School board races contested in two districts

HANCOCK COUNTY — Residents living in the Southern Hancock and Greenfield-Central school districts are the only voters who are going to see contested school board races this fall.

The deadline to file to run for school board positions — nonpartisan races that appear on the ballot only in November — was Friday afternoon. Twelve board positions across the county’s four school districts are up for grabs Nov. 8. The at-large position on Greenfield-Central’s board is contested, along with the District 1 and 2 seats on Southern Hancock’s school board.

Three incumbents aren’t seeking re-election. Dan Leary won’t seek another term to Greenfield-Central’s District 1 seat. Southern Hancock board members Barb Snyder and Tom Tucker are also saying goodbye to their positions.

School board members serve four-year terms, establishing school policies and setting budgets. They also vote on a variety of other school-related issues, ranging from personnel matters to facility needs.

Two newcomers are running for the District 1 Southern Hancock seat currently held by Snyder.

Wendy Parish is a longtime New Palestine business woman and a graduate of New Palestine High School. She has two adult daughters who also graduated from New Palestine High School.

She’s running for school board to give local residents a voice in school policy, she said.

Matt Ackerman, a veterinarian, is the father of three children who attend Southern Hancock Schools. The school system serves as the core of a good community, and he wants to make sure the district remains fiscally conservative, he said.

Bill Niemier is seeking a third term to represent Southern Hancock’s District 2 seat. He’s challenged by Jonathon Hooker, a New Palestine resident who works in construction and construction management.

In the nearly four years he’s been on the board, Niemier has served as the board’s president and helped lead the effort in 2014 to hire Lisa Lantrip, the corporation’s current superintendent, an accomplishment he’s most proud of.

The board also implemented yearly action plans for meeting corporation goals during Niemier’s tenure. The plans are posted on the district’s website and include a timeline for when goals, such as reviewing and refining the district’s high ability programming, which the board and district worked on last year, should be achieved.

Hooker, who graduated from New Palestine High School in 1998 and has two children enrolled in the district, said he wants to serve the community. His biggest goal is to help the district make smart financial decisions while offering the best service to students.

Ray Kerkhof, the incumbent at-large school board member for Greenfield-Central, is being challenged by Dan Brown, a Greenfield resident.

Kerkhof was elected in 2012 to the position and helped hire Superintendent Harold Olin in 2014.

During Kerkhof’s tenure, the school district has launched its own special education program and an alternative high school, in both cases renovating an old church building into classroom space.

He’s proud of those initiatives and wants to continue to build on the district’s successes, he said.

Brown, a Greenfield resident, did not return calls seeking comment.

Other uncontested candidates seeking election are:

  • Scott Petry, Eastern Hancock School Board District 2
  • Jim Jackson, Eastern Hancock School Board District 3
  • Hillary Close, Greenfield-Central School Board District 1
  • Kathy Dowling, Greenfield-Central School Board District 4
  • Daniel Walker, Southern Hancock School Board District 4
  • Tony May, Mt. Vernon School Board, at-large
  • Mike McCarty, Mt. Vernon School Board, at-large
  • Jason Shelton, Mt. Vernon School Board, at-large

At a glance

Election day is Nov. 8. On the ballot are federal, state and local races, including 11 school board races across the four school districts.

Who is running for school board?

Eastern Hancock School Board District 2

Scott Petry

Eastern Hancock School Board District 3

Jim Jackson

Southern Hancock School Board District 1

Wendy Parish

Matt Ackerman

Southern Hancock School Board District 2

Bill Niemier (incumbent)

Jon Hooker

Southern Hancock School Board District 4

Daniel Walker

Greenfield-Central School Board District 1

Hillary Close

Greenfield-Central School Board District 4

Kathy Dowling

Greenfield-Central School Board, at-large

Ray Kerkhof (incumbent)

Dan Brown

Mt. Vernon School Board, at-large (3 seats)

Tony May

Mike McCarty

Jason Shelton

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.