Bill Collins and Bruce Guiliani

Eight candidates are vying for three available seats on the Center Grove Community School Corp. School Board.

All the seats in this race are at-large, so voters will get to select three of the eight candidates on the ballot to serve on the Center Grove School Board.

Because of the volume of candidates, coverage of this school board race will be split in four parts, each featuring two candidates. The remaining parts will publish in the coming days leading up to the first day of early voting on Oct. 12.

Incumbents Scott Alexander and Jack Russell, who have been on the school board since 2010, are running for reelection. They are also facing Doug Bohall, Bill Collins, Bruce Guiliani, Gary Robinson, Derek Payne and Nicholas Smither.

Current school board member Joe Hubbard’s seat is also up for grabs, but he is not running for reelection because he plans to run for Greenwood mayor next year.

The five-member school board is responsible for setting the school district’s annual budget, approving teacher contracts, hiring and reviewing the superintendent, setting policies and procedures, and make decisions regarding construction projects and any school redistricting that may be necessary.

The Daily Journal emailed questions to each candidate asking about their experience and goals, if elected. Part two features answers from Collins and Guiliani. With some edits for grammar and length, here’s what they said:

What drew you to run for this office?

Collins: I was tired of the division between parents, school administrators and school board officials, and the impact it was having on our students’ education and our teachers. I had several unconfirmed concerns that were absolutely confirmed when I started attending school board meetings and witnessed firsthand the censorship and disrespect aimed at our community.

Guiliani: We are experiencing tremendous growth in the district and need to work to continue to offer a great educational experience. I am also concerned about the safety of our students, teachers and staff and want to ensure we are doing as much as we can to protect them.

What qualifications do you have to serve on a school board?

Collins: As a father of three students in the district, two of which are on IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs, I am acutely aware of the needs of the students in Center Grove, especially those with special needs. With my wife being a licensed teacher and my network of teacher friends, I am aware of the perspective of teachers and non-licensed staff. I also hold an MBA in Public Administration and a PMP certification 6 Sigma Lean and have specialized in leading government employees, eliminating waste and improving efficiencies and compliance.

Guiliani: I have served and continue to serve on several state and national boards. I have an intense interest in the continual improvement of our schools due to my grandchildren attending. We want to continue our excellence in offering co-curricular and extracurricular activities, which help to produce well-rounded students capable of meeting future challenges.

What are the most pressing issues facing your school district, if there are any?

Collins: The lack of respectful and transparent communication between administrators, board members, teachers and parents. Almost as important, if not more important is the fact that proficiencies in math and reading have been declining to dangerously low levels for the last decade. Most of that time, our incumbents running for re-election have been on the board with no sustained improvements. Teacher morale is another huge and growing issue. Our district, like many others, currently faces a teacher shortage and a substitute teacher shortage. Teacher wages are also very low and the cost of benefits are growing and are set to outpace inflation.

Guiliani: Growth, safety, CRT, Transformative SEL, transparency and communication, teamwork.

What are your top three goals, if elected?

Collins: Immediately bring respect for parents and open transparency to the board, work with community stakeholders to bridge the divisions between school administrators, teachers, board members and parents, and most importantly, institute meaningful ways to stop the declining proficiencies of math and reading and ensure that our students are ready to be successful in the competitive future ahead.

Guiliani: In Center Grove, one of our biggest challenges is managing growth and providing infrastructure to meet the growing needs of students in a timely manner. Another challenge is resisting the increasing political pressure to create adversarial relationships between school personnel and parents. It is important that Center Grove consistently strives for 100% transparency while maintaining required student privacy. Additionally, Center Grove will be competing with other districts for the most talented educators in a shrinking candidate pool.

How would you define social emotional learning? Do you think it has a place in schools?

Collins: At its core, SEL could be defined simply as a tool to teach children how to self-regulate their own emotions. However, that is not what we are using. In the educational sector we use a model known as “Transformative SEL,” which is a tool designed to radically reshape how one thinks or approaches an issue. To some, even, that seems perfectly fine. When you look at society as a whole, it is undeniable that we as a people could do with an adjustment to how we think or approach an issue, but what really matters is who is doing the adjusting and to what standard.

To that end, I do not think that SEL in any form has a place in public schools because I wholeheartedly believe that schools are a place designed to teach students how to think and not what to think … That is not a school’s place. That is the role of parents.

Guiliani: SEL is the process of developing acceptable self-control and self-awareness and skills necessary to be successful in life. These are great lessons that have traditionally been included in the health curriculum. The controversy regarding SEL began with the switch to Transformative SEL. This was initially intended to teach the root causes of inequity. Problems can arise when these lessons become a vehicle for indoctrinating political agendas and inducing guilt in the guiltless, which is the direction I see at the moment.

How would you define critical race theory? Do you think CRT is being taught in this school district?

Collins: I would define CRT as a theoretical approach to defining the role that race has played in the current standing of individuals in our country. It’s removing an individual’s responsibilities and consequences for personal decisions and actions and shifting them from the individual and blaming racial identities for success or failure. As far as if it is being taught or not, that is very hard to place a finger on. Large scale, I do not believe it is being taught. However, I know for a fact that racial undertones are sprinkled into most lessons and school policies.

Guiliani: There is much confusion and debate around this topic. Teaching CRT has been conflated with teaching the history of minorities. In my lifetime, we have taught about the experiences of minorities in this country with an increasing emphasis over the last 30 years. The practice of teaching a full and complete history should continue. This requires a factual presentation. There should be no intent to make students feel shame about something over which they have had no control or involvement. Teaching U.S. and World history must include our successes and failures as a country and our history of striving to correct past wrongs. I think CRT has been embedded in various aspects of the curriculum.

What else would you like to say to voters?

Collins: Over the last few years, there has been a lot of growing division within our community, I hate to see it … We have two incumbents that have been on our school board for a very long time … If you are tired of seeing our awesome teachers leave in droves to go work for neighboring districts, if you are tired of hearing about the crazy things happening with our students, if you are tired of parents not being able to speak freely at a board meeting, if you are tired of board presidents calling the sheriff’s department on parents that just want to ask questions at a board meeting and be heard, please vote for change on or before November 8, 2022.

Guiliani: No.

The Collins File

Name: William “Bill” James Collins, Jr.

Age: 38

Family: Wife; three children

Occupation: Analyst at Rolls-Royce North America

Education: Noblesville High School; Columbia Southern University

Military Service: U.S. Army. 2001-07, Field Artillery, Cannon Crewmember 13B

Memberships: Emmanuel Church Greenwood; Indiana Free and Accepted Masons, Greenwood Lodge 514; Mensa International; American Mensa; Project Management Institute

The Guiliani File

Name: Bruce Guiliani

Age: Not given

Family: Wife; two children

Occupation: Safety consultant and trainer

Education: Southport High School; University of Indianapolis

Military experience: None

Memberships: American Society of Safety Professionals; Central Indiana Society of Safety Professionals; National Environmental Safety and Health Trainers Association, National Partnership for Environmental Technological Education; Board of Certified Safety Professionals Judicial Commission; American Motorcycle Association