25 people in running for vacant Center Grove school board seat

More than two dozen people have shown interest in an open seat on the Center Grove school board following the sudden death of a board member.

The Center Grove Community School Corp. Board of Trustees was left with an open seat after “icon” Gary Robinson died June 9. Robinson was appointed to the board in 2022 to complete the term of a board member who resigned and then outright elected the same year.

Center Grove district officials held a special meeting Monday night for 25 candidates to give 2.5-minute pitches about why they would be a good fit for the position, the term of which expires at the end of 2026. Board members used the special meeting to narrow down who to interview and select as the next board member. They hope to select a board member at the July 15 special meeting, officials said at the meeting.

Board vice president Rob Daniels said board members were “very happy” to see 25 candidates express interest. The special meeting is helpful for board members to hear from candidates, rather than just read their resumes, he said.

“Now you’ve put a very, very hard task in front of us to try and first nail this down to an interview list and then pick one from there,” Daniels said.

About 20 of the candidates spoke at the meeting, some by video and others in person.

Candidates range from interested parents, to former and current educators, businessmen and lawyers. Many candidates have or have had children in the Center Grove school system.

Almost all of the candidates mentioned Robinson’s legacy. Many knew him personally and expressed how they wanted his position to be filled by a good candidate. Candidates said they wanted to work collaboratively with the board to ensure safety and support teachers.

Other candidates acknowledged that Robinson’s presence on the board is “irreplaceable,” but were inspired by his ability to make a difference in student’s lives. Candidates said they want to ensure that students at Center Grove continue to get the experience and opportunities provided to them and that the school system remains a strong part of the community.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the 20 candidates who spoke.

Charla Anspach

Anspach, a parent and dental hygienist, has two primary goals if selected to serve on the board. She would like to focus on educator engagement and parent involvement. It’s important to streamline communication between the school and parents, she said.

“We can collectively work to keep school policies student-focused and integrate those that will positively impact our corporation as a whole,” Anspach said.

Doug Bohal

Bohall, pastor of Honey Creek Church and parent of Center Grove graduates, ran alongside Robinson in 2022. The two were friends, played pickleball together and share the same concerns when it comes to education, he said.

“It would be an honor to finish his term if I were asked to do so,” Bohall said.

Lydia Brown

Brown, who is a certified public accountant, said she knew Robinson well and wanted to see his position filled with a good candidate. Brown has three school-aged children, one of whom is in special education and several family members who are or were teachers at Center Grove. Brown said she could bring her parental perspective to the board and the perspective of teachers through her connections, she said.

Jane Dunigan-Smith

Dunigan-Smith, a senior vice president for a bioscience company, is a “passionate supporter” of Center Grove schools and a devoted tennis mom. For her, having a seat on the board would allow her to give back to the school corporation that has been educating her kids for the last 14 years. Her children have reaped the benefits of Center Grove schools and she wants other students to continue to get the “great experiences” that her children have, she said.

Stacy Fitzsimmons

Fitzsimmons, who owns a business, moved to the Center Grove district 10 years ago specifically for the schools, she said. Her vision for the board is to serve the community by considering multiple stakeholders and creating data-driven solutions for the betterment of students, she said. Quality education that meets the needs of the students is her primary goal, she said.

Dr. Charity Flores

Flores is a Center Grove parent who is a trained teacher but has spent most of her career with the Indiana Department of Education. Flores managed multiple areas including special education and English language learners. She has experience in budgeting and policy and knows the challenges that educators face, she said.

“The challenges that educators face should not be diminished as they serve as a cornerstone fostering the next generation,” Flores said.

Flores is also running for one of two open seats on the school board this fall.

Kara Heichelbech

Heichelbech’s biggest drive for wanting to be a school board member is to provide the same experience her children had at Center Grove schools to future families of Center Grove, she said. As an adjunct professor at the University of Indianapolis, she is afraid of the future of education because of a lack of teacher support. All students should receive exceptional education, but teachers need to feel supported in the classroom to do so, she said.

“I want to make sure that Center Grove is prepared for what I am seeing in the real word with students not wanting to go into education,” Heichelbech said.

Before teaching at UIndy, she worked in several positions at Center Grove.

Jana Hennessy

Hennessy has a degree in education, but has been a stay-at-home parent since her oldest son was born 20 years ago. Because of this, she has been able to volunteer for school activities and leadership positions. Most recently, she joined the board of the Center Grove Education Foundation. Hennessy wants all students to have an exceptional educational experience, she said.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman is not an educator but is a certified advanced school safety specialist, he said. He is involved in government budgeting and would bring that experience to the school board. Hoffman, a former firefighter, has participated in many active shooter drills and can bring a school safety perspective. He understands how hard it can be to hire and retain teachers, he said.

