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In public forum, Goshen School Board candidates share different visions for district

Nine of the ten candidates for Goshen School Board participated in the Oct. 20 forum, which was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Elkhart County.
Jakob Lazzaro
Nine of the ten candidates for Goshen School Board participated in the Oct. 20 forum, which was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Elkhart County.

There are ten candidates running for four open seats on the Goshen Community Schools board this fall. In a Wednesday night forum hosted by the Elkhart County League of Women Voters, they shared different visions for how to improve the district.

Linda Hartman is running for one of the board’s two at-large seats. She said Goshen “has the best” in sports and music but is “kind of failing” with academics.

She blames that on social and emotional learning, which emphasizes teaching skills like self-awareness, responsible decision-making and fostering relationships in addition to academic subjects, and said Goshen needs to get “back to basics” like phonics and multiplication tables.

“Our kids are not to be used as social experiments,” Hartman said. “The time to act is right now.”

Hartman has been endorsed by conservative group Purple for Parents Indiana along with District 1 candidate Ryan Glick and District 3 candidate Rob Roeder. The group describes itself as “dedicated to exposing the indoctrination & Sexualization of children in the public education system” and claims teachers are implementing “radical Marxist” ideology in schools.

And at large candidate Brian Krider said the board needs to combat declining enrollment and reduce spending without cutting teacher benefits. Although he’s not endorsed by Purple for Parents, he said that he’s “100 percent in favor of an advocacy-free curriculum.”

“I will be steadfast in ensuring that all curriculum brought to the board is free of agendas and is filled with fact over fiction,” Krider said. “I will fight to protect our teachers from having to make difficult decisions in teaching something they disagree with.”

In a Facebook post, Hartman recommends voters choose Krider as the second candidate for the two at-large seats as well as Glick for District 1 and Roeder for District 3.

Glick said the district should be run more like a business and give more transparency over curriculum to parents and said that’s what the district’s minority and immigrant communities want.

“Our children belong to us, not to the state,” Glick said. “They want to have the freedoms of Americans — they don’t want to be turned into pawns to vote whatever political viewpoint we have in the area. They want their freedom.”

Roeder said the board should declare an academic emergency.

“I don’t know what all those details mean, I don’t know how we’re going to,” Roeder said. “But I want the people to know they’re being taken seriously.”

Roeder homeschooled his five children, but said he was driven to run for Goshen school board after it ignored concerns he raised over student performance and course materials he has deemed “pornographic” because they depict sex as recreational instead of as a “holy institution.”

“I’m not pushing some agenda, I don’t have to prove myself,” Roeder said. “The radical gender theology, these are kids. You show me an improvement in academics, and then you can debate me about whether this is laughable.”

But several other candidates pushed back against that characterization, including District 3 incumbent Jose Elizalde. He said Goshen schools offer an amazing education — even though it’s not perfect and can always have improvements.

Due to his background as an immigrant — he was born in Mexico City and grew up in Chicago — Elizalde said he can relate to the issues the district’s Hispanic students face.

“I want every student to feel welcomed, to feel safe, to feel valued, to feel supported — whoever they are,” Elizalde said.

And as an ordained minister, he also said religion needs to stay out of public schools.

“I’m very concerned as well, that when people say, ‘Don't bring an agenda to the school,’ that is exactly what’s happening,” Elizalde said. “Public schools is being attacked and are being pushed a specific agenda that is not conducive to the future of a diverse community.”

District 1 candidate Andrea Johnson agrees.

“Public schools are coming under attack,” Johnson said. “That’s a nationwide trend, and I hoped that Goshen schools would be exempt, but they’re not.”

She said public schools are “foundational to our society” and that she’s running to “defend schools and support our teachers.”

“Discussions about banning books and wild accusations about our teachers have become intolerable,” Johnson said. “Our teachers are trained professionals and deserve to be treated and compensated as such.”

A video of the whole forum is available online. There are five candidates seeking the two at-large seats: Keith Goodman, Linda Hartman, Brian Krider and incumbents Mario Gerber and Roger Nafziger, who did not attend.

Ryan Glick, Angie McKee and Andrea Johnson are all vying for the District 1 seat, and incumbent Jose Elizalde is facing Rob Roeder for District 3.

The League of Women Voters is hosting another forum Thursday for Concord and Elkhart Community School Board candidates. It will be held at St. Paul United Methodist Church at 405 W. Beardsley Ave. in Elkhart. It may also be livestreamed on the league’s Facebook page.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Corrected: October 21, 2022 at 8:42 AM EDT
This story has been corrected — Rob Roeder did not say public school was a "holy institution," he said that sex was. WVPE regrets the error.
Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.