Five candidates are seeking two at-large positions for Wawasee School Board.
StaceyPageOnline.com asked each of the candidates to provide some basic information about themselves and respond to three questions. All but one candidate, District 2 incumbent George Gilbert, responded. Gilbert said he did not receive the questions in time.
District 1 incumbent Michael “Mike” Wilson of North Webster has been employed at Bart’s Watersports in North Webster since 1988. He previously taught fifth-grade at Wakarusa Elementary School for 12 years. Wilson is a previous board member of the North Webster Chamber of Commerce, North Webster / Tippecanoe Township Library Board, Kosciusko Home Care and Hospice, and United Way of Kosciusko County, and is a current member of the North Webster United Methodist Church.
Wilson graduated from Manchester College with a major in elementary education and received his Master’s of elementary education degree from Indiana University at South Bend. He is married to Judy and they have four children and four granddaughters.
District 1 candidate Brent Robinson graduated from Warsaw Community High School in 1988 and then became a part of his family business, Robinson Construction. He has worked in all areas of construction as a laborer, in sales – bidding large and small projects – and as a job supervisor. He became a member of the board for Robinson Construction in 2002 and has lived in North Webster since 1992. He has been married for 19 years and has three children; one child is at the middle school, one at the high school, and one recently graduated.
District 2 candidate Brandy Maney is the owner of Brandy’s Baby Shop in Syracuse. A high school graduate, she moved to Syracuse from Tennessee and has been active in the community as a substitute teacher for several schools, volunteered for four years in the Headstart program, and coached basketball and cheerleading for four years. Brandy and her husband recently celebrated their 10th anniversary and they have seven children together.
District 3 candidate Heidi Rozow was born and raised in Milford and graduated with honors in 1986 from Wawasee High School. In high school, she participated in student government, music, foreign language club, cheerleading, gymnastics, track and volleyball.
She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Purdue University then worked as both a critical care and emergency nurse at Kosciusko Community Hospital. Rozow and her husband, Steve, moved back to Milford in 1992 and have raised five children in Wawasee school district.
She has served on the boards of the American Red Cross (Kosciusko County), Syracuse Community Nursery School, Milford PTO and Camelot Property Owner’s Association. She has also been actively involved in athletics at both Milford School, Wawasee Middle School and Wawasee High School and coached T-ball and softball at Milford, and volleyball at both middle schools. Rozow has been “Team Mom” for swim, wrestling, girls soccer and boys soccer at Wawasee High School, and is currently assisting the athletic department with coordination of Warrior Care Day – a community service project for all high school athletes. She is a three-year member of the Milford Kiwanis.
Why are you seeking the District 4 WCS board seat and what goals do you have for the corporation if elected?
Wilson: “My belief is that the emphasis on our system of public schools has made America strong and led to our success as a nation. That belief, along with the fact that Wawasee Schools provided a foundation for my own children to move successfully into adult life, encourages me to seek a position on the school board. I am glad to have the opportunity to serve in this small way with hopes that we can continue to provide others with the same chance.
“The main goal of the school board is to see the big picture. To the extent that we can, we need to provide the school corporation with excellent leadership and adequate resources then get out of the way and let the educators run the day to day. We need to watch that the policies we have in place are being followed. That all stakeholders in the corporation; students, staff, parents and the public are pulling in the same direction. I also recognize my responsibility as a board member to be a good steward of the tax dollars we are provided. That to the best of my abilities I should see that that the public’s money is being used in a responsible and effective manner.”
Robinson: “As a father of three children who have been or currently are in the system, I am very aware of current issues and what is happening at the schools. I think this is an important part of being a board member. Through the years it seems there are some issues that never reach the school boards awareness. I have decided to run in hopes of being a connection between the students, teachers and the board. My goal would be, through better communication, to try to negotiate these issues and create a better learning and working environment.”
Maney: “I would like to be on the board because I used to live here when I was little and Wawasee schools were good schools to attend. That is why I moved my family here from Tennessee in hopes that they would get a good education while going to a great school system. That is not the case anymore. I am very disappointed in the school system, but I can not change everything on my own that is why it is called a board. All I can do is offer new options and ideas. No 1 person can make any changes. Lots of people go in thinking it is a one man show and that they will change everything. The truth is nothing can be changed unless we are all in agreement. Which is what I hope to do is convince the rest of the board that it is time to make changes.”
