Public schools and K-12 and Department of Education and Education & Workforce Development

Education board members ask Ritz to drop lawsuit

October 28, 2013

Four members of the State Board of Education have asked Superintendent Glenda Ritz to drop a lawsuit she filed accusing them of taking secret, illegal action.

The members – Troy Albert, a principal from Henryville; David Freitas, a professor from South Bend; Sarah O’Brien, a first-grade teacher from Avon, and Tony Walker, an attorney from Gary – said in a letter that they “don’t believe politics have any business in education.”

They asked Ritz, who chairs the state board, to “put politics aside and come to the table ready to put the interests of students, teachers and schools first.”

Ritz filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in Marion Circuit Court. It accuses 10 members of the State Board of Education – who were all appointed by Republican governors – of violating the state’s Open Door Law by taking official action without meeting in public for a debate and vote.

The lawsuit followed a letter the board members signed last week that asked GOP legislative leaders to have the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency calculate A-F school grades, even before the Department of Education had finished working on the data.

Ritz said on Thursday that the DOE is working diligently on the school grades and that board should not have asked lawmakers to intervene without a public discussion and vote.

“I have always believed that fair, open and transparent decision-making is best and it is disappointing to learn that the board took action in a different manner,” Ritz said.

But in their letter, the four board members said they have been “been continually frustrated by our emails and requests that go unanswered, missed deadlines, and a lack of progress on issues that are critical to the success of our students and our schools.”

Still, they said they were willing to “set that aside and start over.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that Ritz had no authority to file it.

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