MSD Northwest District candidates respond to questions

By The Paper staff

Four individuals – Doug Bogert, Todd Dazey, Teresa Galley and Ryan Rosen – are seeking the Northwest District seat on the Metropolitan School District of Wabash County school board in the Nov. 6 General Election.

The Paper of Wabash County submit a series of questions to the candidates and invited them to respond. A limit of 125 words per question was given, and The Paper reserved the right to edit responses exceeding the word limit.

Here are the questions and the candidates’ answers. They appear alphabetically in rotating order:

Q: Why should a voter support you and not one of your opponents?

Bogert: If the incumbents are re-elected, expect the same results as what we have seen in the last 4 years. I feel any of the people running would do a better job than one of the incumbents.

Dazey: When I first ran in 2014, I did so on the platform of improving the academics and the finances of MSD. We have done both. We have improved academically as measured by NWEA scores, graduation rates and dual credit/AP hours earned. We have also added robotics teams, expanded STEM education and started preschool programs. Financially, we have gone from beings hundreds of thousands in debt in our general fund to almost $3 million today. That is real money that can be invested back into our teachers in the form of salary and benefits as well as additional professional development.  And, we will be debt free by 2022.

Galley: As the Director of Education at the Honeywell Foundation, I work in elementary and junior-senior high school classrooms across Northern Indiana building programs, developing curriculum, and collaborating with teachers.  In this capacity, I have close connections with superintendents, administrators, and teachers. I believe that experience combined with my experience as the former President of Wells Fargo Bank Wabash makes me a stronger candidate for MSDWC school board. Your school board members should have a firm understanding of the issues the education community is facing and have strong connections with the people on the ground in the schools.

Rosen: First of all, I can assure you that my number one priority is providing our children with the best educational opportunities possible, that will help them continue being successful after high school. I will also listen to and respond to community concerns and will not be intimidated by solving the districts biggest challenges. Every child is deserving of an outstanding education and I intend to make that happen at MSD.

Q: What qualifications do you have to make you a good school board member?

Dazey: I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Ball State University, and prior to becoming an MSD board member, I was on the Noble Township Board. Perhaps the best qualification, however, is experience. As an MSD board member, I have reviewed and approved budgets, payroll, capital projects. Also in that role, I have evaluated administrators, evaluated and approved school improvement plans, and have attended numerous training sessions and conferences sponsored by the Indiana School Board Association.

Galley: I am a lifelong resident of Wabash County, having attended LaFontaine Elementary and Southwood Jr/Sr High.  The education I received at Southwood was incredible and prepared me to go on to Indiana University after graduation.  The experiences I had in extra-curricular activities helped shape my path, especially my involvement with Southwood’s speech team.  I am the mom of a 23-year-old University of Denver graduate student and a 13-year-old middle schooler.  The things that have changed in education over the ten years between having each of them in school are vast!  There is more technology, less memorization.  The students we are feeding into the college and/or career world have to be creative, collaborative critical thinkers who can adapt easily in a world that is changing rapidly.

Rosen: I previously served on the MSD school board for 4 ½ years. I have an understanding of board functions and how finances work. I have owned and operated a small business for the past 12 years. I have also served the public for 15 years as a firefighter and paramedic. I am compassionate and motivated. When those two qualities come together, goals are accomplished.

Bogert: I have an MBA and over 45 years of business experience including financial expertise. I had children in the system in the past and I now have grandchildren in the school system so I have a vested interest in the MSD. I don’t have any relatives as teachers or staff to unduly influence my decisions in their favor as at least one opponent has.

Q: Should MSD reconsider the study offered by the Community Foundation of Wabash County? Why or why not?

Galley: Yes, MSD should absolutely participate in the Community Foundation study.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around our county about the school situation but the bottom line is NO ONE has run real numbers of what the different scenarios look like.  In order to do that, we need an independent inspection of building condition, a look at all possible bus scenarios, an independent financial expert to review current debt as well as potential new costs and how they will affect the community, and we need an education expert to look at curriculum and course offerings to examine the benefits and costs of different models.  Instead of paying $22,000 for general opinions, we can pay $0 to work with experts.  

Rosen: Yes, I believe we should reconsider the study. First, I believe the Community Foundation of Wabash County is a huge supporter of children in our community and desires what is best for them. The phase 1 study they produced was well done, presented us with good information and direction for moving forward with phase 2 of the study. Second, with the declining enrollment, we need to look at all options available that will help us become both educationally and financially sustainable long term.

Bogert: I would welcome all additional data that does not cost MSD additional funds. Perhaps the corporation could confer with the Community Foundation of Wabash County as to what type of data would be necessary to make a truly informed decision on consolidation.

Dazey: As I have grown older, I have learned to not use words like never and always, but I would not be in favor of it at this time.  We are currently awaiting final answers from the Steve Yager study, and have recently completed a study from Data Pit Stop, to look at tax implications of a consolidation. I also maintain that the CF study was too narrowly focused on consolidation and that we need to look much more than that.  The Yager survey made clear that our stakeholders want us to consider all the options. There is much more data that can be gathered rather inexpensively that would look at options like resource sharing and collaboration with not just MCS, but other nearby school systems.

Q: What is your stance on consolidation and why?

Rosen: First, I feel the term consolidation needs to be defined. Consolidation is the combining resources to become more educationally and financially efficient. With the definition, I am for consolidation. What does that look like? At this point, it could be a number of things. It could mean a consolidation within our district, or a combining of multiple districts. I do know that good businesses are efficient and efficient businesses are sustainable long term. Right now our district is not efficient, which leads to decreased academic opportunities for our students. Data gathered in the Community Foundation phase 2 study can help give us a direction to move.

