Reporter Tom Lange interviewed candidates for Center Grove school board on a wide range of issues. Use these pages as a guide in your voting decision.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Name: Matt Prusiecki
Family: Wife, Kristen; children, Luke and Mia
Employment: Superintendent of Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools
Education: Graduated from Andrean University, Indiana University, Butler University and Indiana State University
Previous political experience: None
ABOUT THE OFFICE
Center Grove school board
Race: Three candidates are running for two open at-large seats.
Duties: The candidates who are elected will work with the board’s other three members to approve academic policies and course changes, approve the school district’s budget and evaluate the superintendent.
Term: Four years
Pay: $2,000 per year, plus $50 per meeting
What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?
Managing money, and making sure the school district is fiscally solvent is a yearly challenge the board faces. One of the goals brought up by the superintendent is analyzing all of the academic programs within the school corporation to see what’s happening within the classrooms, what’s being offered, and whether Center Grove is optimizing all of the opportunities for students. Lastly, the school board needs to provide consistent leadership, supporting the superintendent and helping the school corporation be a successful 21st century school. If he is elected, he has to work with other board members to maintain communication with the administration and to continue a dialogue with the community to make sure their interests are being heard. Board members work as a team to provide direction from and for the superintendent to best serve the community.
What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?
Work with the rest of the school board to provide oversight to inspect what is already in place, to ask questions of what else can be done and provide support and challenge the administration to work with the staff to make sure everything is working well. “It’s necessary to continually ask questions and try to provide a collective decision-making process that supports the direction of the school corporation.”
Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?
When students do well in one area, that promotes their success in other areas. Center Grove is a successful school district but should always look for improvement; to assume that everything is OK would be doing people a disservice. As a board member, he would need to continue monitoring what is being done to make sure Center Grove maintains an excellent track record.
If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?
Decision-making and prioritizing would need to be a process. If there is a need to reduce the budget, and that requires reducing programs and people, the school board needs a process that looks at everything objectively, and as fairly as possible. He would be a critical component to a school board's process of making difficult decisions. He would like to have the support of everyone involved.
Administrators across the county say that the number of students dropping out of schools is an issue that must be addressed. What methods would you propose to keep students in school or bring back students who have dropped out?
Schools need to reach out to students who are dropping out and research why they are dropping out. Schools should provide a variety of opportunities to keep students in school and help them get the diploma they need to be successful after school. Center Grove needs to foster opportunities for all students and try to support students who might drop out to help them be successful.
Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings? What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?
Favors any policy that would bring in money to support school programs. If someone wants to donate money, or a group wants naming rights, the school board sets forth a policy where all people have a fair chance to do that to benefit student programs. But it must be a process that’s open, equal and up-front so that there’s no perception of favoritism. Naming rights should be allowed for the purpose of helping students. The superintendent would bring contracts to the school board so they could make a decision about whether it’s viable. The process should include the administration and school board, but is ultimately on the school board.
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?
Doesn't see why not. The options are limitless for organizations who want to give money to a school corporation. The school board has to understand who the donor is and what their is motivation for making the donation.
What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs,remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need?
Would need to get a better handle of what’s there, but board members have the responsibility to know what facilities are open to students, and prioritize where money should go, what should be bought, renovated, fixed up, etc. Doesn’t want to answer unfairly, as a parent within the district.
Schools want to recruit students in order to collect the most money from the state. Should schools recruit students? If so, how should this be accomplished? Should money be spent on advertisements, public relations employees or consultants or websites?
Thinks schools should advertise themselves and promote what they have to offer to students and families. A school corporation should be able to be financially responsible and market themselves to people looking for the best opportunity for their children.
Property tax caps are making it difficult for districts to replace buses, upgrade buildings and technology, and in some cases pay down their debt. What is the biggest problem your district faces because of property tax caps, and what ideas do you have to solve them?
School boards need to look for the best way to operate because of the loss in revenue. For building projects and renovations, for example, the school district may need to consider loans, but only if residents, who are paying for the loans, support the projects.
You are hiring/in charge of evaluating the district's superintendent. What qualities are you looking for in your school's leader/what does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?
A school district needs a leader the community can support and have confidence in. The superintendent needs to have good communication and community relations and be able to support a district. They also need to be financially responsible, look at academic programs, provide leadership and a unified vision for moving the school district in the right direction. Those variables can be measured in a lot of different ways.
School districts are spending more money and time developing online courses, and many of them mimic courses that have already been developed elsewhere. Should your school district continue to develop more online courses? Why or why not?
Believes the school has the capacity and the personnel that’s able to do that. Center Grove can provide the same kinds of courses offered elsewhere. The school district can support the children, instead of outsourcing.
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/help they need to be able to succeed?
Schools can’t assume everyone has all of the supplies and resources students need to be able to succeed today, such as computers. A school district needs to support everyone, and that’s the job of the administration, to make sure that no student is lacking anything they need in order to do well in the classroom.
The school recently entered into a contract with a company for a new video scoreboard on the athletic field, and is considering selling naming rights to school facilities, including the athletic field. What involvement do you believe the school board should have on this issue? What safeguards should be put into place?
Those contracts should be negotiated through the superintendent, but the school board should approve them. The board oversees and regulates how naming rights and the money that comes with them is handled. That process involves board members making objective, group or committee decisions that help regulate what the superintendent is trying to do.
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?
Families or students capable of such scholarship opportunities will want to attend a school corporation that provides those opportunities.