For about 45 minutes Tuesday, two men vying to become the next East Allen County Schools board member expressed support for teachers, school administrators and the New Haven community.
Matt Bischoff, a 2006 New Haven High School graduate, and Steve Screeton, a retired EACS elementary school teacher, each want to represent District 4E, which includes the New Haven area that was left without representation when former board Vice President Chris Baker resigned Nov. 8.
Baker is now the district's director of facilities, and the board will select his replacement at a meeting Tuesday. Bischoff or Screeton will serve out Baker's term, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.
But board members first wanted to learn more about them. In a special meeting with only interviews with the candidates on the agenda, panelists lobbed questions about inspiring students, working with board members and being responsive to constituents.
Neither Bischoff nor Baker's answers differed significantly, and both men said several times they agreed with their counterpart.
Screeton, a former basketball coach, retired from teaching about a year go and said he wants to give back.
“The first year (of retirement), I wanted to take it easy,” he said. “Now, I'm ready to get back and be involved.”
Bischoff, who played baseball for New Haven High School, echoed that desire to serve.
“I'm really interested in helping the community any way I can,” he said.
Responding to a question from board member Paulette Nellems about expectations of the district's superintendent, Bischoff said he wants students to be “inspired and involved.” To do that, schools could offer varied programs to ensure that a wide range of students are interested in what they are studying, he said.
“It's very important to inspire youth,” Bischoff said. “It's becoming more and more of a challenge.”
Asked what skills would make him a good board member, Screeton cited his classroom experience. He said he knows what teachers go through.
“I think my background gives me an advantage in a lot of ways,” he said. “I understand the demands the state puts on teachers.”
Both candidates said they will work to attend EACS events and be responsive to the community they could represent.
“To be here. ... it's an honor,” Bischoff said.
“Whoever's selected to that role, I think they'll do a really great job,” Screeton said.
Board President Tim Hines said he agrees.
“I feel fortunate that we have two quality candidates,” he said.