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October 22, 2012

Pioneer has race for seat

Two-decade school board member faces challenger

ROYAL CENTER — Two candidates vying for one seat on Pioneer Regional School Corporation’s board of education both say the biggest challenge they’re likely to face, if elected, is funding the school’s programs.

Greg Lawson, a 20-year veteran of the Pioneer school board, is running for reelection to the Noble Township seat, where he’s challenged by newcomer Lisa Kesling.

Kesling is pharmacy manager at the Third Street CVS pharmacy in Logansport. She and her husband have two children at Pioneer Junior-Senior High School.

Lawson and his wife had four daughters graduate from Pioneer. He has worked at Armour-Eckrich in Peru for the past 12 years as a supervisor, and was on Pioneer’s school board from 1980 to 1988 and again from 2000 to now.

Both candidates say Pioneer’s biggest challenge is going to be finding money in an era of stagnant or decreasing rural school enrollment.

Kesling said increasing enrollment, while a potential solution, is difficult to do in the rural Royal Center community, and carries with it its own disadvantages. If Pioneer follows other schools’ lead in advertising or eliminating open enrollment fees, “these both have the disadvantage of perhaps admitting students to Pioneer schools who have encountered problems in other school districts,” she said.

Lawson nodded instead toward innovation.

“I believe that we will need to explore new ways to raise money to finance our programs,” said Lawson, suggesting that some type of sponsorship or private funding might be in order. “We will need to think ‘outside the box’ in future endeavors.”

When it comes to keeping parents in the loop on what’s happening at the schools, the candidates had different perspectives.

Parents show their interest in what’s going on, Lawson said, by how well attended the annual parent-teacher conferences are. A weekly newsletter to elementary students’ parents, and the school website, also contribute to keeping parents informed.

Kesling said she was unsure all parents could access the school website, so she suggested sending home contact information each fall. Teachers could also alert parents of their children’s academic struggles before grades are issued, she added, or participate in additional parent-teacher conferences.

Lawson’s experience and his interest in giving Royal Center-area children the best education possible are his qualifications, he said.

“I graduated from Indiana State University which helped me see the need for further education for everyone that desires to do so,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that everyone wishes to earn a bachelor’s degree, but perhaps a two-year degree or some form of skilled trade. Whatever, we need to be sure that all our students are prepared for whatever they may decide to pursue.”

And Kesling pointed to a different kind of experience.

“I realize I have no experience in being a school board member; however, I have a strong relationship with the school corporation and the community,” she said. That includes “countless” hours at both schools, helping with first-grade reading, field trips, the band boosters, the elementary carnival and the science fair.

• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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