SYRACUSE — A total of five candidates are seeking two at-large seats in the Nov. 8 election for the school board of the Wawasee Community School Corp.
District 1 (Tippecanoe Township) incumbent Mike Wilson is being challenged by Gerald (Gary) Coy. District 2 (Turkey Creek Township) incumbent Don Bokhart is being challenged by Michael Lamle and David Rosenberry.
Wilson has served on the school board since 2006. He is the general manager at Barts Water Sports and lives in North Webster. Wilson taught at Wakarusa Elementary School for 12 years and is married to Judy. They are the parents of grown children no longer living at home and are also the guardians of Destiny Howard, a senior at Wawasee High School.
Coy has worked at Ace Pest Control for the past nine years and also has operated a produce stand for the past four seasons. He is married to Stacy and is the father of six children, one a kindergarten student at North Webster Elementary. He has lived in the North Webster area his entire life.
Bokhart was appointed to replace George Gilbert on the board this past summer. He was a school teacher for 40 years at Chamberlain Elementary in Goshen before retiring. He and his wife, Elaine, live in Syracuse and Don is active in the community with Knights of Columbus and St. Martin De Porres Church in Syracuse.
Lamle, of Syracuse, is a graduate of Purdue University and has been a substitute teacher in Wawasee schools. He has also coached basketball and worked with and coached kids through the Lakeland Youth Center. Lamle’s daughter, Hannah-Marie, is a student at Wawasee High School.
Rosenberry lives in Syracuse with his wife Brittany and 3-year-old son. He works for a company in the private sector in the 911 industry and was previously a 911 dispatcher and later 911 communications director for Kosciusko County. He is also a volunteer firefighter for Milford.
Each candidate was asked the same two questions. Their responses are as follows:
1. Please explain why you have chosen to seek a school board seat and what you hope to accomplish if elected.
Wilson: “Generally, I believe much of the success America has realized can be attributed to our focus on public education. Specifically, Wawasee schools prepared my children to succeed in their various efforts. I see service on the school board as an opportunity to give back to this important enterprise and provide these same opportunities to future students. If elected to serve on the board, I do not have a specific agenda. Rather, I will be open to the programs or projects our school staff and patrons see as important. I will listen to various points of view, then work with fellow board members to arrive at a decision that will best serve our children, parents and stakeholders. I will be satisfied if during my time on the school board Wawasee schools continues its current successes and becomes even better.”
Coy: “I feel I need to do my part helping the children of the Wawasee School Corporation. I have an investment of my son, who is a kindergartner at North Webster Elementary School. There is much needed work to be done at the middle schools. I would like to see the standards at Wawasee Middle School achieve the academic standards that Milford Middle School has achieved.”
Bokhart: “I retired from Goshen Community Schools in the spring of 2015 after a 40 year career as a teacher and administrator. I continue to have a passion for education, and when an opening on the school board became available I decided this was a perfect opportunity to give back to the profession for which I still feel a calling. One of the things I would hope to accomplish while serving on the school board is to be an advocate for Wawasee Community School Corporation and for education in general. Being an advocate means taking every opportunity to ‘show off’ the many great things going on in our district with our students and our staff. As an example, the 1 to 1 technology is an unbelievable resource for our students and staff many other school corporations would love to be able to implement. I need to continue to support professional development for our teachers so these devices are utilized to their maximum potential. Our students have grown up with technology and teachers need to be prepared to plan lessons and units involving the use of technology to access information found outside the classroom and textbooks. The Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative is another unbelievable facet of the school corporation I would be an advocate for and continue to seek support. The building trades program is probably the best known of our career programs and is able to turn out career ready graduates, but it needs to have continued support. The recently added welding class is something I am extremely proud of the school corporation for implementing. Students will graduate ready to step into high paying jobs without college debt. Lastly, but most important of all, schools have two priorities. The first and most important is the safety of our students. The second is to educate. Instruction cannot occur if our students do not feel safe. Parents entrust us to educate their children while at the same time keeping them safe during their time at school. All of my decisions as a board member will be guided by those priorities.”
