Meet Eagle Township school board candidates • Current Publishing

Michael Berg, a licensed therapist and program manager for a large health network, and Tim Hardt, a sales training manager, are seeking a seat on the Zionsville Community Schools school board for Eagle Township in the Nov. 8 election.

Learn more about the candidates below:

Name: Michael Berg

Age: 43

Education: Illinois State University 2004 MS Clinical-Counseling Psychology

Knox College 2002 BA – Psychology / Integrated International Studies

Occupation: Ryan White Program Manager for a large health network / licensed therapist

City of residence: Zionsville

How long have you resided in your school board district?

This is my ninth year living in the district.

Immediate family: I have two daughters who attend ZMS and a son who attends ZCHS.

Best way for voters to learn more about you: @ Berg4Board on Facebook, website is in the works.

Previous political experience: I am currently completing my first term on the ZCS Board of Trustees, I have not sought or held other political office.

Why do you want to run for school board?

I am running for my second term on the school board because I have deep respect for the teachers, administrators, and families in this district. The last few years have been extremely challenging. I am inspired by the grit, determination, and dedication to our students. I believe that Zionsville Community Schools is a remarkable district with an outstanding staff who strive to do the best for our community. I am concerned that there are individuals running who might dismantle that. I will fight to protect teachers and administrators and to preserve the work that has made ZCS so successful for so long. In addition, over the next few years, the school board will be part of decisions that will impact the community for years to come and I feel that I am well suited to contribute to those conversations.

What are your qualifications for this office?

I have been on the school board for the last four years. During that time, I have learned a great deal and developed excellent working relationships with the administration. Additionally, as a licensed therapist, the bulk of my career has been spent working with children, teens and families. I have also worked in public schools with teachers and schools in a variety of roles. I am very invested in this community as a coach and volunteer.

What are the top three issues that your campaign will focus on?

1. Ensuring that teachers and administrators who have dedicated their lives to education, retain the autonomy to do their work. This will hopefully help ZCS retain our outstanding staff.

2. Ensuring that ZCS continues to offer a supportive, high-quality public education experience for all students.

3. Ensuring that Zionsville Community Schools continue to be a responsible steward of tax dollars, a driver of property values, and stanchion of economic stability for the community.

What do you see as strengths at Zionsville Community Schools?

ZCS has exceptionally talented, innovative and passionate teachers, staff and administrators. However, much of the credit for ZCS’s success must be given to fact that our community is filled with intelligent, capable and invested parents and supports for our students. ZCS is able to offer academic rigor for students who benefit from it and individualized support for students who will benefit from it.

What do you see as areas of improvement at Zionsville Community Schools?

As in any large organization, there are students within ZCS who struggle to feel comfortable or to fit in. Working to make ZCS a place where all feel that they belong is likely work that will never end.

How do you believe public school districts should address diversity, equity and inclusion matters?

DEI initiatives help to create conditions that allow all students to benefit from the common resource that is public education. If you spend time around schools you will likely hear the phrase, “Hungry kids can’t learn.” This refers to the idea that students sometimes have needs that will supersede their ability to learn if they are not addressed. DEI initiatives among other approaches have been developed over the decades as teachers and researchers have recognized that students must feel safe and that they belong if they are to benefit from instruction, no matter how good it is.

How can public schools help student test scores reach pre-pandemic levels?

Test scores are a necessary part of providing public education, but they are not the best indicator of academic success, school performance, or success in life. Many efforts are underway to improve test scores, but these must not be undertaken at the expense of rich, experience-based curricula that are more likely to contribute to long-term academic success.

How do you feel about Zionsville Community Schools’ efforts to address student safety? What changes, if any, would you like to see made?

ZCS has excellent partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, and a great deal of work is continually happening in the areas of preparedness and prevention. Unfortunately, many of the factors that significantly impact student safety fall outside of the purview of schools and school boards.

What nonprofit, social clubs, volunteer groups, PACs or other organizations are you involved with?

ZYSA recreational soccer coach

Zionsville Swim Club volunteer

Indy Stars Gymnastics volunteer

Zionsville and Whitestown Redevelopment Commissions

Marion County Ryan White Planning Council

IDOH HIV / STD planning council

Has your campaign received any endorsements? If so, please list.

Current school board president, Debbie Ungar

Something most people don’t know about you?

In my role as a school board member, I represent ZCS on both the Whitestown and Zionsville Redevelopment Commissions. I am a nonvoting member of each, but those positions allow me to advocate for the interests of ZCS and our constituents as development decisions are considered in both rapidly growing communities.

Something you want people to know about you?

Serving on the ZCS school board has been an honor and a privilege. However, I will be forever indebted to this community for the love and support my family received when one of my children endured a life-threatening medical emergency two years ago. We will never be able to thank you enough.

Name: Tim Hardt

Age: 54

Education: BA in Secondary Education and Spanish

Occupation: Sales Training Manager at ANGI

City of residence: Zionsville

How long have you resided in your school board district: 8 years

Immediate family: Wife, Danette; 2 sons, Shaun and Chris

Website: hardt4zcs.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/Hardt4zcs

Previous political experience:

National Board member, Junior Volleyball Association

Why do you want to run for school board?

I am running for school board because I believe that the current board has not been effective at listening to and respecting the views of the parents. Real transparency and accountability need to be the focus of the school board moving forward. As a school board member, I will help ensure that Zionsville Community Schools are providing the students with the best educational opportunity possible. Having a best-in-class public education system is in the best interest of all residents of Zionsville.

What are your qualifications for this office?

I taught at the high school level for eight years and was a department chair for three years. I have served on and worked with a variety of boards focusing on youth.

What are the top three issues that your campaign will focus on?

Parental rights, school board transparency and school board accountability

What do you see as strengths at Zionsville Community Schools?

ZCS has engaged parents, committed faculty and great facilities.

What do you see as areas of improvement at Zionsville Community Schools?

We need to focus on increasing literacy and improving competency in core academics so that we are competing globally. A concerted effort needs to be undertaken to create well-rounded citizens and to prepare our students to thrive in a global environment.

How do you believe public school districts should address diversity, equity and inclusion matters?

As a former educator, I know how hard teachers have always worked to make sure that their classrooms are welcoming to all students. I believe that ZCS schools should be free from personal bias. Cultural diversity and various worldviews should be celebrated but the goal should always be unity, not divisiveness. Outcomes will vary but opportunity should always be equal.

How can public schools help student test scores reach pre-pandemic levels?

We need to allow our teachers to focus on core curriculum – specifically math and reading. We ask a lot of our teachers – too much at times. It’s time to more carefully evaluate if what we’re requiring them to spend class time on is essential. This isn’t about teaching to a test because if we focus on core curriculum the scores will rise organically.

How do you feel about Zionsville Community Schools’ efforts to address student safety? What changes, if any, would you like to see made?

We need to ensure that our students are safe in our schools from threats inside and outside the building. I would advocate for greater building security and tougher consequences for those who are putting our kids at risk.

What nonprofit, social clubs, volunteer groups, PACs or other organizations are you involved with?

Parents For Accountable Schools, ZYSA, JVA, Boone County Republican Women’s Club

Has your campaign received any endorsements? If so, please list.

Parents for Accountable Schools, Jeff Papa (current board member), Moms For Liberty

Something most people don’t know about you?

I am fluent in Spanish, and I coached volleyball for 25 years.

Something you want people to know about you?

I believe strongly that we need to have a school board member who can view the issues affecting ZCS through the lens of a parent and that of a teacher.

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