Northwest Allen County Schools long has benefited from experienced leadership on its board of trustees. It loses some of that experience next year when Paul Sloffer steps down after 24 years, but a strong pool of candidates is assurance the district will continue to enjoy effective oversight. Voters can’t go wrong with any of the candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, but Eric Ellingson and Zubair Khan stand out for skills and strengths they will bring to the growing district.
The District 2 Eel River Township seat now held by Sloffer, a farmer, has two candidates: Steve Bartkus, 44, a real estate broker and auctioneer; and Ellingson, 53, president of Earth Source Inc./Heartland Restoration Services, an environmental consulting and landscape restoration company.
Ellingson has been a close observer of the district for many years, having first sought the Eel River seat in 2000. The parent of five children, two of whom graduated from Carroll High School, he said the challenges the district faces today are much the same as when he first ran.
"I deal with development in my work," he said. "I see what is coming. The demographics of our area are changing. Growth is going to be a big issue."
Northwest Allen’s enrollment continues to grow. This year the district has 7,342 students, up 217 students over last fall.
Ellingson’s experience as a business owner will serve the board well in budget oversight. He is sensitive to the financial pressures on the district, as well as the need to attract, support and retain good teachers.
Khan is one of three candidates for the District 1 Perry Township seat. Kent Somers, the incumbent and current board president, is an actuary and senior vice president with Swiss Re. He has two daughters enrolled in the district. Chanda Lubbehusen, 44, is a registered nurse in Lutheran Hospital’s endoscopy department and parent of a Carroll High School graduate and two current NACS students.
Both Somers and Lubbehusen are strong candidates, but Khan’s interest in the school board post comes from a broad community interest in raising achievement and making northeast Indiana more attractive to employers and employees.
An optometrist, Khan and his wife also own Kiddie Academy, which they opened in 2013 when they couldn’t find a child care program they liked for the youngest of their three children. Khan has sought to establish curriculum at the center to better prepare students for kindergarten.
He will be a strong advocate for both Northwest Allen schools and public education overall, bolstering the respected voice NACS Superintendent Christopher Himsel has become on state education issues. Before becoming a candidate, Khan traveled to the national conference for the Network for Public Education to learn more about challenges facing public schools.
"I believe we’re overtesting our children," he said. "It places stress on our students and teachers."
Wednesday: Fort Wayne Community Schools board