CHESTERSTON | In the Duneland School Board race, four candidates are vying for one at-large seat and two are seeking the Jackson Township position.
In the at-large race, William Barkow, Dane Lafata, John Marshall and Daniel Vondrasek are competing.
Barkow, who worked at Bethlehem Steel for 32 years, said his background in budgeting and grievance procedure would serve him well as the Duneland Community School Corp. continues to deal with state mandates.
“I have a background in finance that I can bring to the School Board, and some of our major problems will be in this funding area," he said. "As soon as someone else is controlling the money, you need to have a voice. I would like to see what impact we can have on the state’s funding formulas."
Barkow and his wife raised their children in the Duneland district, and Barkow got involved in various committees and activities to help his kids and community, he said.
Lafata is a third-generation graduate from Chesterton High School. He is owner of Lafata Tax Service in Valparaiso and works as a computer programmer in the off-season. He attended Wabash College and is married with two daughters, a second-grader at Bailey Elementary School and an 18-month-old.
“I want to make the School Board open and approachable," Lafata said. "I want to get the School Board meetings online so busy parents and teachers can go online and see the meetings and see what they’re doing.”
Marshall has lived in Chesterton for 25 years with wife Janet and three children, who all attended Duneland schools. Marshall previously served six years on the School Board, is president of 1st American Management, is a member of Duneland Education Foundation, sits on the executive board of Duneland/Chesterton Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Chesterton/Porter Rotary Club.
“I love being on the School Board. I felt when I was defeated in the last election I had unfinished work to do, and I enjoy participating in the visionary process that forms school policy," he said. "I work with children by hiring high school students at my business, I’m a track coach at the high school, and I enjoy being part of the education process."
Vondrasek worked as a diving coach for 38 years at Chesterton High School and in Japan and Texas. He is an Air Force veteran and has worked as a security police officer and as a law enforcement officer in Gary and San Antonio. He has owned his own maintenance businesses in San Antonio and Porter County. He is a father of four with seven grandchildren.
“I want to get back to the Indiana Constitution on funding common schools. I want our representatives downstate to put money back into the school system instead of giving it to the upper classes. I would like to start more clubs in high school and junior high, especially science clubs," Vondrasek said.
"The board seems to hide things, and I don’t like that. If I go to the website, you should be able to find the budget. The superintendent shouldn’t sit up there and run the meeting. That’s cronyism," Vondrasek said.
"I challenge all other School Board members to drop their pay and drop their insurance. I won’t accept it. I’d rather that money went to a program for the school or a bonus for teachers,” Vondrasek said.
In the Jackson Township race, incumbent Nick Jurasevich faces Kristin Kroeger, a business professional in the financial services industry for 19 years.
Jurasevich has served on the Duneland School Board for 10 years. He has been married to wife Sharon for 42 years and has two adult sons, the youngest a product of Duneland schools. He received a business administration degree from Indiana University and worked in management for a large worldwide automotive supplier for 38 years in finance, logistics and customer service. He currently works as a consultant in the industry and has served as a permanent deacon at St. Patrick’s Church for 15 years.
“I’m seeking re-election to continue to serve my community and the students. I want to continue to have a positive influence on the education of the students of Duneland," he said. "I bring to the table educational beliefs and energetic commitments that are desperately needed. I bring honesty, leadership, integrity, approachability and experience, which the position strongly demands.
"I have a high expectation for student achievement. I believe in quality instruction and clear goals toward that vision. I support educational resource initiatives and programs that contribute to student achievement,” Jurasevich said.
Kroeger owns a management consulting business and has worked in transformational change management, business policy and process reviewing, and improvement. She has lived in Duneland for 16 years and has two children, a fourth-grader and fifth-grader. She has been a part of the Duneland Education Foundation and volunteered for the Chesterton Hometown Improvement Project.
“I was involved with the group of community members that was working to get the referendum passed in May, and through my work I was really surprised at how split the community was," Kroeger said. "I think it was a result of the way the board relates to the community. There seems to be a lack of confidence and trust in the current board and administration, and I feel I can help that since that’s what I do for a living.
"We need to put together a community action council with board involvement and work with our representatives downstate to repair the disparities in the school funding formula, and that will take time," Kroeger said. "We also need to look at our budget and business process to get things done in a new way with community partnerships and other ways to get costs out of the school system and into the community.”