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State Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, is putting on a series of “State of our Local Schools” forums in the Tri-Town and Griffith communities to address changes in public education.

Joined by school superintendents Larry Veracco, of the Lake Central School Corp., and Michele Riise, of Griffith Public Schools, Chyung has already met in two town hall sessions discussing state legislators’ influence on public school funding and the results of the state’s new ILEARN exam, in which more than half of Indiana students tested below proficiency.

In his first forum on Sept. 20, Veracco said he explained the use of referendum funds in Lake Central schools.

Since passing its May 2018 referendum, Lake Central has been able to support the placement of five school officers and a dozen additional counseling positions among its 10 buildings, Veracco said, with an increased emphasis on personal support for students.

The district also is looking to offer its teachers a raise this October, the superintendent said.

“Anytime you tell your public, yes, we taxed you more — we didn’t do it just to give ourselves a raise, we’re doing it to give our kids services to do well in life after high school,” Veracco said.

In Griffith on Sept. 19, Riise said she and Chyung addressed the state’s recent changes in standardized testing, the data such exams provide schools and how unexpected material proctored in the new ILEARN exam is expected to affect students and teachers.

“I don’t think it truly measured what it intended to measure and no one was prepared for that,” Riise said. “It didn’t adequately provide schools with the information they needed.”

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The forums come as Chyung returns from a bipartisan educational tour of the Republic of Korea.

Chyung — along with House Education Committee Chair Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis — was in Korea from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27, returning in time for his next forum with Lake Central Superintendent Larry Veracco on Oct. 1.

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Chyung said he had been in contact with Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick throughout planning stages of the trip and hopes to learn about STEM and language learning opportunities, as well as ways to inform policy initiatives addressing teacher pay and strengthening public education.

The trip was funded by the Office of the Consulate General of Korea in Chicago at no expense to taxpayers.

Turnout to the State of Our Local Schools forums so far has been small, bringing about a dozen parents and community members to each meeting.

In upcoming forums, both Lake Central and Griffith superintendents say they encourage the community to come forward with their own questions and interests.

“I want to hear about where they think we need to do more,” Veracco said.

Chyung and Veracco will meet next at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Oct. 10 at the Dyer-Shererville Library. Chyung and Riise will meet at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Griffith Library. All meetings are open to the public.

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.