The Lakeland School Board has three seats open, two of which are contested by a total of six candidates this year.
Bob Murphy is the lone candidate for District 3.
District 4 sees incumbent Chad Olinger being challenged by three candidates: Jaima Aldrich, Sue Keenan and Susan McClish.
The District 5 incumbent is being challenged by Dean Domer.
The LaGrange Standard-News sent questionnaires to the candidates in the contested races, with their answers below. Answers were not received from Jaima Aldrich, District 4, and Dean Domer, District 5.
1. Describe your personal background. My name is Chad Olinger and I was born in LaGrange and have lived in the community for the vast majority of my life. I am married to Erin Olinger and we have two children, Carlynn and Brooklynn, who both attend Parkside Elementary School. Both of my parents also graduated from Lakeland High School and have always resided in the Lakeland School District. I am a member of the Sons of the American Legion in LaGrange and I am active on the West End Soccer Board as well as a member of the First Church of God in LaGrange.
2. Professional background: I graduated from Lakeland High School in 1995. I attended Ancilla College for two years and graduated with an Associate’s degree. From there, I moved on to Ball State for two years to finish with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1999. I am currently employed as the director of Customer Relations by DRV and Cruiser RV in Howe.
3. Why are you seeking this office? I am running for the position that I currently hold as a school board member for Lakeland School District. I believe that community service is a very important role as an adult in the community. Remaining on the school board will allow me to continue the service that I have committed to for the last four years and will allow me to help make good decisions for all children attending school in the district.
4. How do you feel recent changes in education have changed the school?The changes that we have experienced as a school district have affected every aspect of the district. Teachers are changing the way they teach. Administrators are changing the way they lead. Students are changing the way they learn. Financial officers are changing the way they budget. All change is uncomfortable for those directly affected by it and this situation that we have been experiencing is no different. Many of the changes are uncomfortable, even if they are necessary. All of the change that has been handed down from the state has been pretty rapid, so the result of the changes is still largely undetermined. Due to the uncomfortable nature of the change, we need to remain focused on what we can do to make the changes work for us rather than focus on what the change did to us.
5. How well does the school district balance education for students who will go on to college and those that will want to find employment in technical fields or area manufacturing? I believe that Lakeland schools offer many options for our students to prepare and succeed in many avenues after high school. Amongst other programs, we currently offer many programs that allow students to get college credit during high school. We also offer many AP courses that will better prepare students for college, if they choose.
We are also partnered with programs that help our students gain career preparation in many fields through the Elkhart Career Center as well as offering programs such as building trades and ROTC.
In all reality, Lakeland has taken many steps in the last few years to try and give our students an advantage over other area students coming out of high school, whether for college or an immediate career in a field of their choosing.
6. What changes would you support in the district?I will support any change in the district that is proposed, if that change meets two criteria.
The first criterion is that the change must be beneficial for ALL students, or give ALL students an opportunity for better education.
The second criterion is the program/change must be financially sustainable for the long term. We cannot put money into programs unless we can sustain the expense and the upkeep of the program, whatever it may be, for many years to come. Education had remained unchanged for many years until recently and I believe that some changes need to be made. I do not agree with all of the decisions that are being made at the state level, but I do believe that change needs to continue despite the uncomfortable nature of change.
7. If school budgets are drastically cut again, as they were a few years ago, what do you think is important to keep and will you be willing to see cut? This is a tough question that I am not sure I can answer specifically. I really feel like the three main factors in decisions such as this would be program participation, educational value, and financial sustainability. If we are in a position similar to the last budget cuts, we will be forced to make difficult decisions. With that being said, Lakeland School District is very proactive on this subject and has done a good job in the past of being a solvent school district and we have made good decisions financially in the past to prepare ourselves if this event should occur again.
1. Describe your personal background. I was born in Sturgis and raised in LaGrange. I graduated from Lakeland in 1967. My mother and late father lived in LaGrange. My grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles resided in LaGrange. I have a brother and family in Lafayette. I am not married, and have no children. I do have three schnauzers - two minis and one giant.
I am a member of the American Red Cross Advisory Board and Ark Board of Directors. I serve as a member of the LaGrange Community Foundation Board and am also a former member of the I.H.S.A.A. Board of Directors.
2. Professional background. 1967 graduate of Lakeland High School and 1969 Associate’s in Health and Physical Education and Speech from Glen Oaks Community College, 1972 Bachelors in Health and Physical Education and Speech graduate from Huntington College, 1976 Masters in Education graduate from Indiana University.