Rozow: “As the parent of two Wawasee graduates and three current Wawasee students, I am closely involved with the school and the staff. As a parent of students across the entire academic spectrum, I understand and have first-hand knowledge of the opportunities and obstacles that are present in our district. I know the needs of the advanced student and have dealt with the challenges of the student with learning disabilities. I am seeking election to the school board because I believe that the District’s movement towards academic excellence needs to be accelerated. I seek greater accountability and transparency from our administration and a heightened sense of urgency with regard to improving our academic standing within the state. I would like to see our students graduating with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the workplace and/or college, but I would desire to see them filled with the HOPE and expectation of success above all.”
Wilson: “Education is an ever evolving venture. Schools cannot remain as they were in the “old days.” We need to be looking to provide students with the skills and foundation that will help them succeed in a future that we can’t even imagine. It is a challenge to keep the best of the old and not buy into every next great thing. We need to seriously evaluate new ideas and select those with a proven record that will best prepare our students for success.
“In my experience as a parent, board member and former teacher I think the single most important factor of a successful school is the staff. With very few exceptions our administrators, teachers and support staff act in a way that demonstrates caring for students. Our Wawasee school employees show the desire to see every student has a positive experience and is provided the opportunity to grow into good citizens prepared for their future. As a board member I want to provide teachers and other staff with ways to increase their effectiveness by communicating goals and expectations then providing the training, mentoring and time for collaboration to help it happen.”
Robinson: “My greatest concern is making sure our students graduate with the tools to be able to be successful and competitive both in the job market and in college. As jobs become more scarce it is important we prepare our students to be one step ahead of others so that they can get the jobs they are looking for. As for the students we send to college, we need to prepare them for the competitive nature they will find in college as well as better educate them on what the current job market is so they can make a better choice when choosing a college major. There are different ways we can achieve this. One would be by offering more dual credit courses. Another source would be to work through the community and set up more job shadowing opportunities for the kids so that they get a feel of different jobs.”
Maney: “The schools are not in control of the students or the whereabouts of the students. I plan on making sure there are plans put in place to make sure the teachers and faculty know where the students are at all times.
“The school have several good things to offer. They just need help to get back on track and start putting the students first instead of the money.”
Rozow: “Our schools are situated in a very stable community with exceptional resources. We have many outstanding and passionate educators on staff, as well as a nicely manageable and consistent student population. In our backyard are multinational companies that are operating state-of-the art research, development, and manufacturing facilities, which can provide first-hand examples to help our students develop a picture of their future. Furthermore, in our community, we have the jobs that the rest of the country so desperately desires, now we need to make sure that our students are equipped to compete for them.
“Currently, our children are not being prepared to compete for the high-quality jobs that are available in our own community. Wawasee’s academic effectiveness is lagging as evidenced by our state ranking compared to the surrounding school systems. The greatest opportunity for accelerating this effectiveness is to partner with these multi-national companies. I would work to build and leverage these partnerships to develop a vision of hope for each and every student in the school system.”
Budgets are obviously a big part of our public education system. Although no one wants to see any areas necessarily cut, what areas do you think should first be looked at for making adjustments and why?
Wilson: “For the past few years our per student funding from the state has not increased and our enrollment has gradually declined. The resulting decrease in revenue has already caused us to enact cost cutting and money saving measures. I thought the process we used to make these decisions was thorough and transparent.
We received lists of ideas from the administration and staff and allowed the opportunity at public board meetings for concerned people to voice their opinions. We then made decisions based on the measures that would continue to allow us to provide the best education for students and have the least possible negative impact on our staff and schools.
If down the road we need to make further cuts, I believe you enter the process gravely and with an open mind. I would not go into the process with specific items to cut but would hope we would approach the situation much like the last time; consider the options, gather input and make the best decisions for our students and community.”
Robinson: “As I have not seen the current budget plan nor the past few years, I do not feel comfortable making any decisions on necessary cuts. However, with my background, I do feel I could be a great benefit with assessing future building projects, current and future service contracts, and maintenance costs.”
Maney: “I will not know anything until I get in there and look over everything.”
Rozow: “I have not had an opportunity to study the budget of our district, so I am not ready at this time to speak of specific budget items in detail. However, I am fiscally responsible and have a working knowledge of budgets and balance sheets. I also am capable of researching items and issues in order to better understand them. I believe I can be a good steward and an asset to our school district with regards to finance.”
General Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. that day. Absentee voting is taking place now.
Those wishing to cast absentee ballots for this year’s election must order a ballot from the Kosciusko County Clerk’s Office no later than Monday, Oct. 29. For more information, call the clerk’s office at 574-267-4444.
Absentee voting is available in the clerk’s office, located on the main floor of the Kosciusko County Justice Building. Hours of voting are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The last day to cast an absentee ballot is noon Monday, Nov. 5.
Saturday voting hours will be 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.