CEDAR LAKE | Two incumbents are hoping to retain their seats against newcomers on the Hanover Community Schools board, while two others vie for a third board vacancy.
Mary Joan Dickson's life has revolved around youngsters through more than 34 years as a volunteer, onetime teacher and coach in the school system as well as working as Cedar Lake's parks director.
"I have a passion for our community school," she said and believes her experience and energy are an asset to the board.
Aware of the need to be fiscally responsible in a challenging economy, she said, "We must always be mindful of the taxpayers..."
John Kowalczyk Jr. is pastor of St. Michael the Archangel National Catholic Church and faces Dickson in the race for the at-large seat.
He said it's his way of "doing my part" to help the school system that welcomed his family's arrival six years ago and benefited his children.
"It's important to give back," he said. He would bring a "reasonable mind" and an ability to work well with others to the board as well as thriftiness and an organized style, he said.
Bryon Goff no longer wants voters to consider him for the at-large seat.
In a statement to The Times, he said, "Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be seeking a position on the Hanover Community School Board at this time."
Although his name will be on the ballot, he urges support for Kowalczyk.
District 2 incumbent Pat Kocot is proud of the comeback the school corporation has made in the past four years after facing state-imposed financial restraints.
"We were able to hire a new superintendent who got us grants. ... Through stinting and saving you can see the results," she said.
She said an upgraded curriculum, changes in administration and a new middle school have earned kudos from the state and community.
She credits the board members with which she has served for their focus. She also served on the board from 1984 to 2000.
Kocot's opponent is Mary Kay Burkel, retired after 40 years in education, 11 at Hanover. She said a parent asked her to run and the timing was right.
"My son is grown. I'm divorced. I have no political agenda. I'm not for or against any issues. ... I'm able to devote the time now," she said. "I would be a reflective listener. I feel my strength is my ability to listen," she said.
Stephen Styx and Dennis Wilkening are going for the District 1 seat currently held by Hanover School Board President Dana Griner, who is not seeking re-election.
Styx said, "Basically, I would bring a fresh perspective to the board."
He said he offers common sense, professionalism and a sense for fiscal responsibility as well as years of management experience.
Two of his children graduated from Hanover, while the third is in the Hanover system. Ready to serve his community, he said, "It would be a learning experience for me."
His opponent, Dennis Wilkening, served 20 years as Cedar Lake fire chief and has 40 years with the Fire Department. He is a former Cedar Lake town councilman and currently sits on the Cedar Lake Plan Commission.
He is running "because there is too much micromanaging by some board members. ... I'd like to see administrators administrate and teachers teach without micromanagement by a few," he said.
He also said he wants to open board meetings up to public comment.
"Parents, even kids, don't get to express themselves. I want to change that," he said. He commended the administration for returning the school system's finances to "the black."