(General programming note for blog readers in the West Lafayette school district: I am a candidate in the 2020 West Lafayette School Board election. There are four seats open, and I would like to fill one of them. If you want to know more about my campaign, ask questions, request a yard sign, please go to https://masson.us/schoolboard.)
So, if you are in the West Lafayette School District, there are fifteen people on the ballot for four open spots on the school board. Who should you vote for? After a month of campaigning, my reflexive first response is “Vote Masson. Tell Your Friends!” I think I’ve made a decent case that I would be a good addition to the board. Among other things, I’ve demonstrated a commitment to the school that goes beyond running for school board, I have a legal background in municipal law, and I balance some board experience with a fresh perspective and energy from having been off the board for a few years.
My second response is that if you know a candidate and strongly believe their presence on the school board would make it better, vote for them. If that still doesn’t get you to four candidates, I’ll suggest that you “rely on the teachers.” In other words, the West Lafayette Education Association – the teacher’s union – has endorsed me, Amy Austin, Brad Marley, and Tom Schott.
Obviously, there is an element of self-interest in that I’m one of the WLEA endorsed candidates. But, if you have been part of the West Lafayette community, you know that our schools are excellent and a big part of this is attributable to our teachers. They have every interest in seeing that our schools remain outstanding; they interviewed the candidates; and they know the schools, what they need, and how they operate. Their endorsement should carry some weight — particularly if you’re in the dark on who the candidates are and what the school board does.
Brad and Tom have long experience on the Board. That shouldn’t be discounted. One of them said that it takes a full term to really understand the job, and I think that’s pretty accurate. I had two years on the board plus more than a decade practicing municipal government law, and I still had a fair amount to learn when my term ended in 2016. On top of experience, Brad’s financial background is something the school will need as the impact of COVID on municipal finance sinks in. Tom knows the school up and down, has great communication skills, and deep connections to Purdue.
Amy is, full disclosure, a close family friend. More significant to a prospective voter would be that she has put a lot of time and effort to working with the school. Those of you who have had students in the district in the last several years might recognize her as “Newsletter Amy” sending out parent council letters. Or maybe you’ve seen her on field trips, volunteering with the backpack program, working to supplement the school breakfast and lunch program when COVID caused some disruptions, organizing class parties, participating in the parent council, or doing any of the other countless things that show a dedication to the school. She’s also terribly smart, and her compassion is seemingly boundless.
Beyond those four, I’ve also come to know Melissa Prochnau reasonably well. If one of the four I’ve already mentioned isn’t your cup of tea for some reason, definitely give Melissa a look. She beat me by four votes in 2016. I’m not going to pretend that a narrow loss didn’t sting a little bit on a personal level, but I can’t say the school has been any worse off for it. I’m President of the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation and, in that position, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Melissa who is one of the school board appointees to the WLSEF board. In addition, she has four years of experience from having been on the school board and is very active with the schools generally.
Brian Bittner is an incumbent on the board who is on the ballot but has made the decision to withdraw from campaigning. So, I think he’d agree that you shouldn’t vote for him.
As for the remaining nine candidates, I can’t say I know any of them very well if at all. I’m certainly not inclined to disparage any of them, their abilities, or their motives. I will say that I get the sense that the COVID reopening process created a lot of the energy that led to some of the school board runs.
I think the ultimate result of the school’s COVID plan has been pretty good under the circumstances. The initial plan suggested by the school board was met with some anxiety because, as I recall, it did not provide for a virtual option unless there was a health concern and did not mandate masks. The plan came out during the filing window for school board candidates. Communication about the plan and the planning process definitely could have been better, and the initial plan had its deficiencies. But that was never set in stone, and the COVID measures the school ultimately put in place (including virtual classes taught by West Side teachers and masks in the school) seem to be working. In the school’s defense, I think it’s important to note that it wasn’t working in a vacuum. Our knowledge of COVID itself has been a work in progress and the school had to work with or around other federal, state, and local decision makers. So, with respect to that initial plan, the school may be taking heat for issues that were beyond its control at the time.
In any event, I’d caution you not to take my characterization of these issues as complete or necessarily representative of any particular candidate. Check out their websites for more information. But, if you’re looking for my opinion: vote Masson, Austin, Marley, and Schott!