SYRACUSE — Four of the five Wawasee school board candidates for two at-large seats were present at a forum Thursday evening, Oct. 27, in the lecture room at Wawasee Middle School. Candidate Gary Coy was not present.
After introducing themselves each of the four candidates answered 10 questions posed by Mike Malcolm, a biology teacher at Wawasee High School. The forum was sponsored by the Wawasee Community Educators Association.
The 10 questions included what the candidates feel are the best opportunities and challenges in the school district, how they would assess the effectiveness of district goals, if the candidates had any specific changes they want to see made and why, what the biggest capital needs are in the district, how they would address a lack of state funding, how teacher performance needs to be measured and the challenges, what the candidates would do if approached by a parent with a problem and others.
All four candidates present — Mike Wilson, Don Bokhart, David Rosenberry and Michael Lamle — did agree on a few of the issues. All agreed the current ISTEP+ standardized test is not working effectively and test scores should not be used or at least minimized when evaluating teacher performance.
The four are favorably impressed with the numerous vocational options available through the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative and they would like to see continued support of the cooperative.
Rosenberry said the lack of parental backing with some students and funding are challenges. “Funding is an issue no matter where you go,” he said. Bokhart said the 1:1 computer technology is an opportunity that needs to be “harnessed and maximized,” while a challenge is working within the confines of standardized testing.
Lamle also said a lack of parental involvement is a challenge and there is a perceived lack of communication, but he feels the channels of communication need to be publicized more. He had earlier said bullying was a problem not being effectively addressed, but at Thursday’s forum he said he has since learned there are measures in place to address it. Wilson said challenges are more state funding going to vouchers for private schools and also a teacher shortage statewide.
Wilson said “it can be dangerous” for board members to have specific goals or wants. “We need the whole community to be involved and to get a consensus,” he said. Rosenberry said he has no urgent agenda but wants to see current programs continue to succeed. Bokhart said as the newest board member he wants to listen and learn, but does want to promote professional staff development and for professional “learning communities.” Teachers just don’t have time to plan their lessons alone anymore, he added.
Lamle said parents need to know their voices can be heard and he wants to see academic achievements of students promoted more and those achievements published more often in news media outlets.
Concerning a lack of funding, Bokhart said if a bond issue or referendum is used, they need to be planned well in advance and then effectively communicated to the public to gather input. Lamle said creativity and brainstorming as a team are needed to come up with fundraising ideas.
Wilson said going to the polls and voting for state legislators who will support increased public school funding is a way to address a lack of funding. Also, grants and donations need to continually be encouraged. Rosenberry said “we need to talk to the community and tell them the needs” and then get them to buy in to those needs.
The forum lasted for about one hour and 45 minutes.