Two open school board seats in the Northwest Allen County Schools district attracted just three candidates – a good indication of voters’ satisfaction with the high-performing district. To that end, re-electing incumbent Donald Duff serves to maintain the steady and effective leadership there.
Duff, a retired insurance official, joined the board in 2002, completing his first wife’s term after her death. He served for more than 30 years as a trustee for Huntington University.
Duff’s leadership was particularly evident in 2009, when Superintendent Steve Yager resigned to take the same post at neighboring Southwest Allen County Schools. As board president, Duff initiated efforts to hire former DeKalb Central Superintendent Ken Fowble for the interim post while initiating a thorough search that included gathering input at 12 meetings with school and community groups. Chris Himsel, superintendent of Kokomo-Center Consolidated School Corp., was selected from among 21 candidates.
Duff is an engaged board member, working to stay abreast of new developments in education. He traveled in the past year to China with the College Board, where the delegation of educators visited seven K-12 schools.
His business background is evident in Duff’s sound grasp of district finances. He’s a fiscal watchdog, acutely aware of the need to ask taxpayers for more only when the district’s academic performance is at risk. He acknowledges that lost revenue, including $2.5 million lost to property tax caps, could require the district to seek a general fund referendum.
His challenger, Kent Somers, is an actuary with two young children in the district. While there’s some advantage in having a parent on the board, Somers’ views suggest he’s interested in going in directions most Northwest Allen parents would oppose. Active in tea party politics, he suggests social studies instruction might be improved by offering an online U.S. Constitution course created by the conservative Hillsdale College and advocates access to Khan Academy courses, a helpful tool to supplement instruction but not in helping students master a subject.
The District 1 seat covers all of Perry Township, but the representative is elected by a districtwide vote.
Paul Sloffer, who represents Eel River Township, has no challenger in his re-election bid. A farmer, he was first elected in 1992.
Wednesday: Southwest Allen County Schools