By Brenda L. Holmes
The We the People government class at Plainfield High School hosted a forum for those individuals running for the Plainfield School Board. The candidates — Sharon Dunlevy, Scott Flood, Dana Johnson, and David Mansfield — answered questions posed by moderators Michael Turinetti and Stacie Kammerling as well as some from the audience.
We the People instructor Chris Cavanaugh welcomed the audience to PHS and spoke about his students.
“We the People is a competition class and to my knowledge this is the first time we’ve ever hosted a forum,” Cavanaugh said. “This has all been pretty much student generated by Plainfield High School seniors.”
“I would like to thank all the students for their hard work and thank you to the candidates for participating,” he added.
Turinetti and Kammerling began the forum by giving each candidate two minutes to introduce themselves.
Dunlevy is the only candidate running that is not currently on the board. She has lived in Plainfield since 2000 and works at Plainfield United Methodist Church.
“I have a background in elementary and special education,” Dunlevy said. “I also went to seminary and have a master’s in divinity. I am in charge of the Kids Connection program at the church.”
Flood has been serving on the Plainfield School Board for 12 years.
“Andrea and I have three children and I make my living as a writer,” he said.
Johnson described herself as the “rookie” board member. She is completing her first term on the board this year. She is currently serving as the board president.
“I am a licensed attorney and I am passionate about education,” she said. “I live education every day in my work. I bring both a financial and legal background to the board.”
Mansfield has been serving on the school board for 20 years.
“I am an Indiana native and have lived in Plainfield since 1975,” he said. “I guess you can say I’m the ‘old man’ of the group. By definition we are a policy making board and we are also responsible for funding personnel and properties. Plainfield consistently ranks in the top 10 percent in any category and we also have the second lowest tax rate in the county.”
Candidates fielded questions like, “What makes you the best candidate?,” and “What are the most pressing issues facing the board?”
One of the questions posed what, “How do you plan to preserve arts education?”
Dunlevy said arts education is close to her heart because she is a singer and musician.
“It hurts to see those cuts,” she said. “I would like to see us create ways to combine arts education with other subjects. We need to be creative.”
Flood said, “We have a strong arts programming and have made a commitment to devote time to the arts.”
“The Red Pride marching band is heading to state this weekend,” he said. “You can see that we have continued to focus on the arts.”
Johnson said fine arts is a necessary part of the curriculum because students would just “check out” if all they did was academics.
“And you can see those students who have success with academics are also excelling at the fine arts like music,” she said. “You have to be able to exercise that part of your brain.”
Mansfield said the district’s fine arts program leaders work hard at keeping their curriculum integral to the student body.
“The arts are an important part for the overall education of students,” he said.
The subject of the district’s calendar was also discussed. This year the Plainfield Community School Corporation deviated from popular practice to go to a balanced schedule. They chose to go to a modified schedule but didn’t change to two weeks for fall or spring breaks.
“We decided to go one week in the fall because testing dates do not change,” Mansfield said. “We felt that we would lose too much instruction time before testing.”
Johnson said the board looked at what benefit the “balanced” calendar would have for the district. And they found after asking teachers, employees, and parents that they would do the modified schedule.
“When you do a new schedule you are going to make somebody mad,” she said. “But we asked and felt this was the best plan.”
Dunlevy said she would like to see the board re-visit the balanced schedule debate.
“I would like to see what the other school’s experience has been this year,” she said. “I don’t think we should close the door on the discussion. We can ask the other school corporations to see how it helped or hindered them.”
The general election will be held Nov. 6. Voters will be asked to vote for three of the four candidates.