MUNSTER | Three incumbents face three newcomers in the race for three at-large seats on the Munster School Board.
Incumbents agree the lack of state funding is at the top of their list of priorities.
“It’s the top issue today, especially for Munster,” said incumbent Judith Florczak, 70, who is completing her fourth four-year term. “It gives us a big challenge in how to use those funds to keep the programs we have and continue to improve.”
Florczak said her record speaks for itself.
“We’ve had mandates from the state and changes we’ve had to deal with, and my experience will be very important with the challenges we have before us," she said. "People see I’ve always put children first, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Incumbent John Friend, 77, has been on the board for 12 years and is running for his fourth four-year term.
“Even though we are high-performing, we’re funded at about $2,000 less per student than other areas,” he said. “We need to interact with legislature. We have an excellent teaching staff and hope to pay them as best we can and keep them functioning at a high level.”
Incumbent Paula Nellans, 59, has been on the School Board a total of 18 years and also agrees that money is the top issue.
“I absolutely love this job,” she said.
“Because I am involved, I can link the schools to the community. It’s making sure everybody is working together. I have the opportunity to keep our educational excellence going. We seem to be on the cutting edge of opportunities for our kids.”
Newcomers are concerned about trust and financial responsibility.
“I’d like the public to know more of what’s going on,” said Sheryl Georgas, 47, a Munster resident for 10 years.
“Transparency is needed to ensure more effective communication and promote better involvement throughout the district,” she said. “And I’d like to see scores improve and see us in the top 10 percent every year.
“I want the board to stay current and accountable. When I talk to people, I’m hearing they don’t trust some of the decisions they are making.”
Newcomer Joe Uzubell, 40, has lived in Munster for 32 years and has three children who now attend parochial school. He is also hoping to open the lines of communication and restore the quality of education, which he said has eroded.
He said the district does not have a long-range plan.
“It doesn’t seem like education is the main focus,” he said. “They have been focusing on construction. Now there are activities that are on the verge of being canceled.
“They knew the legislative impacts and didn’t think through the ramifications. They wanted to hurry up and do things before the state took over the funding of the schools.”
Newcomer Kevin Cappo, 52, has lived in Munster 11 years and said the board has made a series of financial missteps. He cited the lease-purchase of laptop computers.
“They did not live up to their fiduciary duties or follow their own bylaws,” he said. “Computers should complement books, not replace them.”
Cappo also criticized administrators who collected both a salary and pension and is concerned about future program cuts.
“Look at administrative staff and don’t start with the teacher, because they produce,” he said. “The board doesn’t show good judgment and makes bad decisions."