Muncie residents heard passionate answers from hopeful applicants for the future Ball State University-appointed Muncie Community Schools board Tuesday night. As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, 20 finalists were asked to appeal to a public that won’t get to directly vote them in.
The Muncie Central High School auditorium looked like the set of an academic quiz bowl – with 20 candidates ready to go. But instead of buzzing in answers, they had a chance to introduce themselves and make a case on why they should help run Muncie Community Schools.
Ball State University says 88 people applied to join the seven-member appointed board. University president Geoffrey Mearns chose 16 finalists. The others came from lists of nominations made by the Muncie City Council and Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler. Two candidates that appeared on Tyler’s list were also Ball State finalists.
You had lifelong Muncie residents, like Brittany Bales.
“I’m a Muncie girl. I was born and raised here in Muncie. I graduated from Muncie Southside High School. Woo – go Rebels!”
And new faces like Stacee Fischer Gehring.
“My family and I moved to Muncie just one year ago. I do not bear the burden of the glory days of the past, nor am I tainted by the more recent struggles.”
All 20 lived in Muncie or attended Muncie schools as kids. The General Assembly allowed Ball State to appoint candidates from outside the school district boundaries, but most applicants from cities like Indianapolis were not chosen as finalists.
The most represented occupation? Pastors. Five of them. Ball State President Mearns says a finalist’s occupation is not the first thing he’s looking for.
“Our responsibility is to assemble a talented, experienced, accomplished group of people who represent the diverse perspectives of the Muncie Community Schools.”
Throughout the two hour forum, candidates voiced support for Muncie teachers, talked about engaging more parents in the education process, and adding more programs and technology to the schools to attract back the more than 2,000 students that live in Muncie’s district boundaries but go to school elsewhere.
All seemed to agree that MCS needed to get better at sharing its good points in the community, especially to those parents. As Keith O’Neal puts it —
“Hey, we need you to buy into this. You live in Muncie, there’s a reason why you’re still here. We’re doing a great job. We just got to tell the story.”
Now Mearns and the Ball State Board of Trustees will choose their final seven – one each from the city council and the mayor’s lists and five other finalists. Those recommendations will be announced and voted on at a trustees’ meeting on June 25.
The finalists, in order of speaking Tuesday night:
- Ana Quirk Hunter (nominee of Muncie City Council)
- Daniel Willaert
- Jason Donati (nominee of Mayor Tyler)
- Keith O’Neal
- Daniel Stallings (nominee of Muncie City Council)
- James Williams
- Frank Scott
- Dave Heeter
- Tammy Dodson
- Kathie Onieal
- Cliff Johnson
- Brittany Bales (Ball State finalist and nominee of Mayor Tyler)
- James Lowe
- Lori Mathis
- Stacee Fischer Gehring
- Adam Bouse
- Denise Millben
- Andre Mitchell (Ball State finalist and nominee of Mayor Tyler)
- WaTasha Barnes Griffin (nominee of Muncie City Council)
- Mark Ervin