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During forum, West Lafayette school board candidates square off

Left to right: Karen Springer, Angie Janes, and Rachel Witt (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

During a forum Thursday night, six candidates for the West Lafayette Community School Corporation board squared off over three seats.

The forum, held in the West Lafayette City Council chambers, was moderated by councilmember David Sanders – who asked for candidates' positions on charter schools and what they’d prioritize as board members.

Dacia Mumford, who taught elementary school at West Lafayette until 2019, said the board has failed to be transparent - and she aims to change that.

“They have been forced into some recent improvements, but the school board routinely votes for issues without having publicly shared anything in advance,” she said.

During last year's superintendent search, some members of the community questioned the secrecy around candidates for the job - even as school officials maintained it was important for bringing in the best person.

Rachel Witt, current school board president, said the corporation is working to improve how it shares information.

“We are in the middle of a communications audit to understand how our corporation communicates,” she said.

When it came to charter schools, several candidates strove to offer nuanced takes on the issue – while underlining they didn’t believe those schools would be right for the community.

George Lyle, who works as a member of Purdue University's IT team, said he’s open to the idea of charter schools - but opposes them in West Lafayette.

“It depends on the needs of the community, and it depends on the amount of oversight the community and local government are willing to put on either of the organizations or the companies that end up running these things,” he said. “Now, specifically here, do we need one here - I don’t think so.”

Left to right: Laurence Wang, George Lyle, Darcia Mumford. (WBAA/Ben Thorp)

Angie Janes has served on the West Lafayette parent council in a variety of roles. She said she understands parents want options.

“But I fear that in the bigger picture what happens is that charter schools divert funds from public schools,” she said.

Other candidates raised concerns about the district’s finances.

Laurence Wang said he wants to stabilize the budgets of West Lafayette schools, pointing at the district’s flat enrollment as “worrisome.”

“With my background in finance, that’s why I decided to step forward and run for a seat on the school board,” he said.

Karen Springer, currently running for her seventh term after 24 years on the West Lafayette school board, said she’s just as passionate about the schools now as she’s ever been.

“I think my 24 years of board experience and analytical decision-making skills and leadership abilities will continue to be an asset,” she said.

Following the forum, Sanders thanked candidates for keeping it cordial.

Election day is Nov. 8.