Two school board districts to decide between incumbent, challenger

School board candidates appearing on the ballot on Nov. 6 are (from left) Scott Hoffman, Thomas Duncan, Sarah Kyle, Rex Baxter and Ryan Wall.
School board candidates appearing on the ballot on Nov. 6 are (from left) Scott Hoffman, Thomas Duncan, Sarah Kyle, Rex Baxter and Ryan Wall.

Voters living in two districts of the Huntington County Community School Corporation's board of trustees will be asked to decide on Nov. 6 whether to return the incumbent to office or seat the challenger.

In the school board's first district, incumbent Scott Hoffman and challenger Thomas Duncan are both seeking to represent Union and Jackson townships.

Incumbent Rex Baxter faces a challenge by Ryan Wall in the school board's seventh district, located on the southeast corner of Huntington.

The school board's fourth district and sixth district seats are also up for election this year. However, there is no candidate in the fourth district and only one candidate, Sarah Kyle, in the sixth district.

Although the school board election is being held at the same time as the general election, the school board election is non-partisan - meaning that the candidates do not run as members of any political party.

Each school board representative is elected only by the voters in that district.

School board members serve four-year terms. Those elected this fall will begin their terms on Jan. 1.

Here's a look at the school board candidates on the ballot:

District 1
Current school board member Scott Hoffman faces a challenge from Thomas "Thom" Duncan for this seat.

The first school board district covers all of Union Township and all of Jackson Township. Only voters in those two townships will have this race on their ballots.
Hoffman, 55, lives at 2625E-750N, Huntington. He is employed by North Central Co-op as an LP gas and petroleum sales representative.

Hoffman graduated from Huntington North High School in 1975 and from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, in 1978. He has been active as a baseball and basketball coach with Roanoke Youth Sports, Roanoke Elementary School, Bippus Baseball, PAL, Kim League, Salvation Army and Huntington County Baseball.

Duncan, 36, lives at 365 Hillside Ave., Roanoke. He is president of Avalon Insurance & Financial Services LLC and formerly taught at Huntignton North High School.
Duncan holds a master's degree in educational administration and a bachelor's degree in secondary education (social studies) from Ball State University and an associate's degree in environmental and hazardous materials management from the University of Findlay. He attends Emmanuel Community Church and is a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Chamber of Commerce and Indiana State Teachers Association.

Each candidate was asked to answer three questions. Here are those answers:

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

Hoffman: Because I care about the greatest asset of our community - our kids.

A great education can mean a big difference when you're talking about being successful in life, not just monetarily, but also in being a good human being, a productive individual, a positive role model and, for those who choose to be, a great parent.

It all starts with a good foundation from the parents and family first; then the schools and community need to nurture the student to be successful.

I have dedicated years of my life to the development of kids in the community and I am excited about the future of our youth and the schools in this county.

Duncan: Duncan says he has a vested interest in HCCSC because he has his two step-daughters attending the schools. He understands that a climate of success must be built for the students and if this should occur all students, including his, will benefit.

To accomplish this task, the voters should have greater input by getting to elect someone to the school board every two years.

Duncan says he would also like to improve relationships within the school corporation. If we are to have the best educational opportunities for our children, we need to make changes to develop a true team atmosphere where parents, community leaders, teachers, administrators and school board members are working together and truly listening to one another.

Duncan says he also believes that our schools should be community centers by examining what can be done before and after school to assist our students and parents, which may require the corporation to allow different organizations into the schools to help accomplish this task.

It is also important that we have a school board member who will work to educate our other elected officials on how the "big government" mentality over the last four years in Indianapolis has reduced local control and is contrary to what our Founding Fathers envisioned for our public school system, he says.

Finally, we need to be financially responsible and keep HCCSC in the black while maintaining a high level of respect for all staff.

What is the school board's role in the operation of the Huntington County Community Schools?

Hoffman: The purpose of the school board is to hire and evaluate the superintendent and to set policy on how our school corporation will be run.