I worked for the Lakeland School Corporation from 1985 until my retirement this year. Was Associate Profession of Health and Physical Education at Trine University from 1976-1985. Was a Physical Education teacher at New Prairie United School Corporation from 1972-1976.
3. Why are you seeking this office?I do not think the current board has done a poor job. I am seeking this office because I believe an educator needs to be on the board. Someone who has been in the trenches for 40 years sees things differently, not necessarily wrong or better but differently than a business or lay person. With so many new and different demands placed on the individual teacher in education today, I want to see us try and make the job of the teacher less stressful and more productive in the classroom.
4. How do you feel recent changes in education have changed the school? As I stated earlier, the demands today placed on the teacher are overwhelming. There are so many different pressures today, success of every individual student, in addition to all the new requirements the state has placed on public educators. A great deal of the pressure is on the teacher to make sure the student is successful. The school is an extension of the home. The school should not take the place of the home and what is taught there. However, having said that students today spend as much if not more time in school that they do at home. As educators try and meet demands today that were historically met in the home, they are behind before they even begin. It is very difficult to teach when students come to school unmotivated, hungry, angry, tired, dirty, sometimes unloved, and some very little if any contact with the parents for days. This is an insurmountable task, meeting these basic demands in addition to making sure kids learn and are successful. A teacher’s profession today is a very difficult and demanding role.
5. How well does the school district balance education for students who will go on to college and those that will want to find employment in technical fields or area manufacturing? The largest task facing us now is not so much getting students to further their education, but keeping them enrolled and graduating with a degree. Personally I think there is too much pressure to attend a four-year university or college. We have students who could and do excel in areas that do not require a four-year degree. A four-year degree is not proof of a successful career. We need to help students see the importance of a good extended education and find those areas of interest to them and then help get them involved in work study programs or internship.
6. What changes would you support in the district? I do not support extended administrative contracts. I believe all students should be supervised in all situations. I do not think Project Based Learning is good for all students. When we had the Mastery Program, I said the same thing. To make a blanket statement that program “A” is good for all is like making a statement that all should eat spinach. We learned a long time ago in education that research shows no program is good for all, that not everyone learns the same way at the same time.
I also would like to see all coaches within our system. This is not to say lay coaches are bad or do a poor job but it is to say those teachers who are also coaching see the athletes in a different setting on a daily basis. Having been the girls athletic director for 10 years I know this task is almost impossible. It is something however I feel is better for the student-athlete.
7. If school budgets are drastically cut again, as they were a few years ago, what do you think is important to keep and will you be willing to see cut? This is a very hard question. All programs help students. There is not a program we have in the Lakeland Corporation that does not help someone. Having said that, if the budget were cut as it once was, all programs would have to be evaluated. Unfortunately some areas would probably have to be lost – those programs lost I hope would not only be evaluated on number of students but on the total assets the program offers the students.
1. Describe your personal background. My name is Susan McClish and I am running for Lakeland School Board. I have been married to Mark McClish for 21 years and we have a daughter, Emily, who just started 6th grade at Lakeland Middle School. I was born and raised in LaGrange. My husband and I both attended Parkside, Lakeland Middle School, and graduated from Lakeland High School.
We are both involved with the LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department, where I am on the auxiliary and my husband has served as fire chief. My husband and I are member of the Sturgis Weslyan Church in Sturgis, Mich. I also served as assistant girls basketball coach under Coach Gary Myers in 2008-2009.
2. Professional background. After attending Ball State University, I came back to LaGrange to LaGrange to work for the USDA/Farm Service Agency. I have worked for the agency for 26 years as a Program Tech and Acting County Executive Director. I implement government programs for the local farm community, where I am responsible for low interest rate loans, Conservation Reserve Program, and the GIS system among other programs which we provide.
3. Why are you seeking this office? The reason I am seeking the office of Lakeland School Board is so that I can be more involved in the local education of our children. I remember a time when Lakeland was the school to compete with, whether it was academics or sports. In my conversations with parents, many of them think and say negative things about the system. I hope to be a part of changing that negativity. I want the kids, teachers, bus drivers and community to be proud of Lakeland and what it does for the future of our children.
4. How do you feel recent changes in education have changed the school? Let’s just get straight to the elephant in the room – New Tech. I have to admit that I am not as abreast of this program as I could be. I do know that this is the most asked question I get and parents are not afraid to let me know that they don’t like it. I don’t think the whole concept of New Tech is such a bad thing. I do, however, feel that parents should have been better educated and teachers and students more involved in the determining factor.
