a teacher in the Valparaiso schools and said he was willing to step down as a candidate if that would be a conflict of interest. City attorney David Hollenbeck said he looked into the matter and the state’s new nepotism statute does not apply to school boards or appointed officials; Knauff also could recuse himself from a vote if there was an issue.
The other finalists for the board included educational diagnostician Pam Hood, businessman Kevin Hagen, and education professional Novak. In all, six people applied for the post.
The candidates faced a round of questions from the city council on June 11, and questions from the community Monday. Community members filled the council chambers for both meetings.
Council members lauded the high caliber of all of the candidates, given the challenges the board faces, and Councilwoman Deb Butterfield also took note of the public interest in the process.
“Can anyone remember a time when we had this much public involvement in this process?” she said. “I personally have expectations that all of you remain engaged, and we remain engaged as well.”