My primary responsibility as a school board member is to make sure than every decision that I make impacts our students in a positive way, and that is what I have always tried to do.

Duncan: The primary role of a school board member is to help the students receive the best educational opportunity possible.

To accomplish this task, it is the school board's role to hold the administration accountable and expect the administration to put forward well-planned programs and/or policies and if they are lacking to ask the administration to rework the plan before allowing any implementation. This may result in delays, but better long-term results will occur, which means greater success for our students.

During these planning stages, it is also important to include the community. The school board and upper administration is responsible for building a team atmosphere where parents and community leaders are providing input and allowing the administrators and teachers to listen to their concerns and put forward workable plans through a collaborative exchange.

Another role of the school board is to keep the financial condition of the corporation in good working order or in the black, while expecting our administration to lead by example and treat people fairly.

As state and federal rules govern more and more of the local educational process, what can the school board do to encourage student achievement?

Hoffman: Over the last few years, the state and federal governments have increased accountability standards for our teachers. However, the teacher accountability is just one part of the equation.

The school board has the responsibility to make sure all of our kids can be successful in the next phase of their lives by providing a safe and secure learning environment.

I also want to make sure that our technology will provide our students with the tools that will prepare them for their future, whether it is college, technical school, military or going directly into the workforce.
Duncan: To manage state and federal rules there are two steps: follow and confront.

The first step is to accept that we must follow the rules that are passed, but how they are implemented is up to the school board approving the administration programs or policies. As a result, the board can build an environment that is not threatening, but collaborative or team focused. If the school board works on building a team mentality and not a tyrannical one, we open up the creativity of our highly qualified teachers and staff members; as a result we will succeed.

The second step is to recognize and confront the "big government" mentality the state of Indiana has asserted over the last four years. It is much harder to confront and change what is coming out of Washington, DC, but it is more realistic and possible to reverse the trend out of Indianapolis.

We need school board members who will stand up for our local schools and fight to win back local control. This European educational system our state is trying to implement is contrary to what our Founding Fathers believed. We need to have someone who will articulate this to our state representatives and is willing to be a firm voice on this matter.

The bureaucrats and elected officials in Indianapolis do not know what is best for us and we need to stand up for ourselves and elect those who are willing to do the same, and Thomas Duncan will.

District 4
There is no candidate for this position, which covers Huntington Township Precincts 8, 12 and the south half of 12A; Lancaster Township; and Dallas Township.

Current fourth district representative Jennifer Goff did not seek re-election. Her term will expire in June of next year. After her term expires, the remaining school board members will appoint a representative from that district.

District 6
Sarah E. Kyle is the lone candidate seeking to represent the school board's sixth district, which covers Precincts 4, 5, 5A and 6A in Huntington Township. Her name will appear on the ballot only in those precincts.

Kyle will succeed current sixth district representative Troy Smart, who did not seek re-election.

Kyle, 70, lives at 70 Orchard Lane, Huntington. She is a graduate of Hartford City High School and studied at Ball State University for one year. She is retired from Model Cleaners and Lemar's Cleaners and worked as a teacher's aide at Central Elementary School for 10 years. She is a member of Tri Kappa Sorority and the Tri Kappa Associates chapter and volunteers at Parkview Huntington Hospital.

Here are Kyle's answers to the questions posed by The TAB:

Why do you want to serve on the School Board?

My husband and both of my sons have always given back to the community and I feel this is my time to do the same. I have a strong idea as to what is best for the students of Huntington County.

What is the school board's role in the operation of the Huntington County Community Schools?

To oversee the policies and procedures of the school corporation for every student and personnel.
Anytime you mix students, parents, personnel and tax money, it can be a difficult situation for all of those involved. We need to make it a priority that everybody is treated fairly.

As state and federal rules govern more and more of the local educational process, what can the school board do to encourage student achievement?

