School Board President Layla Spanenberg discusses plans for upcoming term following reelection

Rhea Acharya

Apurva Manas
As a group, do you think you work well together? Why do you think you all got re-elected?

    “I think we work very well together. I think what is unique to our board is that we have five individuals from different backgrounds and different perspectives. And the fact that we can all bring to the board these different perspectives can help us in these decisions that we are making as a team. We can bring in more global ideas which can benefit not only our teachers and students but the entire community.”


As a group, what do you plan on changing from your last term?

    “It’s actually not that we’re changing anything but continuing to move in the right direction. We recognize that safety and security are of the utmost importance, so we as a team want to continue to add layers of security to our safety plan. It started with hiring a really strong superintendent, Dr. Beresford (with) his breadth and depth of knowledge in the areas of safety and security, mental health, human resources, really every area of school management, he has touched in the last 25 years. And he brings to our school system this knowledge and we as the board work directly with him to continue this forward, upward projection.”


Personally, what are your goals moving forward?

    “My personal goals are (to strengthen) individual board member professional development. We work great as a team, but I would like us to continue to explore other opportunities within our board. I’ve been the president; I’d like to try other things. I’ve been part of the Policy Committee, but I have not been on the Redevelopment Commission. I’ve not been the Legislative Liaison. So there are other areas where I would like to continue to grow as an individual. We have lots of different opportunities within our board to continue to outreach into the community, to continue our professional development so we can be the best board we can be for our students. I’d love to improve some of the different opportunities within our board.”


How do you get involved in the different committees?

    “We reorganize. In fact it is a school state that all boards reorganize in January. Every January the entire board reorganizes. The statute states that that must be completed by the 15th of the month. We have a board meeting already set in place. It will be the second Monday, and that will be the board meeting when we reorganize. We will decide amongst ourselves which roles we would like to fulfill, so we have our policy liaison, we have our redevelopment commission, we have someone serve on the Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation Board. We have an Indiana School board association delegate, the Indiana school board association legislative liaison, and then our own legislative liaison for our school board. That legislative liaison works with the superintendent and they meet with all of our local, state and federal U.S. representatives and senators to share our vision and see how we can best help them make laws that support our school system.”


How does the election process work?

    “State statute does not have any limitations on terms, so our terms are four years. On our board we have five board members and of those five board members, we have two at-large members and we have three members that all have to live in a district. I live in District 1, Mrs. Knowles lives in District 2 and Mr. Kerschner lives in District 3. The other two can be in any district. And what that does is prevent anyone neighborhood from running the entire school system. It diversifies those who are on the board and makes sure that we represent different areas of our school. The neat thing about school boards is we are not electoral districts, we are residential districts. The difference is in an electoral district you only get to vote for the people in your district. When we have the residential districts, which is what our school board uses, every citizen in Clay Township votes for every board member whether I live in a district or am an at-large member. So, every citizen in Clay Township votes for all five positions, so in essence, they have five representatives. It diversifies where people are located.”


What are you working on right now?

    “What we are currently working on, they’re called these big rocks, are some different objectives we have tasked Dr. Beresford to address during the school year. And some of them are lingering from last year that we have not resolved and are beginning to explore. It would be the design of the elementary school day, whether we want to lengthen the day and what that might look like. When to start the school day, and that’s for elementary as well as secondary schools, whether we want to change them and what that might look like. We’re also looking at the design of our classrooms in the elementary schools, if we are going to be strictly exclusive with our high ability programming or if we will have the high ability program in combination with other programs. We will always have a high ability program, but what that might look like might vary. So right now, Dr. Beresford is exploring that with parents and administrators and teachers; we’re working on that. We’re working on rolling out the new platform and the switch to PowerSchool. We’re also working on our new logo. So, the communication department at the Education Service Center, ESC, they are working with a team of students from DECA. They are going to be working on branding and our logo for the school system. So, we’re working on that this upcoming year. With regards to our teachers and staff, we are hoping to transition to more of a teacher-talent development system instead of a traditional evaluation. The traditional evaluation system is not necessarily a growth model, and we want whatever system that we do use to be something that really stimulates growth and creativity and innovative ideas. And so we’re working with our teachers and our administrators to come up with a plan to improve how we evaluate to really promote creative, innovative ideas. We know that if we do that, that will then help our students. So, we’re working on that. We’re rebuilding Carmel Elementary and we’re rebuilding a school on the west side on Clay Center Road. Right now, that team with CSO architects are meeting with focus groups. Like, the school board had a focus group recently, so we had an opportunity to share lots of ideas on what we would like to see on what would benefit our students, specific things about the school, specific things about our environment and what we hope to instill in our students. CSO architects are taking their focus group teams and they’re meeting with parents, administrators, teachers. There are dozens of groups that they are meeting with within the community to help identify what they are going to include in this design. They are just in the beginning stages of that.”Apurva Manas


What do you think your biggest focus is right now?

    “Safety. Safety for our students and staff. But, there are a number of different components in that safety. It’s not just lockdown drills and safe perimeters, there are so many components. We are really excited that we were able to hire David Woodward, who is our new safety specialist for our school district. He is nationally renowned; he led the Indiana Department of Education’s safety specialist team. And he is now on staff for Carmel Clay Schools. We hired him seven weeks ago. He just had his first parent meeting, a parent orientation for parent safety seminars that will be happening. Those will be happening on Dec. 11 and 13 and there were dozens and dozens of families who came out to hear what the program will be about. There is an application process so the first parent safety class will be in December. He is working from so many different angles and he is looking at safety and security from, like I said, many different levels for all of our schools and he is working with the city. I know there is definitely at the school, especially at the high school level for the student crossing 136th Street from the stadium parking lot. So, he is working with (Michael). Beresford and the city to try to make a new design for that intersection. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I do know that is in the works. There is an upcoming meeting I know with (Michael) Beresford and the city to work on that.”