If I am elected to the board, that would be the first thing I would educate myself on – are we stuck with it and if we are, how do we make it better for our children, teachers, and everyone else involved. I would make sure that there is better communication between the corporation and the parents, students and teachers.
5. How well does the school district balance education for students who will go on to college and those that will want to find employment in technical fields or area manufacturing? I have talked with many parents and community leaders and the message I get is that Lakeland is doing a good job of getting our kids ready for their future. I hear that many of the students already have college credits when they leave Lakeland and the internship program is a great thing for the kids to help them find what interests them. I talked to a teacher recently and he suggested offering some classes that would help the juniors and seniors be more prepared for the SAT and other tests of that nature. I think that would be a great idea.
6. What changes would you support in the district? I would be open to any changes in our school system that would be cost effective and, of course, they must be positive for our students. I want any change that will improve the quality of education that we provide for our students and to make their time at Lakeland something they will find rewarding for the rest of their lives.
7. If school budgets are drastically cut again, as they were a few years ago, what do you think is important to keep and will you be willing to see cut? Let me just say that working for the Federal Government for the past 26 years, I have seen political changes come and go, different parties, different beliefs. Myself, I believe that the state setting rules and making the budget demands on school corporations is wrong. I can’t really change that. But I believe in local control and what local parents and taxpayers want from their school corporation.
The teachers and transportation have been hit hard the last few years with heavy budget cuts. I feel a longer look at upper management is what we need at this point. Evaluate the need for some of these positions and the pay they receive. I feel that we need excellent teachers and to get that, we need to provide a competitive wage.
1. Describe your personal background. I’m a seventh generation LaGrange County farmer and live on the family homestead that has been in the McKibben family since 1850. I’m married to Kim, who is a 4th grade teacher for the East Noble School Corporation. We have three children. Scott and Lauren are attending Purdue University and Nicole is a sophomore at Lakeland High School.
2. Professional background. I have farmed since graduating from Purdue University in 1984. I did substitute teaching for Lakeland and East Noble school corporations from 1989-1994. I am currently serving on the Lakeland School Corporation Board.
I’m currently a member of the local Farm Credit Services Advisory Board. I was supervisor for the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation District for 12 years, and past state president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. I am also a former committee member for the LaGrange County Farm Service Agency.
3. Why are you seeking this office? I am seeking this office because I enjoy being active and serving in the community. I feel it is important for parents to be involved in their children’s education and this is one way that I can support the education of not only my children, but the children in our community as well.
4. How do you feel recent changes in education have changed the school? The changes in education have made the schools leaner in terms of fewer teachers and support staff in the classrooms. The changes at the state and federal levels have and will continue to hold teachers and administrators more accountable for student achievement.
Due to the amount of testing and assessing of students, teachers are continually analyzing data to try and meet the needs of their students. The pressure on teachers to produce significant growth in all students is enormous. I understand the frustration that teachers feel as they try to meet the new expectations being placed on them while trying to find the time to plan and teach meaningful lessons in their classrooms.
5. How well does the school district balance education for students who will go on to college and those that will want to find employment in technical fields or area manufacturing? Lakelanddoes a good job of preparing students for college by offering a variety of college credit and/or AP courses. These courses are a great way to earn college credits at a reduced cost before even stepping foot on campus.
Lakelandalso participates in the Four County Vocational Program, which enables students to get hands-on experience in fields of their interest. Students also have the opportunity to shadow various occupations out in the community, so that they can get a better understanding of what that career entails.
Lakeland’s approach of using problem-based learning at the high school also prepares all students for whichever path they choose after graduating from high school. With problem-based learning, the students are involved in figuring out everyday problems by using life skills in conjunction with lectures and theory.
6. What changes would you support in the district? I would be in favor of having more support staff in the elementary grades. The elementary years are very critical with building the academic foundations that students will need as they progress through school. It is important for students to have a positive learning experience from the very beginning. The more we can get kids to want to learn and achieve in the elementary grades, the more it will pay off in the long run.
7. If school budgets are drastically cut again, as they were a few years ago, what do you think is important to keep and will you be willing to see cut? If school budgets are drastically cut again, I would look at cutting extra programs that are not directly associated with promoting student growth in the areas assessed by the state. Unfortunately, any big cut now would hurt student achievement and not be in the best interest of students.