Lamle: “I believe our children are our most important resource and the reason for our existence is to prepare them for the next step in their lives whether that would be college, trade school or entering the work force. I have a strong desire to help and enable our kids to be the best they can be and I want to show our children how education can impact their lives. I have developed a plan I call ‘Academic Olympics’ and when implemented it will motivate our kids and make learning fun, exciting and rewarding for all students.”
Rosenberry: “When I decided to leave the Kosciusko 911 Dispatch Center after spending a little over two decades there, I left knowing I wanted to continue serving my communities. After having a discussion with my wife and some friends, I decided to make a run for the school board. The school has some great programs I want to see continue to succeed, such as the Boomerang Backpacks program and the many vocational programs. How great is it the school, through generous donors, is able to help provide backpacks full of food and nourishment for children in need. The high school has many vocational programs such as building trades, automotive services, marine mechanics, cosmetology, culinary arts and now welding technology are just some of the many options available to help prepare our high school students for a future. Not everyone goes to college and to have these classes available, upon graduation these kids can go out and instantly be a successful and productive member of our community. When I am elected, I will help my fellow board members in doing everything within our means to help ensure all of these programs continue to grow and prevail.”
2. What is something you feel needs to be urgently addressed or improved upon with the Wawasee school district and how would you as a board member address it?
Wilson: “The use of standardized tests and the resulting data presents an interesting dilemma for our school system. Effective tests where the results are timely and can be used to improve and individualize instruction are beneficial and should be embraced. Ineffective tests where the results are delayed and used in ways that have not been shown to benefit students are not helpful. They waste instructional time and put undue stress on students and staff. This is an issue largely controlled by the state and full of political influence. But as a school board we should voice our concern to the governor, state legislature and agencies that control this matter. Locally, I will work to limit the negative impact of the current testing program; especially the stress for students and staff. At the same I will encourage the use of appropriate tests that provide timely results that can be used to improve instruction.”
Coy: “It is my understanding the school corporation is wanting to close Milford Middle School. I feel, with the information I have, this would hurt our children of both middle schools. I am concerned about overcrowding, increased student to teacher ratios and transportation (children having longer commute times).”
Bokhart: “The most urgent need I see for Wawasee Community School Corporation for the foreseeable future is the ability to hire and then to keep the best and brightest teachers. There is no doubt the state of Indiana is facing a teacher shortage. Not only are people not entering the field of education at the same rate as in years past, but they are leaving the teaching profession at a faster rate than ever before seeking higher wages and benefits. One way to combat this is by working with the WCEA to ensure we can reward our teachers with a fair wage as teachers are taxed with the job of instructing our most precious commodity. As a board we recently approved another contract and agreement that gave our teachers and support staff a raise for the second consecutive year. This was accomplished while keeping our tax rate level, which is also an important and continued need. While wages are important, our teachers are professionals who realize tools of the trade are also important. We need to continue to provide teachers with state of the art supplies such as the 1 to 1 technology. Students learn in so many varied ways having current technology in their hands is essential. Teachers will need professional development to utilize this technology to its utmost potential. As a board we need to continue to provide funding for professional development. Our school corporation will need to be aggressive in recruitment of new teachers at college job fairs and our community and school system will need to be promoted as we recruit new teachers.”
Lamle: “It saddens me to think this could be an issue at Wawasee schools, but through the course of this campaign I’ve been advised by several parents bullying is an issue and has not been effectively addressed. To address this issue I will put together a problem solving team and they will conduct the following: Fact finding with parents and the school community. If it is found to be an issue the team will first contact several other area schools for information on how they handle this issue; gather all published information on this subject from the school systems and others; hold a brainstorming session and decide on the top four solutions; present the four solutions to the school board for the selection of one to incorporate. After a period of time another fact finding meeting will take place to determine the effectiveness of the solution. The people and parents of this school community deserve to have their voices heard and as necessary I will create a forum for the discussion of issues and concerns. Action items from these discussions will be addressed.”
Rosenberry: “I really don’t feel like I am running with any type of urgent agenda. I feel there is always room for improvement, and when I am elected, I will do my very best to listen and direct to proper channels; and make the best decisions possible with children and the taxpayers of the Wawasee school corporation in mind. That said, I feel the safety and education of our students will be my top priority with a balanced budget and concerns from all of our stakeholders closely following.”