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Education board members ask Ritz to drop lawsuit

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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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  • Board Members' Comment Ingenuous
    I just about fell out of my chair when I read the quote from 4 of the Board members...they “don’t believe politics have any business in education.” I have watched the videos of the Board meetings and it was clear to me, as a non-partisan--that Tony Walker and Sarah O'Brien were somewhat hostile towards Superintendent Ritz. Perhaps, the entire Board should be reconstituted.
  • Illogical State Board Actions
    Does the State Board of Education think it is a non-partisan action to meet and agree to take an official action and communicate that to Republican legislative leaders without having their chair involved? The chair is the only position involved here that was elected by the voters of Indiana. I have no interest in partisan politics which is killing this country and this simply doesn't pass the smell test---all Republican appointees take an action they would never sanction if their candidate had won. Being in a hurry with results can end up with flawed or faked results like what Tony Bennett produced. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is the totally partisan board playing fast and loose with the rules and the Superintendent who is duty-bound to protect the office and the voters' desire to make a leadership change.
  • ISTA?
    ISTA cronies comment on this story in 3...2...oh darnit. They beat my countdown again!
  • Republican Hypocrisy at it's finest
    I love how the board members say that they “don’t believe politics have any business in education!!” Really?? They should probably let Tea Party Gov. Mike Pence know that belief....oh and maybe Pence could let his APPOINTED GOP cronie Daniel Elsener know that as well.
  • Republicans Don't Believe in Democracy
    The voters of the State of Indiana resoundingly voted Tony Bennett out as the head of the Department of Education. This is the will of the people. So what do Pence and his cronies do? An end-run around Glenda Ritz. Republicans care far more about politics than democracy, especially the politics whereby tax money is diverted to private interests. This is disgraceful and unpatriotic.

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