No matter what burden our school corporation faces, whether it be from federal, state or local agencies, it comes down to respect: teachers for students, students for teachers, parents for school personnel and school personnel for parents.

To make a difference, the culture needs to change. We all have to work together to prepare our students for a successful life.

District 7
Incumbent Rex Baxter and newcomer J. Ryan Wall are vying to represent the seventh district, which covers Huntington township Precincts 7, 7A, 9, 10 and the north half of 12A. This race will be on the ballot only in those precincts.

Baxter, a resident of 1231 Green St., in Huntington, is retired after owning and operating Baxter's Restaurant for 32 years. He holds a business degree from Huntington College and a culinary degree from Ivy Tech.

Wall, 36, of 520 Henry St., Huntington, is employed as county associate information systems director for Huntington County. A 1996 graduate of Huntington North High School, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in law and society from Purdue University, West Lafayette, in 2000.

Wall currently chairs the boards of the Pathfinder Foundation and the Huntington Historic Review Board, serves as board president of Huntington County Community Corrections, is active in the Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County and serves on the Title I Parent Advisory Committee.

Both Baxter and Wall were asked to respond to three questions. Here are their answers:

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

Baxter: I have 12 years of experience as your District 7 school board member.

Wall: I have wanted to serve on the school board for several years as a way to give back to the community, ensure a great education for my kids and help fill a knowledge gap on the current board.

I feel that community service is vital for any community and that without it, a community cannot grow and better itself. I sit on several community boards within the community, including the Boys & Girls Club board, Pathfinder Foundation board (which I chair), Huntington Historic Review Board (which I chair) and the Huntington County Community Corrections Board (which I chair). These boards have helped me grow my leadership skills and have shown me what can happen when people who care about a community come together for a common cause.

I also feel that every child in Huntington County, including my own two children, should get the best education possible and that it takes educated people to make those decisions. Thus my background in computers will fill a knowledge gap that the current board has in terms of technology.

I work with technology every day and the terms and concepts are constantly changing and evolving. If our school corporation is going to continue down the path with every child having an iPad, then the school board should have a firm grasp on the consequences of those decisions and ensure that everything is done to protect our children and that the iPads are used for their intended purpose.

What is the school board's role in the operation of the Huntington County Community Schools?

Baxter: The most important issue we now have is with state funding and testing. State officials cannot give us guidelines on what they want done and giving our money to private schools.

Wall: The school board has three main roles in its leadership of the Huntington County Community School Corporation. Those three roles include fiscal oversight, policy oversight and hiring/management of the superintendent who enacts the fiscal and policy decisions of the board.

The fiscal oversight by the board includes making sound and prudent decisions with taxpayer funds as well as ensuring the proper maintenance and care is given to the property of the school corporation.

Policy oversight includes educational policy, employee policies, building/facility policies, all with their own unique sets of challenges. All of these policies are then enacted by the school board's main employee, the superintendent, who is the school board's main face with employees and the community.

The superintendent must enact the budget and policies the school board approves, and he or she is reviewed yearly on his or her performance and actions - making the school board member's role vital in the education of the children of our community.

As state and federal rules govern more and more of the local educational process, what can the school board do to encourage student achievement?

Baxter: My goals for the past 12 years have not changed: giving our students the best education possible. Getting students ready for college or a good job in the workplace. We have tech classes in place where a student is qualified to go directly to work after graduation.
Wall: The Huntington County School Corporation now more than ever is faced with constant and ever changing rules on how they are supposed to educate the children of Huntington County.

The school board can try and influence those rules to help better match what they see in their community.

But beyond that the school board can control the environment in which those rules are enacted. They can ensure that the environment is the best to nurture and promote the best learning environment possible.

They can also promote a culture of open communication both up and down the school corporation hierarchy and insure that everyone, including parents, staff and the community, is aware what and why things are being done, and when changes are made that everyone is well informed ahead of time to lessen the stress that naturally occurs when change takes place.