#schoolsafety | 10 seeking pair of Crown Point school board seats

CROWN POINT — Ten people are in the running for a pair of Board of School Trustees seats, with one of those positions certain to go to a newcomer.

David Warne, the current board president who has been a school trustee since 2014, is facing an at-large challenge from Jennifer Carr, Dara Kraay Grady, Mark Lambert, Brandon Miller, Richard Sassman and Timothy Vassar.

The District 1 seat is being contested by Danielle Bazin, Dawn Cade and Michael Hanger.

Among at-large hopefuls, Carr describes herself as “a mom putting kids first.”

A certified public accountant with a master’s in business administration, Carr left the corporate world four years ago to focus on her two sons, both in Crown Point schools.

Noting that “communities thrive when their schools thrive” and vice versa, Carr said her goals include safe and secure schools, high-quality education, valued teachers and staff, fiscal responsibility, transparent leadership and strong community and parent partnerships.

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Carr stated, “I am running for School Board to be part of a team that will ensure that we maintain a high-quality school corporation that maximizes the potential of every student — my two sons, their friends, and all the students in Crown Point schools.”

Grady is property manager for Northwest Indiana Veterans Village in Gary. She has two children in Crown Point schools. She was raised by her mother, a teacher for 40 years.

Working at the Veterans Village, she said, offered her a perspective on what families are going through and how to work with a diverse group.

“My goal is to be a teammate with the board and work to support teachers, students and staff,” Grady said.

Having worked on bipartisan efforts for veterans, Grady noted, “We must all support each other.”

Regarding technology and other classroom tools, Grady said, We must make sure teachers have all they need.”

Calling for collaboration, Grady said schools need to decrease the stigma of mental health problems and incorporate coping skills in the classroom.

A social studies teacher for 10 years at Whiting High School, Lambert comes from a family of educators, starting with his grandparents. He is also licensed as a principal.

“Education is the cornerstone of our country and democracy,” said Lambert, who is seeking “equality of opportunity” for all students, including those with lower test scores.

One way to assist lower-performing students, Lambert said, is providing avenues for parental involvement.

Regarding teacher professional development, the board candidate wants to “give teachers a voice and legitimate seat at the table.”

Lambert, who with his wife is expecting their second child, said he is “willing to stand up for what I believe in.” He also sees himself as an advocate for students, “listening to their concerns and setting high expectations.”

Another parent with two children in local schools, Miller is a former firefighter who operates his own business.

He stated, “I believe in transparency between school leadership and parents, and education without indoctrination. If elected, I will stand up for secure and safe schools, transparency, parental rights and teachers.”

Miller supports trained school resource officers in all school buildings.

He added, “Transparency and two-way communication will create an environment that will encourage parents to be involved. In previous years, parents have felt their voices have not been heard.”

Miller supports providing parents with information packets similar to what board members receive, excluding personnel and other sensitive material.

“Teachers need a voice and they need support,” Miller said. “Our School Board needs to have a student-first mentality.”

A real estate agent and husband of a Crown Point teacher, Sassman worked as a substitute teacher for four years. He has also run three different after-school programs and has been involved in an internship program between Crown Point High School and Century 21 Real Estate.

Regarding school safety, the candidate noted, “Keeping our students safe and reuniting them with their parents in a timely manner is always a priority in an emergency. That is why it is important to practice reuniting skills for the staff.”

Sassman sees himself as an advocate for students, citing his experience with the high school internship program. He also wants to see support for non-college-bound students.

Sassman said he wants to “make sure every student has a meaningful experience” and help them be “ready to be successful.”

Vassar is retired after 43 years in education as a teacher, coach and administrator, including principal at Col. John Wheeler Middle School.

As a former administrator, Vassar noted his background in recruiting and retaining staff. Regarding teacher burnout, Vassar commented, “I know where they’re coming from.”

“Community schools should be transparent,” he said, “and I don’t think they’re transparent enough. We need more of this open communication in schools.”

Seeing himself as a liaison between the schools and community, Vassar noted, “I have all this experience. I just want to use it. I just want to serve.”

As to becoming a school trustee, Vassar explained, “The School Board exists to make policy. The School Board doesn’t exist to run the day-to-day operations. It does not exist to micro-manage schools.”

The incumbent at-large member, David Warne, did not respond to requests to offer comments on his candidacy for this story.

For District 1, Bazin taught in Crown Point schools from 2008 to 2015. Since retiring, she operates her own insurance agency. She has four children in kindergarten through middle school.

Having operated a business through the pandemic, Bazin said she has learned how to prepare and considers herself a “strong decision maker.”

A believer in smaller class sizes and taking the burden off teachers, Bazin said that as a newcomer on the board, she would work to “build trust and a working relationship with my peers.” That includes, she said, “asking a lot of questions.”

While working on group dynamics, Bazin said her goal is to “keep everything student-centered.”

Citing her education and business background, Bazin promotes support for teachers and having “an open mind with all shareholders.”

Cade is a retired special education teacher and administrator with 30 years of experience. Her two children, now adults, attended Crown Point schools.

As a community volunteer who wants to remain active, Cade said she wants to “preserve that hometown feel” of Crown Point schools.

Seeing herself as an advocate, Cade has an interest in special education, mental health and school safety. “I want to interact and engage with the [board],” she said.

Regarding mental health, Cade noted that youth suicide is a growing problem and she supports additional teacher development to address this and other issues, including bullying. She cited three keys: parent partnerships, safe schools and competency-creating curriculum.

“I want students coming out of our schools confident in whatever area they choose in life,” Cade said.

Soon to have three children in Crown Point schools, Hanger is owner of Hanger Insurance Group.

“I’m running to support our teachers and schools and make sure our kids have adequate resources to do their work,“ he said.

Hanger added that he is interested in “maintaining the projects and resources that have been allocated and make sure schools are fiscally responsible through this time.”

The candidate also said that although he has no real concerns about local schools, “I just want to make sure we maintain a very strong school system in this area.”

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