Three vie for two open seats on Center Grove school board

cg school boardA trio of Center Grove parents are running for two open school board spots, hoping they get to help make decisions that impact the county’s largest school district.

Incumbent Rob Daniels, president of the school board, is taking on two challengers, Amy Counts and Britton Shoellhorn, both newcomers.

Daniels, who is wrapping up his first term on the board, touts the school district’s resiliency under his leadership, as Center Grove schools navigated the challenge of closing schools to all in-person learning during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, including a return to classrooms in August and then a second return for middle and high school students in September after the number of students needing to quarantine required those schools to close for another week.

“We’ve adapted to a variety of challenges we’ve faced, including coronavirus, and doing everything we can to provide a quality education,” Daniels said. “With the challenges our society faced that no one foresaw four years ago, I’m proud of the fact we worked together as administrators, teachers, staff and the community of parents and students. We continue, through all the challenges we’ve had, to provide the best atmosphere for learning possible and adapt as Center Grove grows.”

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Daniels defended the board’s decision to fund a $45 million natatorium and high school renovation project, approved last year, and $21.1 million in renovations to Pleasant Grove and Sugar Grove elementary schools, approved in July.

“With the building projects, the majority occurred before the latest financial issues with the country,” Daniels said. “With the latest two, the elementary schools are overdue and scheduled so they come online as other debt gets paid off. We’ll be able to do those without increasing taxes … They planned for these many years before even I was on the board.”

If elected to a second term, Daniels hopes he and the board can continue to help administrators as they adapt to the pandemic. In the long term, he wants to continue the district’s growth in terms of staffing and welcoming new students, he said.

Counts has some experience with Center Grove schools, having previously served as a board member for the Center Grove Education Foundation before leaving that post last year. By running for school board, she wants to be a voice for the community, she said.

“I don’t have any issues with the school corporation; I don’t have a personal agenda,” Counts said. “As a school board member I have to be a voice for students and the community. That’s why I’m running, to continue where the board has taken us so far.”

Center Grove administrators handled reopening well, responding to surges of quarantined students at Center Grove High School and the two middle schools, she said.

“I agree with the way it was executed. My kids are in school. They wear masks, and to be honest, they’re way stronger than I am. They have not complained one time about wearing a mask,” Counts said. “I don’t have any kids at the middle school or high school, so I can’t speak to whether that was frustrating, but I agree with the way the school corporation has handled it.”

If elected to the school board, Counts said she will approach all matters with an open mind.

“Not portraying my personal beliefs,” Counts said of her approach. “Listening to all sides and working as a group to come to the conclusion of what’s best for the school corporation and the community.”

Shoellhorn is the son of a former Center Grove teacher and has children who attend Center Grove schools. If elected to the school board, he would look to push administrators to build more partnerships with teachers, Shoellhorn said.

“Whether it’s teacher-parent partnerships or community resources for teachers and giving teachers more of a voice at board meetings as well. We can build more of a collaborative effort between the teachers association and the board members if I’m elected as well. We can collaborate with them on ways to improve the classroom. They are on the frontline of educating children and they’re seeing stuff day in and day out,” Shoellhorn said.

Shoellhorn did not support or oppose funding of the natatorium and renovation projects, saying rather that it is needed and the past can’t be changed.

But as far as the response to the number of students in quarantine at the high school and middle schools earlier this year, Shoellhorn said he would have students learning completely virtually until they were ready to go back to school rather than an intermediate blended approach, which Center Grove schools used for two weeks at the beginning of September before sending students back to school full time.

“Looking back at it, I don’t think I would have done the blended learning that way,” Shoellhorn said. “Maybe there’s some way to improve that. When I look at it, they have two full-time jobs (during blended learning). They’re working in the classroom and virtually.”

Shoellhorn hopes if he is elected to the board to push for more transparency between the board and the community, he said.

“Sometimes there’s too many behind-the-door meetings,” Shoellhorn said. “There’s an impact that can have on teachers, parents and taxpayers and how they view that. Just speaking with people, nearly every single person I’ve talked to has had that concern.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”The Daniels File” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Rob Daniels

Residence: Greenwood

Family: Wife, Alisa; two children

Occupation: Attorney

Educational background: Center Grove High School; DePauw University; Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Past political experience: Center Grove school board: 2016-present

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”The Counts File” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Amy Counts

Residence: Bargersville

Family: Husband, Greg; three children

Occupation: Lake City Bank vice president, commercial banking officer

Educational background: Perry Meridian High School; IUPUI; Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Past political experience: none

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”The Shoellhorn File” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Britton Shoellhorn

Residence: Greenwood

Family: Wife, Hollie; two children

Occupation: U.S. Army preventative medicine non-commissioned officer and therapist

Educational background: Bloomington High School South; Indiana Wesleyan University; Wesley Seminary; Christian Theological Seminary

Past political experience: none