Cantrell, Hipskind named to Wabash City board

By Joseph Slacian

Rhonda Hipskind and Kipp Cantrell were selected by the Wabash City Council on Tuesday as the newest members of the Wabash City Schools board.

The pair, along with Bill Konyha, were interviewed by the council during a meeting at Wabash City Hall.

They will begin their term on the board in January, replacing Konyha and Liz Hobbs, who did not see another term.
The council voted 4-2 for Hipskind and Cantrell. Council members Bob Greene and Marc Shelley, who wanted Konyha to be reappointed, cast the no votes. Council President Eric Schoening was not present.

The council interviewed each of the candidates during an open session on Tuesday evening. Cantrell, who applied for the post last year, was the first to be interviewed, followed by Hipskind and then Konyha.

“I liked Kipp last year,” said Council member Mitch Figert, who made the motion to appoint the two to the board. “I do feel like he’s done some research and I do think he came prepared. I really thing he was a strong candidate this year. I like his passion. I definitely think he would be strong.

“I like Rhonda’s bluntness,” he continued. “She told us ‘This is what I think.’ I think that’s good. I think it might be nice to have a couple new faces on the board.”

Council member Doug Adams noted that Cantrell is a Wabash High School graduate.

“I like to make sure we have a strong tie to Wabash High School,” Adams said. “I mean, you don’t have to have 100 percent. I’m talking about coming through the school system and knowing Wabash a little bit. I’m sure all school districts are different, so it’s good to have somebody that has a total education tie, whenever it was.”

Shelley and Greene stood behind Konyha and also said they favored Hipskind.

“I think Bill was the best candidate,” Greene said.

Shelley added, “I lean toward Bill.”

Figert expressed concern about Konyha, noting that while he lives in Wabash, his job as President of the Northeast Indiana Regional Chamber causes him to commute to Fort Wayne daily.

But Shelley countered that that is good for the district, as “he has connections that we could never dream of.”
Council member Bryan Dillon that the current board has experience and wondered if now was the time to bring some new people without experience into the mix.

“What do you do when all your experience leaves?” he asked rhetorically. “I would like to see some new people get involved.”

Dillon added later, “I’m not trying to throw Bill out. Bill’s served, he’s served a good 7 years. I just want to see new people get involved, my personal opinion.”

Shelley believes experience should be a plus.

“Look at the progress the school system has made over the years,” he said. “Having experience isn’t a bad thing.”

Figert believes that Konyha would still stay engaged with the district, regardless of the board’s decision.

“If we pick Rhonda and Kipp, you still get to keep Bill,” he said. “And it seems, in my mind, every time we do this someone resigns a few months later, and we end up putting a candidate in. Bill would be a great candidate to have in the wings.”

Shelley also noted that naming Hipskind to the board would keep the number of women on the board at two. That helps with the board’s diversity, council members agreed.

Before the vote, Council members each took turns asking a variety of questions, from why they wanted to be on the board, to what they thought of e-Learning and what should be done to encourage those who would rather be involved with the trades instead of college.

While consolidation was not directly discussed with the candidates, the idea of how to better collaborate with surrounding schools was.

“Well, definitely, I think the collaboration they should look at,” Cantrell said. “There are so many rules and regulations and stuff that I’m not really aware of yet.

“Personally, one of the things that makes more sense to me is collaboration, well, cooperation, of the administrative offices. Go elsewhere in bigger communities, you’ll have one superintendent over the whole county. We’ve got a couple. Whether it’s sharing the IT guy, or pulling together for insurance, or just hardware and technology, if we could save money that way, by buying more. Everybody would be on the same system.”

As for Hipskind, “If consolidation wasn’t an option, maybe we … could combine some classes and do some traveling between schools like that. Just more opportunities for more classes that we could combine.”

She said her one of her sons was one of four students in a Spanish 4 class, and that the class was basically on its own. The students sat in the back of the class and worked on computers. By combining those students with similar students from other districts would better benefit them.

Hipskind is an in-home daycare provider who has worked as a substitute teacher and special education paraprofessional in the past. She has five children, three of which graduated from Wabash High School and two who are currently students at O.J. Neighbours Elementary School.

A Wabash High School graduate, Cantrell is currently the City of Wabash’s Code Enforcement Officer. He has three children, two of which are Neighbours students. The third is still not of school age.

During his interview, Konyha told the Council members he would respect their decision, no matter what it was.

“I appreciate more than I can express the job you guys have to do,” he said. “I have been honored to serve this school board and our community for essentially seven years. I would be happy and look forward to continue that service for another three years. But I understand you have a job to do, and you’re going to fill these positions to the best of your ability, and I’m perfectly willing to accept whatever you do. I will still be here in Wabash and I’m going to do something to help, regardless.”

Posted on 2018 Dec 04