An unusually quiet race for Fort Wayne Community Schools board signals satisfaction with the district’s direction. But the ongoing challenges faced by Indiana public schools – particularly urban schools – demand vigilant and engaged board members. Glenna Jehl and Tom Smith are best qualified to deliver.
Jehl, a real estate broker, is the incumbent in the northeast District 2 post. We did not endorse her candidacy in 2012, but we have been impressed with Jehl’s passion and professionalism. She is a thoughtful and dedicated board member who takes the time to educate herself on matters before the board.
The district’s busing changes are an example. Facing deep cuts in its transportation budget, the administration proposed a plan to reduce the number of bus routes. Jehl said she initially opposed the idea, but studied the issue carefully, even walking a two-mile route in the winter to get an idea of what a high school student might face.
"It’s not a pleasant walk, but I took all of that into account and then I made the decision. I would do it again today," she said of her vote in support of the changes. "We went from transporting everybody to going back to the original boundaries."
Jehl, 58, admits she had a different view of a board member’s role before being elected.
"I learned so much when I went on the board," she said. "It’s very complex. We have such diversity in our corporation."
Jared Bradley, 36, is the only other candidate for the District 2 seat. President of the Arlington Elementary PTA, he is a master electrician and father of two students enrolled in FWCS. He said he decided to run because of Jehl’s support for the transportation cuts.
He also wants the board to initiate an efficiency study, specifically looking at Superintendent Wendy Robinson’s position.
Jehl said she is pleased with Robinson’s performance and noted it will be "big shoes to fill" when Robinson announces her retirement.
"Overall, she has done a solid job," Jehl said. "The job of running the district requires strong leadership and experience."
Smith, a former city councilman, is an interesting pick for the District 3 seat now held by Becky Hill, who did not seek re-election. Smith lost his bid for a fifth City Council term in the Republican primary, but he was considering FWCS students’ welfare even then, proposing a neighborhood improvement fund underwritten by voluntary contributions from tax-abatement recipients. The fund could represent a way to build sidewalks linking schools and neighborhoods, Smith said at the time.
"I worked hard on getting sidewalks in my council district. I will continue to work hard on that as a school board member."
Since he left his council seat last year, Smith has remained active in the community, currently serving on the Riverfront Advisory Committee and chairing the Housing and Neighborhood Development Services board. He also was a member of a statewidevisioning committee for the state’s bicentennial observance, where he said he came to recognize the importance of promoting quality preschool programs for Indiana children.
Smith, 73, will face a learning curve as a school board member. The job is unlike a partisan council position, but Smith’s deliberative approach to measures before the council is a clue to the thoughtful approach he will take as a school board member.
His challenger, Robert Hinga, is a program manager for the Fort Wayne Street Department and a longtime sports referee. He has a passion for working with young people, but Smith’s broad community experience makes him the better pick.
Steve Corona, the incumbent in the southwest District 5 race is unopposed. He has served for 36 years.
Thursday: Indiana attorney general