Rob Daniels

What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?

Limited budget. School, other government or a business all have limited money. Try to make best choices in spending. Center Grove has more than 8,000 students, and needs to be ready to provide quality education for all students. Have to be ready for growth. Need to make sure we provide a wide range of options for students in and outside of classroom, athletics, band and choir, clubs. We need to educate the whole student, not just in the classroom. Having a broad base is important.

What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?

Fiscal responsibility. Have to make sure we are spending money wisely, but also putting people in right places. Not a board member’s job to be there every day. Put people in right places to make right decisions.

Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs, facilities or facility upgrades? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?

Gone through recent additions with elementary schools for safety and security, which were very important. Anytime we can make those proactive changes for safety, has to be at top of list. We are putting in a facility for athletics, robotics and other extracurricular activities. Also upgraded football stadium. Public-private partnerships should be the first look, and try not to impact tax rate. Wants to continue doing what board has done. With curriculum, need to put right people in right places, so board can listen to comments and make decisions on any changes.

If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?

Cutting programs is always a tough decision, wouldn’t want to unless had to. Would want input from superintendent and advisory staff, teachers and principals. STEM is important part of education, would hope to not cut there. Academics would be No. 1 priority. Would want to approach Center Grove Education Foundation, PTOs, parent groups to help save programs.

Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings?

Yes, does favor it. But need to be cognizant of who selling to, make sure it is consistent with core values of Center Grove and community. Partnership with Ray Skillman for scoreboard, bleachers, press box was a good thing. Specific classrooms would depend on mission of business and school. In trying to raise funds, is something would need to take a look at.

What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?

Starts with superintendent, as the CEO of the school district. Not sure what policies are currently in place, but would want to take a look at those. Would need to make sure advertising is consistent with core values and not interfere with the ability to provide good learning environment.

If area businesses are willing to give schools thousands of dollars, why is the money being spent on athletics? Why is that the top priority? Couldn’t the advertisements still be displayed on a sports facility with the money going to academic or other programs?

Education foundation doesn’t give money to athletics, gives it to teachers through grants to impact students, other teachers. When specific donors give money, it is hard for us to dictate how we use their gift. If they want to earmark it for athletics, hard for us to turn it down. Need to look at other ways to raise funds. Last year, the education foundation gave out $50,000 but had $90,000 in requests. A lot of potential there for growth.

What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need? How will they be paid for?

With growing enrollment, next major move is either expansions to elementaries or a new elementary school or modulars. Would be capital improvement funding, paid through bonds over time. Is important to do it within tax structure when possible  to not raise rates. Works in construction law, and can use his experience to put Center Grove in the best situation possible with lowest cost to taxpayer and still provide a quality building.

You are in charge of evaluating the district’s superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?

Superintendent is the CEO of the school. Needs to show good communication, leadership, consistency. Public can trust school is open and good steward of tax dollars. Be responsive to employees. Remain open to ideas. Think through issues and support strategy based on input from others and his own reason and judgment. Likes current superintendent, brought good leadership.

The number of students on free and reduced-price lunch from low-income families has been rising. What can your district do to ensure all students receive the kind of resources and help they need to be able to succeed?

Important that school board not only focus on high achievers, but on all students. Starts with curriculum and carries through to support services to help with academic issues or other issues, such as getting to school. Need to do best we can to provide resources and help every child achieve. An organization sends home backpack lunches on Fridays, and need to continue to look for those opportunities.

The number of National Merit Scholars has been viewed as a measure of a school district’s achievement. Do you agree? What do you think the school district can do to get more students into this program?

Thinks program is important and those who achieve it should be acknowledged. But do need to focus on entire student body. A lot of times, students who earn National Merit Scholarships are going to prestigious schools and hopefully will come back to Center Grove and give back. More courses at higher level can help push them. But still need to focus on entire student body, entire process.

How well is your school district preparing students for college? What more would you like to see offered, or what should be changed?

We start with advanced courses in elementary, honors program at middle school and early college program at high school. Important to show kids what will be needed when they get to college. Center Grove does good job identifying courses students should take to prepare them for beyond high school. Also should remain flexible so students can do college visits and see what school will be like.

How well do you believe your school district is preparing students for technical careers, including manufacturing, computer programing and nursing, which has been identified as a priority? What do you believe could be done better?

Center Grove has a longstanding relationship with Central Nine Career Center. Kids coming out of those programs are a step ahead. Center Grove needs to continue to communicate with community and employers, what their needs are and how we can prepare students, but also how we can partner with them. Robotics, other programs, help prepare students for life after high school. With a lot of high tech changes, do need another degree or training so we need to prepare students for life after Center Grove.

