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REAL PoV: PHM School Board Candidate Matt Chaffee’s response to a recent South Bend Tribune article by Carley Lanich


Matt Chaffee
Matt Chaffee, Candidate for Penn Harris Madison Board of School Trustees

My name is Matt Chaffee and I currently am seeking election to the PHM School Board on November 8.  First I would like to thank Ms. Carley Lanich for taking the time to write about the PHM school district. The more people that are invested and paying attention to our schools, the better they can be. Everyone, benefits when more ideas are brought to the table.

In this article, Carley concluded that I have “doubled down on (my) message”, further stating “all three candidates continue to talk about PHM’s declining test scores, using ISTEP and ILEARN results as their justification”. Where have I ever stated this?

I have copied Superintendent, Dr. Jerry Thacker on this communication (sent as an email) since he sent this article with its misinformation to all of PHM’s faculty this week.

Carley says in her article that a video I posted on my Facebook campaign page “lacked context”. Couldn’t the same be said about the article she recently wrote? I won’t speak for other candidates, but I do know she sat down separately with both Bryan and Andy for a couple hours. And it is my opinion some of the quotes used in this story misrepresented their views. And because I believed my opinions, too, might be misrepresented, I declined her offer to talk to me.

It is because of the support I had from my parents, Brenda and Doug Chaffee (longtime PHM faculty members) and the many teachers of PHM that I was able to excel in the classroom, graduating from PHM in 2014 with over a 4.0 GPA and ranking in the top 10% of my graduating class. It is because of my parents, the teachers I had while at PHM, and my hard work that I was able to continue on with my education; receiving Finance, Real Estate, and Business Analytics degrees from the Kelley School of Business while attending Indiana University. It is because of the values and traits that were ingrained in me as a young individual that I continue to have the opportunities to thrive in my professional career.

My campaign message is simple and has been out there on various platforms for the last few months for the community to see. I spoke at last week’s final school board meeting prior to the election, which I encourage all of you to watch and hear for yourselves. This can be accessed on PHM’s website.

I believe we should want to build collaborative relationships between parents, teachers, and administrators, ones where we welcome conversations with each other, ones without anger, and ones where we genuinely smile when we meet each other. Our classrooms should be on opportunities of engagement where we focus our efforts on their intellectual, social and emotional development as human beings. Just as we would not want our children’s anger and frustration ignored in the classroom, it is not healthy to ignore anger and frustration within our community. We need to focus on and build collaborative relationships in all groups. 

How can it be that with the current board in place, over 99% of items voted on have been unanimous? We are talking about a couple hundred items here. If you take out the votes on masking and a recent PHM personnel vote, every vote has been unanimous. That’s statistically impossible. Just as we encourage our youth to be free thinkers, shouldn’t we ourselves as board members be free thinkers too? What type of example are we setting for our children?

The root of the problem currently lies in the disconnection between parents and teachers. That two-way street at the moment is impassable. How do we fix it?

I don’t have all the answers, but it is my mission to get to the bottom of it. In the current state of affairs at PHM, many times parents don’t feel as if their voices have been heard, and in several instances, teachers don’t feel that they are supported through action. There is an atmosphere of needing to choose sides. I am and have always been an advocate for teachers, but I also am an advocate for parental rights. Teachers and parents can work together amicably.

My father was a longtime teacher, coach, and administrator in the PHM school district.  During that time I saw first-hand the sacrifices that PHM faculty make on a day-to-day basis. Many times those sacrifices are unappreciated. We need to value all groups and express our thanks.

We also need to get back to the basics of focusing on prioritizing education with sound planning and focusing on teaching critical thinking skills applicable in real world situations. Teachers need to be supported in the classroom in this endeavor.

Now is not the time for us to be divided as a community. Now more than ever, we need to come together not only for each other, but for life’s greatest gift – our children. How do we do that? By working together, by listening and taking all points of view into consideration, and by standing for what is right even when it is not the popular decision. How is this done? Leadership – advocating for every teacher, parent, and student.

As leadership expert John C. Maxwell stated, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That remains true. It is my hope that on November 8, this community is ready to come together and work for all because each and every single life matters. As your next elected school board member, a graduate of PHM, a longtime resident, and father of a future PHM student – this community has my commitment to be their voice.

Matt Chaffee

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