Six vie for two seats on Duneland school board
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent October 20, 2012 6:52PM
Barkow, William 2008 William Barkow of Chesterton candidate for Duneland School Board at large seat.
Updated: October 20, 2012 9:56PM
Duneland School District residents are voting to fill two seats in the Duneland School Board electoral contest. William Barkow, Dane Lafata, John Marshall and Daniel Vondrasek, Sr. are vying for one at-large seat vacated by retiring Board President Janice Custer. Political newcomer Kristin Kroeger is looking to unseat incumbent Nick Jurasevich for the Jackson Township board seat. Duneland voters select one candidate from each contest.
(Vote for one)
Barkow is hoping the third time is the charm in his third attempt at running for a school board seat. Barkow expects to bring a different financial approach to the board if elected, citing his more than 30 years experience in budget and cost control within the steel industry.
“The school board shouldn’t be sitting there basking in the glow of student achievement, they’re charged with making sure money is spent properly,” Barkow said.
Barkow thinks school boards should push back against the state for a change in how money is allocated to school districts. He says there is room in the Duneland district for the Discovery Charter School.
Lafata is attempting his first run at elected office. His Duneland roots run deep - his oldest daughter is the fourth generation Lafata to be educated in the Duneland system. Lafata thinks having children in the school system would provide a unique perspective to the school board.
The school board has been doing a good job, said Lafata, and mentions that four of the eleven Duneland schools have been ranked four stars by the state. As a board member Lafata would push for better collaboration between schools so a four star school can pass on its expertise to a lesser ranked school.
While Lafata likes the idea of an environmental based education such as that offered by the Discovery Charter School he is not a proponent of turning public education over to private enterprise.
Daniel Vondrasek, Sr. is attempting his first run at public office, prompted by his belief that the school system needs to better prioritize spending. He thinks the recently approved property tax referendum, which he supported, could have gotten by with less money and cites as an example of inappropriate spending the recent installation of artificial turf at the football stadium.
“The school system is good, but can be better,” said Vondrasek. He doesn’t think the school system is handling the competition with the Discovery school very well: “We’re laying off people and the Discovery school is building. The administration is holding back growth. These guys don’t know how to compete. Being a coach, I know how to compete.”
John Marshall has previously served on the board, first appointed to complete the term of a member who resigned then subsequently elected to a four-year term. He lost his seat last election to current board member Ralph Ayres.
“I’ve been involved with the school system as a parent, as a coach and as a board member,” said Marshall. During his tenure the board achieved exemplary status by the State School Board Association, in part due to the level of training board members undergo by attending workshops and conferences, according to Marshall. He sees continued board member training as vital to its success.
He sees as critical the need to improve the technology infrastructure of the school system, both hardware and software, to build a solid base for continued student success. Marshall would use his position as school board member to make sure that referendum funds are spent the right way.
Marshall is critical of the current allocation formula the state uses to disburse funds and looks to legislative fixes of the state funding allocation formula. “Underperforming school districts have a genuine need for additional state funding, but don’t take it away from Duneland,” he said.
Jackson Twp. Candidates (Vote for One)
Newcomer Kristin Kroeger was prompted to run for school board against incumbent Nick Jurasevich when she saw how divided the community was over school funds spending. “It served as a wake-up call that the relationship between the school and community needed repair,” she said.
One of her major goals is to help restore trust between the community and school system, which she believes is lost. To regain trust Kroeger believes the board needs to do a better job of communicating with the community and allow the community a better window into the decision making process of the board and administration. She proposes having discussion meetings a week before a vote so allow greater citizen participation.
Kroeger believes that future school financial stability rests with a change in funding mechanism at the state level and sees a need for community/school system partnership to lobby downstate to fix the issue.
Nick Jurasevich has been a school board member for the past 10 years and lists as his major accomplishments his approachability to the community and school system and the academic and extracurricular success the students have achieved.
Jurasevich wants to continue on the board to assure that resources are used in demonstrably effective programs and sees a continuing fiscal challenge facing the school district created by state imposed unfunded mandates.
Jurasevich wants to see continued improvement in student achievement and, because “Effective teachers make effective students,” supports continuing education and professional development programs for teachers.