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Meet the four candidates running for Decatur school board

A brick school building under a blue sky.

Three board seats are up for election in Decatur schools, a district of around 6,700 students in southwest Marion County that’s faced challenges hiring substitute teachers.

Scott Elliott

Three school board seats are up for election in Decatur schools, a district of around 6,700 students in southwest Marion County. 

Like other districts in Indiana this year, Decatur is grappling with staffing challenges, especially in hiring substitute teachers. In August, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reportedly launched an investigation into the district based on allegations of sexual harassment involving a former district employee. 

Also in August, Decatur was one of the first districts to announce that it would match the state’s tutoring grants for low-income and low-performing fourth and fifth graders in order to counter the pandemic’s effects. 

This election

This November, there are four candidates running for three positions on the five-member school board. The seats are at-large. 

Three of the candidates are incumbents — Judith Collins, Dale Henson, and Jimmy Ray — while Steven Chase Lyday is a newcomer. The next board will oversee the district as it emerges from COVID and decides how to spend the rest of its federal emergency funding. 

Who votes and how to vote

Voters can vote for all the at-large candidates. The top three vote-getters will join the school board.

Voter registration ends on Oct. 11. Marion County residents can register to vote at indianavoters.in.gov

Early voting begins on Oct. 12 at the Indianapolis City-County Building at 200 E. Market St. Additional early voting sites, including one in Pike Township at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Pike Library Branch, open on Oct. 29 and can be found online at https://vote.indy.gov/early-voting/

On Election Day on Nov. 8, Marion County residents can vote at any of the county’s voting centers, which can be found at https://vote.indy.gov/

Meet the candidates

Judith Collins, at-large seat

Judith Collins is the current board vice president and has served on the board for over a decade. During her time on the board, the district has constructed new school buildings and weathered fiscal crises that threatened to suspend bus services and lead to mass layoffs. 

Dale Henson, at-large seat

Dale Henson is the current board president, having served on the Decatur school board for over a decade. Henson was the fire chief of Decatur Township Fire Department and now serves as the executive director of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association. 

During his time on the board, he’s overseen the search for a new superintendent, leading to the hiring of the current schools chief, ​​Matthew Prusiecki. 

Jimmy Ray, at-large seat

Jimmy Ray was appointed to the school board in 2017 and won re-election in 2018. According to the district, Ray is a lifelong resident of Decatur Township, a graduate of  Decatur Central High School, and father to three graduates of the district. 

Steven Chase Lyday, at-large seat

Steven Chase Lyday is chief of police at Avon schools and president of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association. He attended Decatur schools, coached football at Decatur Central High School, and previously served as a police officer with Decatur schools. 

His goals as a school board member include improving school safety through preventative measures, and recruiting and retaining teachers “by making them among the highest paid in the state.” He would also like to ensure fiscal responsibility in the district. 

His campaign site is here.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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