VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso Community Schools district used to be the New York Yankees of the education world, and it needs a School Board appointee that can return the district to that level of excellence.
That was the message from about a dozen people who spoke during Monday's Valparaiso City Council meeting on what they would like to see in the next council appointee to the five-member board.
The City Council, which appoints four of the members, will make its choice on the position held by *Jim Jorgensen at its June 24 meeting. The Center Township Board will make its one appointed in June, too.
Most of those who spoke Monday were teachers, including teacher's union President Juanagene Nietert and the past President Charles Foster. Nietert said the biggest problem is the cuts in school funding by the state and the board needs someone willing to talk to legislators to restore it. She also said the board needs a better blend of professions.
Foster said the board needs to treat teachers as professionals, as was once the case, and respect their opinions.
"We know what we need, but when they seek our opinion and get it, they ignore it," Foster said. "We need to be able to communicate with a board that is supportive and treats us like professionals. I don't think that is the case now, and, until they do, that's what we are looking for (in the next appointee)."
Landon Davison, president of the high school Student Education Association, said the board also needs to listen to the students.
Although he's attended almost every board meeting, Davison said, "I've never been contacted about the students' perspective. The students are not seen as a real valuable resource in the community."
But it was Steve Cronk, a retired principal, who seemed to sum up what many of the teachers were thinking.
"When I came here, I felt like I joined the Yankees," Cronk said. "Being and working in Valparaiso was special. Everything was open and very public, and it was good. There's a question about whether we're the Yankees now. I want us to be the school where we were the people everyone looked up to."
Others spoke of the need for a facilities plan like Valparaiso University's that looks 20 years into the future. Instead, a kindergarten teacher said she holds class on the floor in the hall. Another teacher said he has no time to "be the Yankees," and the board should not repeat the process used to select the last superintendent.
Robert Cotton said the board needs someone from the grass roots level of the community instead of all lawyers and corporate executives, and Richard Wheeler said the current problems in the school will require someone who is a Superman with an Einstein I.Q.
Applications for the position are due at City Hall by noon May 31. The council will meet in closed session to select up to five candidates to be interviewed at a public session June 10. The candidates will answer questions from the public prior to the vote June 24.
* Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version.
A story that appeared Wednesday in some editions of The Times incorrectly stated whose term on the Valparaiso School Board is expiring in July. The story should have said Jim Jorgensen's term is expiring.
The Times regrets the error.