PORTAGE | Three Portage Township residents are vying this fall for the 3rd District seat on the School Board.
The three newcomers are seeking to fill the seat being left by longtime School Board member Glenda Owens, who announced earlier this year that she plans to retire from the board.
Jessica Bailey, the mother of two Portage Township Schools students and an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College, said she chose to run for the board because none of the current board members have children in the district.
Bill Coker, a retired school bus driver, said he wants to serve on the board because he is "dedicated to this township" and wants to make a difference.
Dave Czilli, a Portage police officer for the last 22 years and father of a Portage High School senior, said he decided to run for election because he believes he can offer an unique perspective to the board because of his background in law enforcement.
"It is a way of giving back to the community. I believe in the schools, but the board needs new blood," said Czilli, a 1987 Portage High graduate who also holds a decree in criminal justice from Vincennes University.
Czilli is a founding member of the Police Department's SWAT team and served as vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 145 and as a field training officer.
Czilli said he believes he can lend his expertise to increase safety in the schools.
"I want to make it a safer environment for the students and the faculty," he said.
He also is concerned with the district's expulsion system, which allows students back into classes in the district after serving their expulsion period.
Coker, a 1965 Portage High graduate, served as a township constable from 1971 to 1978 and worked as a Portage school bus driver from 1980 to 1987. Coker then drove Greyhound buses before retiring in 2003 and also drove a school bus for Valparaiso for three years.
"I'm concerned about what they are doing downstate to funding, teachers and grading the schools. They are taking funding away from us and that's hurting kids," said Coker, adding he has a niece and nephew in the school district and wants to make sure they receive the best education possible.
Bailey believes she can offer an unique perspective on the School Board, being a mother of both elementary and middle school children and working with students outside high school.
"I have a lot of skin in the game. I think I can relate," she said.
Bailey said technology is the No. 1 issue.
"The more technology we can get in our students' hands, the better," she said, adding being well-versed in technology is necessary for students to function in the professional world.
Her second issue is the registration process. While she supports the current system, Bailey said improvements are needed to eliminate duplication and speed the process. She also would like to see an online registration system.