VALPARAISO | The bipartisan Valparaiso Community Schools Board could become tripartisan with the appointment of the next person, which the Valparaiso City Council is expected to do at its June 25 meeting.
The five finalists — Paul Knauff, Pam Hood, Kevin Hagen, John Novak and incumbent Brigid McLinn — were interviewed by the City Council on Monday night.
A second interview session will be held at 4:30 p.m. June 25 at City Hall, during which the candidates will be asked questions submitted by the public.
The public must submit questions prior to the meeting to any City Council member, at City Hall or to City Attorney David Hollenbeck.
State law requires that no more than a majority of the board can be of any one party. The board has Republicans and Democrats now, but Novak told the council his political affiliation was the Modern Whig party, which he described as more moderate.
Novak said he moved with his young family to Valparaiso because of the good school system, and he wants to make sure it remains strong. His recent arrival means he will have a steep learning curve about the district and the issues.
Novak said the district is going through a lot of transition with vacancies in three top positions, and a lot of the work will be making sure the right positions are funded to move the district forward.
Knauff, the retired principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, told the council his youngest daughter is a teacher in the school system and, if that is considered to be a conflict of interest, he will withdraw his candidacy. Being retired, he has the time and commitment to serve on the board, he said.
"I hope that with my background and education that I would be listened to," Knauff said.
Hood is with the Porter County Education Services.
"Education is what I know, and it's a good place for me to serve the community," Hood said. "I'm pretty level-headed and can see others' viewpoints from many angles and bring everybody together in compromise."
She suggested corporate sponsorships as one way to get additional funding for school programs.
McLinn, seeking her second four-year term, said she has 28 years of experience in the public schools.
"They've taken a beating, and I want my schools back," she said. "We need to heal, and the only way is to get stability back. My job is to give the teachers what they need to do their job."
Hagen called serving on the board a civic duty of everyone, and he said he's been involved with the schools since his son entered school 18 years ago.
"With the tension I've seen in the last year, I see an opportunity to help," he said.
Four members of the five-member board are appointed by the City Council. The fifth member is appointed by the Center Township board.