Bogert: I think at the very least there should be more cooperation and sharing of resources such as teachers and staff sharing. If consolidation takes place, it has to be done on an equal basis in that any existing debt must be paid by the former systems residents because it is not equitable to use new residents to pay off old debt due to Indiana state law. I believe the data will show that combining resources or consolidating will probably be best for the students and the taxpayers.

Dazey: I have been consistent with my stance since my first campaign for MSD Board. In 2014, I stated. “…if consolidation could be done right and for the right reasons, I'm not sure I would be opposed.”  I would caution people however, to not believe that consolidation is the “miracle cure.” MSD has taken the lead at being innovative. With 1 to 1 learning, eLearning and online teaching with our distance learning at Whites, we have shown we can think outside the box and can leverage these technologies to continue to be the leader in education.

Galley: Since 2010, the State of Indiana has funded schools at 50% less than the rate of inflation.  Even if nothing else were changing, that model is not sustainable. When you add challenges like shrinking enrollments and higher costs, the challenge seems insurmountable.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.  We have to work together to find the most efficient way to provide the best possible education to all students regardless of age and ability level.  What I don’t know….what no one else knows…is what the finished product of “consolidation” looks like.  We need to put aside petty differences and get the facts about how working together can benefit everyone.

Q: The configuration of MSD is the foremost matter facing the district now. What, in your opinion, are the other top 3 or 4 issues?

Bogert: I think teacher and staff morale is a major issue because of the uncertainty coming from the board on various consolidation and reconfiguration issues. I think transportation is an issue because the buses are crossing paths with each other and it seems like they don’t run efficient routes. I think there are some children getting left behind because of not enough staff to help those that need additional attention.

Dazey: Some of the other issues for me how do expand on the good things we have done academically. With declining enrollments, we will have a harder time delivering education using the traditional methods. As I mentioned before, we must do better to leverage technology, resource sharing and collaboration to meet the needs our students. Teacher morale is another problem that I see. Because of the poor financial shape that previous administrations put us in, we held the line on teacher raises and improving the benefits package. With the financial strength that we have built in my 4 years on the board, we can begin addressing those issues, and in fact, we have already started with 3 straight years of increasing teacher pay.

Galley: Strategic Planning. The current board has been planning from election to election rather than focusing on a long-term strategic plan to improve the district. They tell you the only way to fix the financial mess is through higher enrollment (to receive state per student money) or raising taxes.  The truth is that a strategic plan would allow them to consider workforce and university partnerships, to look at grant strategies, and to set clear objects for the entire district. 
Teacher/staff engagement.  Since the 2016 “robo-call” telling the staff about decisions the board made without any input, we have lost many valuable team members and many others feel think their opinion and expertise does not matter.  We have to change that.

Rosen: The first issue I see is the expenses in maintaining our buildings, which is always an issue. Second, we have a school board that does not function as a unit. I understand agreeing to disagree, but there has been total disrespect shown to each other. That dysfunction has trickled down and has created a low morale within the employees of the district and into the community. We need to be one community, not many communities in one.

Q: Where do you see MSD five years from now?

Dazey: MSD is currently very strong at educating our students in terms of dual credits earned, graduation rates, standardized test scores, GPAs earned at colleges and universities by our graduates. With our associations with Heartland Career Center and WMAP, we also provide excellent opportunities for those who choose not to pursue college. But as good as we have been, we can become stronger by addressing some of the issues already outlined.  And financially, I see us being debt free by the end of 2022.

Galley: With the right leadership team, I believe our district can be a model for other rural schools across Indiana. A strategic focus on planning for the future instead of knee-jerk reactions and politics will shift the focus to the most important natural resource our county has:  Our students.

Under the current board majority, I believe we will have lower enrollments, failing buildings, and continued animosity.

Rosen: Where I see MSD in five years is moving forward with an efficient school system that is beginning to expand and offer more educational opportunities for our kids. A district that is beginning to develop a new identity as a one-of-a-kind school district in the state.

Bogert: I see an efficient school system that other counties will begin looking at to see how we turned a limping school system around to a sleek running system.

Q: Where do you see MSD 10 years from now?

Galley: See my answers above.

Rosen: I see us as a community that has one of the most unique school systems that is the envy of other communities in the state. A district that offers unparalleled educational opportunities in the most forward thinking ways. A district that grows because parents want their children to be educated here, and an entire community that is proud to say “these are our schools.”

Bogert: I see it as the pride of Wabash making Wabash County the place to move businesses into because of a school system that is second to none in the state. It will be an example that many counties will want to emulate.

Dazey: MSD has already proven to be leaders in implementing technology into our curriculum and although I am employed as an IT professional, it is hard to tell what advances may happen, but I know MSD will continue to use them to our advantage to achieve our mission of “Inspiring a community of learners to discover and achieve their passion and potential.”

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

Rosen: No response.

Bogert: As mentioned in the debate on Tuesday evening, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Electing the same people back to the board and expecting something different than what we have had in the last four years, well I think you know the answer!

Dazey: I am a proud of the school district that I live in. All of my children graduated from Northfield and had strong teachers and staff at every level.  We have great schools, we have been successful in the past, we are strong in the present, and have amazing opportunities for the future. There is a legacy of strong.

Galley: This campaign has been the hardest thing I have every done.  I put my name “in the hat” because I am in the buildings working with the teachers and students.  I see the amazing successes that are not acknowledged and I see the problems of engagement, fatigue and mistrust.  I want to make a change so my county is retaining families while also attracting new families, so we can attract amazing new businesses because our students are workforce ready, and so our kids can do whatever the heck they want with their lives.  Our limitations should not be creating theirs.

Posted on 2018 Nov 02