Elections four years ago found three of four district seats for East Allen County Schools with challengers. The fact that there is only one contested race this year speaks to the satisfaction residents have for the current direction. For the most part, board members work cooperatively and effectively with the administration to address long-standing problems.
The notable exception is in District 6R, where incumbent Arden Hoffman’s antagonistic relationship with administrators and his fellow board members has created unnecessary and distracting strife. Todd Buckmaster, pastor of Hoagland Community Church, promises to bring "health and unity" to the board. He is our choice.
Hoffman, 60, an engineer and parent of three Heritage High School graduates, won our endorsement four years ago, but his approach and demeanor over the past four years have been disappointing. School boards best serve students and taxpayers when they set direction, hire a strong superintendent and insist the district leader follow the mission and goals established. Some disagreement is inevitable and even healthy, but Hoffman seems to seek a contrary position on most key issues.
Buckmaster, 44, is a Hoagland resident and father of two Heritage graduates and two current students. A tool-and-die maker for 25 years before he entered the ministry, he spent a year as a substitute teacher in the district, where he taught in some schools serving the children of Burmese refugees. He wisely suggests diversity training would serve the district well.
Buckmaster supports planned facility improvements and is a proponent of East Allen University.
A volunteer firefighter in Hoagland, Buckmaster said the school board post was another way to serve the community he loves.
"I would like to be an advocate for the administration and for the students," he said. "I want to empower the teachers to teach and the leaders to lead."
Christopher Baker, Terry Jo Lightfoot and Robert Nelson Jr. do not face challengers in their re-election bids. Collectively, their work has served the district well. Enrollment is up more than 100 students this fall and almost 500 in two years – a strong endorsement of the board’s progress.
Coming Tuesday: Northwest Allen County Schools board