Most schools across the county give students devices, such as laptops and tablets, to use. Do you believe these devices are needed in the classroom? Why or why not? And how should schools measure the effectiveness of these devices to see how they are helping students learn?

Are absolutely needed. Wonderful that Center Grove has iPads. Technology is an important part of our daily lives. Early involvement with those devices will put students ahead. Cuts down on paper, but students also have their book and assignments with them at all times. More students can learn to use those devices and use them efficiently at work and college.

School security has become more of a focus in recent years. Do you believe schools are safe enough? What else should be done to make them secure?

School security is important. Need to feel comfortable sending our kids to school that they will come home safe. Need to be in constant communication with Center Grove police and the sheriff’s office so if there are threats, we have a process to deal with that. Likes that buildings have security and schools have procedures for what to do if a shooter came in. Rather them go through drill and never experience it, than not be prepared. Also need to be proactive to try to identify threats and do best we can to keep them out of our schools.

Local public schools have been losing more students to private schools through the state’s voucher program. How can public schools remain competitive to retain and attract students?

Important that every school communicate their core values and curriculum so they can make themselves attractive to parents and students. Center Grove has continued to grow, so not sure we are having this problem. Also it is important that parents can choose where to send their children. Center Grove is setting itself apart as an attractive location for students.

What have you done to prepare for the job of a school board member? Have you attended school board meetings, requested documentation or met with any officials, educators or parents? What specific steps have you taken?

Lived in Center Grove community most of his life. Been involved in strategic planning committee, education foundation, youth sports. Met with school board members and superintendent to ask about what job of school board member entails and what are the issues, and will continue to follow up, see what’s on horizon.

While parents play a huge role in a child’s physical wellness, children spend a large part of their day at school. What is your school district doing, or should it be doing, to ensure that children and employees have opportunities to get part of the recommended amount of physical activity during the school day? Do the current policies and nutrition offerings support healthy choices, even when it comes to concession stands, fundraising items and vending machines?

At younger ages, kids have recess; when older, have gym class. Gym class shows students ways to add to physical well-being throughout their life. Students in other activities do get physical activity, but also need to offer other options, such as dance. Center Grove does provide healthy choices. Could do better with concessions, but do have to look at cost-benefit. School gives kids tools, but can’t always police it.

Construction is set to begin soon on a $10 million student activity center. Do you believe this facility is needed? Why or why not?

Is needed. Has coached youth basketball for eight years. Is important to have facilities for kids to use to stay active. Want to make sure it is used as a student activity center, and not just for athletics. For example, use it for robotics. Supports it, helped gather signatures for it. Facility was long overdue for the type of school and size we are. Also excited that the size of the high school choir and performing arts areas were increased.

The cost of the student activity center is just below the threshold in state law for requiring a public vote. Should the public have had a right to vote on this project? Why or why not?

Public did have a right to vote under remonstrance. Taxpayers against the center had ability to obtain signatures along with those for it. Both sides could express their opinions. Those in favor won the process. Was an open process. Legislature provided those tiers for projects.

Enrollment, especially at the elementary level, continues to grow and exceed projections. What steps does Center Grove need to take to address that growth? How should that be paid for?

Enrollment increasing is a positive reflection on Center Grove. Shows we continue to be an attractive place to live and raise a family. Do need to think about whether we expand existing facilities or add a new school. Need to sit down with superintendent and team to figure out best way to accomplish without raising taxes.

Center Grove has been buying homes near the high school as they become available for future growth needs, and has already spent at least $300,000, with plans to buy at least three more homes. Do you agree with this practice? Why or why not?

Agrees with practice. Has represented businesses or homes who lose property to eminent domain as attorney. Is always better if they are on the market and are paying a fair price. Is cheaper than eminent domain, which may lead to a legal battle. Is still significant area for development in Center Grove area and is good to be looking at needs today, but also five or 10 years down the road. Acquiring them now is less expensive than later when they are needed.

Teachers, principals and administrators are not to engage in interviews with the media unless the school communications director has arranged and supervises the interview. In some cases, interviews with people ranging from the superintendent to teachers are delayed for days, weeks or months or school employees have been discouraged from contacting the local media directly when they want to tell their stories from the classroom. Why is this the best practice? Should it be changed?

Was not aware of the policy. Would want to talk with officials to see why it is there. Are some issues that should come from a high level. Are times when media access needs to be limited, but need to take a look at policy and see if it is too broad.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.