Scott Horvath

Horvath is a graduate of Center Grove and has children in the school system. Horvath runs his family business, O’Malia’s Fireplace and Outdoor Living, and knows how to make sound fiscal decisions, he said. Horvath believes in pathways for students to explore apprenticeships and other learning opportunities, he said.

Dr. Don Lyon

Lyon, a clinical professor at Indiana University School of Optometry, has been engaged in education for 25 years. Growing up in a small town as a teacher’s son allowed him to see aspects of the school system that others couldn’t, he said. However, he did not know the opportunities available in school until his son went through the Center Grove education system, he said. Horvath wants to continue providing “high-quality education that prepares the students for what they want to accomplish.”

April McCracken

McCracken, a stay-at-home mom with a human resources background, is passionate about helping students succeed, she said. McCracken wants to continue Center Grove’s “excellent reputation,” and shares that passion with Robinson, she said. She knew he would be disappointed if she didn’t submit her name as someone willing to fill his term, she said. McCracken believes parents and schools should be partners in educating the students.

Kathryn Minor-Reed

Minor-Reed applied for the position because she cares “deeply” about Center Grove schools and the families who attend. Minor-Reed is a current small business owner and former teacher and understands the dedication it takes to “make students feel loved and safe at school,” she said. As a parent herself, she knows her children’s success is related to their school success. Like Robinson, she will continue to rally for the community, teachers and students, she said.

“If I can in any way help the school help my children be successful, I want to do that,” Minor-Reed said.

Adam Norman

Norman, an attorney focusing on child support cases, said his children were more prepared for college than others because of Center Grove schools. Norman has experience dealing with elected officials, both federally and locally and knows how to reconcile “multiple” differences of opinion and competing policies and perspectives, he said. Norman previously served on the school board from 2013 to 2018, he said. Robinson was a teacher and mentor to Norman and he feels that he could help out the community by filling his position, he said.

Mike Overpeck

Overpeck applied for the position to “help cultivate and refine the excellence” of Center Grove, he said. Overpeck has children in the school system, volunteers for school-sponsored events and coached first-grade basketball. He has experience as a sales manager for a large automotive supplier with an $87 million budget and would bring that experience to the school board, he said.

Harold Sisson

Sisson, a retired IT professional, also moved to Center Grove specifically to enroll his daughter, he said. He attributes his daughter’s success to Center Grove schools. Sisson has been a part of the building facilities committee and volunteered inside and outside the classroom.

Angie Teed

Teed, a lifelong Center Grove-area resident, would bring a classroom perspective to the board as a licensed teacher who has held several different jobs at Center Grove schools. Teed said she understands the needs of teachers and is a familiar face to most of Center Grove’s teachers. Teed’s main reason for running is to make students the priority in all decisions, she said.

Terry West

West, a retired Center Grove teacher, said she is a “strong supporter” of public school systems and believes Center Grove has a strong community and school. She acknowledged that being a board member can be hard and at times hard decisions need to be made.

West went to school with Robinson, she said. For many years Robinson would joke that when they retired they were going to run for school board together. She saw him the night before he died and he told her not to forget to file paperwork for the school board if she was going to run, she said.

“And then I got word the next day and I thought ‘This planted a seed for me’ and I thought ‘I want to do this,’” West said.

Lindsey Williams

Williams is a Center Grove parent who has her own family law practice in Johnson County. One of her skills is to take the emotion out of problem-solving, she said. Hearing two sides of an issue and turning it into workable solutions is one thing she would bring to the board, she said. Williams has a passion for education and the community and would hope to learn from experienced school board members, she said.

Nathan Williamson

Williamson, a former Center Grove teacher who has worn many hats in education, hopes to be a “small part” of continuing Center Grove’s excellence, he said. He would bring an approach of understanding rather than change to the school board. The board can always improve, he said, but he would like to continue to “build upon the great things” that Center Grove is doing. Williamson said he wants to honor the role that Robinson played on the board.


Here’s the full list of candidates who applied for one open seat on the Board of Trustees for the Center Grove Community School Corp. The school board hopes to make the final decision at its July 15 meeting.

  • Charla Anspach
  • Doug Bohall
  • Lydia Brown
  • Jane Dunigan-Smith
  • Stacy Fitzsimmons
  • Charity Flores
  • Kara Heichelbech
  • Jana Hennessy
  • Mike Hoffman
  • D. Scott Horvath
  • Shaleen Jones
  • Don Lyon
  • April McCracken
  • Kathryn Minor-Reed
  • Adam Norman
  • Michael Overpeck
  • Greg Pryor
  • Benjamin Roberts
  • Harold Sisson
  • Angie Teed
  • Teresa (Terry) West
  • Lindsey Williams
  • Rob (Robbie) Williams
  • Nathan Williamson

Source: Center Grove School Corp.

CORRECTION: July 17 at 8 p.m.

This story was updated with the correct spelling of Jane Dunigan-Smith.