15 members of the
public addressed the Duneland School Board at its special meeting discussing
open enrollment and transfer student policies last night.
Eight spoke in
favor of Duneland being an open district, six spoke in favor of Duneland
being a closed district, and one person was undecided.
The special meeting
was called after the Board’s realization that a new transfer student policy
that closed Duneland to out-of-district students (with exceptions for
students of Duneland staff, students who have already enrolled and their
siblings, and students who have attended an accredited nonpublic school in
the district, for at least two years prior to transfer, who need to advance
to a grade level not offered at the nonpublic school) was adopted at its
August 2018 meeting without the Board’s knowledge due to its inclusion in a
round of policy updates that totaled over 100 pages.
the new policy, the Board opted to hold a special meeting to allow public
input on the policy, since it was passed the first time without the
opportunity for public scrutiny.
Nothing changed at
last night’s meeting--the Board decided Duneland will remain closed until
they can work on the transfer student issue with a new superintendent.
The Board did hear
several perspectives from the Duneland community and nearby out-of-district
parents about the enrollment policy.
Several of those in
favor expressed their disappointment that their children or grandchildren
will unexpectedly not be able to attend Duneland next year.
Of those, Dawn
Gubic of Pine Township was one.
Gubic said she and
her husband reside outside the district because her husband’s steel hauling
business benefits from being near the County line. They have two children
who have already graduated from Duneland, and now have a third who won’t be
able to go.
Gubic said her kids
transferred to Duneland after her husband’s business suffered form the
recession and paying for private school was no longer viable. Before coming
to Duneland, the Gubic kids were at a Christian academy in Valparaiso. Gubic
said it was important to note that parents are drawn to the communities
where their kids attend school.
“When they went to
Victory in Valpo, we did life in Valpo,” Gubic said, noting she got gas,
went to stores, and enrolled her kids in activities in Valparaiso while they
attended school there.
“They were Valpo
kids,” Gubic said. “and when my kids came to Duneland, they became Duneland
Gubic ended saying,
“We’re willing to drive them, we’re willing to sacrifice, we’re willing to
carpool because we care.”
An entire family
also showed up to support open enrollment--John Doyle, his son Shaun Doyle,
and Shaun’s wife, Erin Doyle, all spoke.
John Doyle pointed
out that a recent comprehensive study of Duneland showed enrollment is
predicted to decrease, which could free up resources and funding for more
“I look at the
signs that say the ‘Duneland difference’. What is the Duneland difference?
Part of the Duneland difference is letting people from outside the district
come in,” he said.
of Gary, said she has two kids who are thriving at Jackson elementary after
she enrolled them at Duneland instead of the failing schools in her home
district. “I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have the opportunity
to send them to Duneland. They’re doing well in math. They’re reading
several grades above their level. I think they have something good to give
to this community.”
with Gubic. “We shop here, we buy our gas here, we go out here, we
socialize. We are bringing money to this area.”
When Erin Doyle
spoke, she made another financial point. She noted that she has begun
looking at other school options for her child entering kindergarten, and in
doing so learned that 221 students at Discovery Charter School live in the
Duneland school district. “That’s 221 kids whose parents are paying for the
tax referendum when their children aren’t event attending Duneland, and
Discovery does not get the tax referendum.”
Fleischhacker said when she bought her house in Town of Pines she was told
it was within the Duneland School District only to later find out that
wasn’t the case. She says her daughter has thrived after transferring from
Michigan City schools to Duneland. She emphasized that by closing
enrollment, Duneland is keeping out students who want to have a better
education and parents who are willing to be involved in school activities.
“When we started at
Michigan City, I put the negative things I had heard about the schools out
of my mind and looked to the positives. I joined the PTA and signed her up
for the after school magnet classes and gave it my all.”
getting involved only helped her see that her daughter’s teacher was
overwhelmed with behavioral issues and kids unprepared to start school. The
last straw was another child attacking her daughter.
disappointed to hear of the policy change considering her involvement in
Duneland as part of the PTA, working fundraisers and book fairs, planning
class parties, and more.
“I’m the first to
sign up for teacher meals and chaperoning field trips. I update my
background check report every year on the first day so I don’t miss a chance
utilize an out of district agreement are doing it because they want better
for their children and we want to be here,” Fleischhacker said. “We are part
of this community, not separated by an imaginary line.”
residents Laura Elliot and Valeria Van Kley said parents who want their
children at Duneland Schools should move to the district.
“I have four
students in the district,” Van Kley said. “My husband and I moved here three
years ago because we wanted our kids to go to Duneland schools. if I wanted
them to go to another district, I would have moved to that district.”
Councilmember and Burns Harbor resident Andy Bozak said he was concerned
with class sizes and the fact that some schools already share teachers for
subjects like gym and art.
Bozak is also
bothered by out-of-district parents not paying property taxes and the
referendum tax rate. “It comes down to money and class size.”
Al Raffin said, “My
feeling is that your responsibly is first and foremost to the taxpayers in
Duneland, and even though there may be some schools around here that aren’t
meeting the needs of their constituents, that’s not what you’re here to do.”
Rich Raffin said
his heart goes out to people in tough spots, but the Board should think
about people on fixed incomes and whether or not its fair to ask Dunelanders
to pay extra and serve out-of-district students at the same time.
situations with different school systems that aren’t as good as Duneland,
but in some ways, I think we’re letting those schools off the hook if we’re
taking kids from their system. People are coming here, and they aren’t
getting involved to change things for the better,” said Rich Raffin.
Bob Filipek, who
ran for school board this past election, was also against open enrollment,
in part because of the referendum. “I care about the people from Duneland. I
live in Duneland. I’m paying for the Duneland Difference, and I want to
support the referendum,” Filipek said. “But going door to door, I talked to
a number of people who said they’re not gonna support the referendum if we
Filipek had another
objection. “When my daughter was here, a girl transferred from Valpo and
came in as number two in the class, but at the same time, what about the
Chesterton kid that was number two? Same thing if you have an athlete and
you’re bringing a kid in from out of district and someone takes their spot.
They’re not doing what they should be able to do because of increased
Board Secretary Ron
Stone reaffirmed his opposition to open enrollment. “As far as our community
goes, we were the only ones in Northwest Indiana that were open besides
LaPorte and Michigan City, and we were the only ones open that have an
active referendum in place.”
Marshall reaffirmed his support for open enrollment.
move to amend the policy at this time, but said he will continue to advocate
for open enrollment under the direction of a new superintendent.
“I’ve made no
secret over the years that I am a big supporter of open enrollment. Coming
from a diverse educational background myself, my heart goes out to the
parents that want that choice for their kids and don’t live in our system,”
“No matter what we
do, whether we affirm the policy or not, the Board is committed to
reexamining this policy when we have a new superintendent. It’s gonna be
something that takes a comprehensive approach from us and the new
superintendent, whoever that may be,” said Board President Brandon Kroft.