As the school board race heats up in Carmel, two longtime board members are preparing to wind down their time in office.
Layla Spanenberg, elected to the board in 2010, and Mike Kerschner, elected in 2014, decided not to seek reelection to their District 1 and District 3 seats, respectively.
Kerschner said he never considered the school board position “a job for life,” and with his two children now graduates of Carmel High School, he felt it was time to step aside.
He said highlights from his years on the board include the hiring of Michael Beresford as superintendent in 2018 (Kerschner chaired the search committee) and the passing of the school safety referendum in 2019.
Kerschner’s final term included some unexpected events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and increased scrutiny of school boards nationally, but he said neither played a role in his decision to step away. It’s been disappointing to see recent attempts to politicize school boards, he said, a position he believes shouldn’t be tied to party affiliation.
“One of the things I enjoyed all three times I ran (for school board) was being able to work with and go to both party events. I talked to Republicans. I talked to Democrats. I asked for both of those groups to support me, because they’re organized, but I did not designate myself or connect myself to a political party, because to me that’s not part of the job,” he said. “I don’t want somebody with a political agenda being on the board and having the power to set policy and review the superintendent. That’s not what this job is about.”
With more time on his hands, Kerschner, an attorney, plans to spend more time volunteering in the community. He said his personal guiding principle is to “make the world a better place,” which is what he’s strived to do during his time on the school board.
Kerschner said he is endorsing candidates Kristin Kouka, Jennifer Nelson-Williams (incumbent) and Jake Nichols in the November election for Districts 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The slate of candidates is backed by the Support CCS political action committee.
Spanenberg sent a statement by email reflecting on her time on the board but did not respond to specific questions about her decision to step away.
“I have always strived to work with my fellow board members, the school administration, the professional educators and our Carmel Community to help make the best decisions for the education of our students,” she stated.
Spanenberg and Kerschner will remain on the board until their terms expire at the end of the year.