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G-C board quizzes trio of candidates

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GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central School Board interviewed three potential new members Thursday night in hopes of filling the board’s roster before the next meeting.

The new board member will replace Kent Fisk, who left the board with two years remaining in his term after being elected to the Hancock County Council in November.

Thursday, the board convened for a special hour-long meeting to interview candidates Brooke Palmer, Steve Menser and Jenny Hoffman.

Thursday’s interview was held in a panel style, with the candidates all answering the same questions, rotating with each round which candidate answered first.

The meeting, which was open to the public and drew a small crowd, began with each candidate talking about his or her background and why they decided to run.

Palmer, 33, is a graduate of Purdue University, where she received a degree in elementary education. A former teacher and high school volleyball and basketball coach, Palmer now works at State Farm in Greenfield as an insurance agent. Palmer told the board her teaching background makes her a natural fit.

“I know the day-to-day of what goes on in schools, what the teachers are dealing with,” she said.

Menser, 44, graduated from Greenfield-Central High School and went on to study at the IBEW Electrical Training Institute. Menser resigned in December from his position as a journeyman and was recently hired as a business development representative for RCR Technology, a software development company based in Indianapolis.

Menser described himself as a “numbers guy” who could help the board navigate difficult budget meetings by weighing wants vs. needs. He also stressed his interest in vocational opportunities for students whose interests lie outside the traditional four-year college education.

“I believe I can bring a lot to the table,” he said.

Hoffman, 39, graduated from Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in education and went on to receive her teaching license the next year.

Hoffman’s most recent job was working for the Department of Child Services as a family case manager supervisor from 2006-2010.

She now volunteers for Love INC, a faith-based nonprofit that helps families in need in Hancock County.

Hoffman said her time with child services, as well as having two children still in school, has introduced her to many of the key players in the G-C district.

“I have somewhat of a working familiarity with most of the principals and schools in the county,” she said.

The board quizzed candidates on a range of topics including challenges they see facing the school corporation and ways the board could better connect to the community.

When asked about areas of success and those that need improvement, all three candidates praised G-C’s current academic programs.

Palmer cited dropout rates as one area of concern. Hoffman and Menser expanded on Palmer’s comments, saying schools must prepare students not only to complete twelfth grade but for life beyond graduation.

“Some people take that big sigh of relief when they toss that cap in the air,” Menser said. “That’s not the end.”

Added Hoffman: “Just jumping out into the workforce isn’t enough anymore,” she said. “They absolutely have to be lifelong learners.”

Connecting with the community is an important part of making the board effective, board member Ray Kerkhof told the candidates. The board asked how each would handle controversial matters if confronted by a member of the public.

Palmer said empathizing with others is important, as well as researching all options thoroughly before coming to a decision.

Menser said he would share his personal opinion on a topic with a member of the public but would never speak for the board as a whole.

Hoffman stressed being honest with constituents. The board should be transparent in letting members of the public understand all the options that were on the table before the board takes a vote on an issue, she said.

Visibility is also part of connecting with the community, Palmer said, even if that just means attending ballgames and other events and introducing yourself to parents.

Hoffman said G-C schools should continue to grow their mentorship programs, citing one in which members of the community come into school to read to the children.

All three candidates touched on the need for smart spending in a tough economy, but the schools face a variety of other issues as well, they said.

Menser said he wonders what more can be done to address students who are experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Palmer is concerned about parental involvement. Parents are working longer hours to make ends meet, and as a result, they are not always engaged in their children’s education, she said.

The candidates also shared their vision for education, going forward.

Menser said he’d like to see Greenfield-Central rise to the top with its graduation rates by keeping students energized about learning.

Palmer focused on the need for teachers to continually expand their knowledge base by attending workshops and networking with fellow educators.

Hoffman wants G-C to partner with more businesses to provide internships and volunteer opportunities. Each senior should leave the high school with a plan as a result of those experiences, she said.

At the conclusion of the interview, board members said they were pleased with their options.

“I see three very talented individuals,” Kerkhof said. “Any one of them would be an excellent candidate.”

The board will announce its choice at a public meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the administration building, 110 W. North St.

The board’s regular Feburary meeting is scheduled for Feb. 11.

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