Board members and Superintendent Jeffrey Studebaker voiced their concerns that legislation currently before the Indiana General Assembly is an attack on public education at Wednesday’s Madison School Board meeting.
Studebaker said the set of bills for consideration by lawmakers are “a direct assault on public education, and we need to stand up now. We need to do something to make our voices heard before they enact a lot of this legislation.”
In particular, Studebaker cited legislation that would require school board candidates, now a non-partisan election, to claim a political party affiliation.
“That’s totally inappropriate,” Studebaker said “This is supposed to be an apolitical organization and this is nothing but another attempt by the legislature to politicize the situation and control Indiana school boards.”
Board member Larry Henry said the legislature is “doing things that I believe are going to cause big problems.”
“There’s a lot going on in the statehouse in regards to education policy, so if our community and voters could at least look at what those policies are, get in touch with your representative to express your opinions and thoughts on those,” Board member Lori Slygh said. “ I know our teachers and students would greatly appreciate it.”
House Bill 1182 would add political party identifiers to currently nonpartisan school board elections. House Bill 1134 and Senate Bill 167 would limit topics discussed in the classroom and require teachers to post curriculum materials and allow parental input.
Studebaker noted that by posting daily lesson plans online, if the parents don’t like it “they can call in and say my kid is not participating in your class today. I need an alternative assignment. There’s just some cumbersome stuff” in the proposed legislation, he said.
In other business, election of officers was held during the board’s statutory meeting for the new year. David Storie was elected as the new board president replacing Jodi Yancey who was elected vice president. Slygh was elected secretary.
Storie noted it’s been one year since he and Jay Roney began serving on the board and he looks forward to working with board members.
“When I was running for this, I was having people come and say to me, ‘Are you crazy?’ but I can honestly tell you it’s been great,” Storie said. “This is a great team that we have. With me stepping into the presidency I have no concerns because each one of these guys are fantastic. When we’re working for you guys, we’re really trying hard.”
Storie added that the potential negatives that he heard while campaigning proved unfounded. “I’ve seen really positive things and we’re doing everything we can to make it the best that we can,” he said.
School board committee assignments were also made for 2022 with Yancey and Henry on the policy committee; Storie and Yancey on the negotiations committee; Slygh on the educational foundation; Henry the Indiana State School Board association liaison; Roney and Slygh named to the wellness committee; and Henry and Storie assigned to the facilities committee. In addition, Madison Consolidated High School Principal Michael Gasaway was named Redevlopment Commission advisor.
Other appointees were Danica Houze, treasurer; Amanda Conover, deputy treasure; and Pam Smith, executive secretary to the school board. The law firm, Lewis and Kappes, was appointed as the school corporation’s legal counsel.
In the board of finance meeting, German American Bank was again established as the school corporation’s depository. Bonnie Hensler, director of Finance and Human Resources, said interest rates for the year totaled $29,945.84, which is down from the approximately $80,000 last year. She noted with interest rates are currently significantly lower than the previous year, and there were no other options available that fit into the state’s investment policy.
The board also approved the new school calendar for 2023-2024, and a revision in the 2022-2023. The adjustment was to move a elementary virtual learning day from September to Oct. 27 with parent/teacher conferences from 7:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. that day.
Studebaker said the move “gives them more time to get through testing and get to know their students a little better.”