Dooley ready to tackle issues on NED boardFebruary 11, 2020
By LEANN BURKE
DUBOIS — When the Northeast Dubois School Board organized for 2020, it did so with a new member.
Shawn Dooley of Dubois joined the board this year, taking the place vacated by John Siebert when his term ended in December.
Dooley may be new to the school board, but he’s not new to Northeast Dubois politics or the issues facing the rural school district of about 800 students. In 2016 when the school board placed a general fund referendum on the ballot, Dooley was part of Save the Jeeps, the local group campaigning to pass the referendum. Before that, he worked on the strategic planning process the board underwent several years ago and was part of the Kindergarten Connection program for parents at Dubois Elementary, the school his children attended.
“That’s kind of what made me first start thinking about getting involved with the school,” Dooley said.
Dooley grew up in Indianapolis and attended Carmel High School before earning a computer science degree from Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. Although not a Dubois County native, he’s been familiar with the area all his life. His grandparents were from Huntingburg, and much of his extended family lives in Tell City, so he spent many summers in the area. After a few years in Terre Haute, he got a job at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. Around then, he and his wife, Angie — a Celestine native — married and moved to Dubois. They live there with their four children, Alex, 14, Adam, 12, Grace, 10 and Claire, 8.
As a new board member, Dooley said he’s interested in taking his first year to get to know the board dynamics and become more familiar with how the school corporation operates. Right now, he’s looking forward to being part of planning the second phase of renovation at Northeast Dubois High School as the corporation prepares to reconfigure its grade levels and move the seventh- and eighth-graders to the high school building. His second meeting as a board member was a work session about that project, and he was impressed with the feedback the board got from attendees.
“I think we’re all excited to see what the architect comes back with,” Dooley said.
The corporation has been working with architect George Link of VPS Architecture in Evansville since 2018.
Dooley is also looking forward to being part of the decision making-process as Northeast Dubois continues to grapple with falling enrollment. One of the ideas Link has suggested is eventually shrinking the corporation to just two school buildings. Dooley said he thinks the school still has too many students for that, but if enrollment continues to drop, he acknowledged that might have to happen. Still, he’s hopeful it won’t come to that. He doesn’t like the idea of closing schools, though he’s come to understand that closing Celestine Elementary was necessary and that it may be necessary to close a school again in the future.
“We’re going to have more of those kinds of issues to deal with here in the coming years as we decide what we’re doing, if we’re going from three schools down to two,” Dooley said. “But having all of those meetings [about closing Celestine] out in the public, and not making those decisions in the back room is going to be a part of that. I really appreciate the way the board handled that in the past.”
In the coming years, Dooley said he’s also interested in getting involved with education at the state level. Each year, the Northeast Dubois School Board elects a legislative liaison who can represent the school’s interests to legislators. This year, Bernie Knies took on the role. Once he’s settled on the board, Dooley said that’s something he would be interested in doing.
“I think something statewide is going to have to change,” Dooley said. “It’s the little schools like Dubois now that are feeling the pain, but the little bit bigger schools — the Southeast Dubois and Jasper and schools that size across the state — as they start to feel the pain, there will be more and more pressure for something to change.”
Closer to home, he’s interested in looking at getting reliable internet to the rural areas of the state, like Northeast Dubois, so that e-learning days can be a more viable option for the school corporation, if that’s a direction they choose to go. He’s also concerned about housing in the district and ways to attract more families to the area. He doesn’t know the solution to either of those issues, but he’s eager to be part of figuring it out.
Overall, he’s just excited to be part of the school system and to support the staff and students any way he can.
“We have amazing schools,” he said. “Every teacher that our kids have had has just been amazing. They’ve gone above and beyond in every case for our kids. That’s why I like to help those teachers keep doing what they’re doing.”
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