Another packed house at NA-FC school board meeting PDF Print E-mail

By Josh Suiter
Special Correspondent

A crowd of more than 100 people made up of teachers, parents and community members packed the New Albany-Floyd County School board meeting on May 8 and some addressed the board over some decisions they have made over the last few months.

 

Bonnie Thrasher, a teacher at Highland Hills Middle School and a Floyds Knobs resident, who has taught in the corporation for 40 years, said “I come to you as a public school teacher. I attend every school board meeting and work session because I care about our children and those who spend their lives in the trenches year after year taking care of them.”

Thrasher challenged the board on a survey they recently agreed to do that will cost the corporation about $20,000. “I was stunned. Survey monkey is free. Is this expenditure fiscally responsible for our schools who hold bake sales to support Blessings in a Backpack to feed our children on the weekends. Honestly, what does the board hope to gain that is worth over $20,000?,” she added.

She also addressed their recent decision not to renew Superintendent Dr. Bruce Hibbard’s contract. “I watched those I respected, stand in front of you and speak in support of Dr. Bruce Hibbard and the work he has done to align curriculum….I watched the board as you voted not to not renew Dr. Hibbard’s contract. Again, I wonder about the motive of these actions.”

Thrasher also raised concerns about the board’s recent work session where Community Montessori was given time to address the board. “I watched this charter school publicly admit that they did not accept title monies because they did not want to complete the paperwork or comply with federal regulations. I watched knowing that should this board give NAFC monies to that charter school dollars would be taken from those children who don’t have food on the weekends so that that charter school can build a performance center. Once again, why did the board even allow this group an audience?”

But Thrasher’s biggest issue was what she called the “real heart break” when the board voted on April 10 to not promote Bill Krammes, principal at Highland Hills Middle School to the Director of Middle School position. “(Mr. Krammes) is my principal, my boss, absolutely the most organized professional, most compassionate man of integrity that I have ever worked for. He has led HHMS with strength of character, wisdom, established procedures and grace,” she said.

“I was absolutely crushed to the very core to hear some members of this school board say we need to cast our net wider and seek out better candidates for the middle level directors position than Bill Krammes.”

She criticized board members for leaving this position open for so long and not taking fellow board members Jenny Higbie and Lee Cotner’s recommendation to hire Krammes (Higbie and Cotner sat on the hiring committee). “This felt like a direct blow to myself, our 4 star school, my county, my colleagues. As a lifelong devotee of  New Albany-Floyd County (schools), I am here to tell you there is no better! I have worked under 7 principals for 30 years and there is no better. I have served on Indiana state committees and national assemblies with thousands of educators and there is no better.”

Lastly, she told the board the situation “feels like a witch hunt. School board members, I have faith in you. You must stop this witch hunt. Please in the name of all that is right and good, please serve the voters of Floyd County without this us versus them mentality. Bring professionalism back to this  assembly. You can do better. I have faith in you.”

In addition, Angela Tisdale, of Sellersburg, who has said her children went to a private preschool before she chose to put her kids in the New Albany

Floyd County Schools. “I did my research and considered all my options. I chose to send my kids to Floyds Knobs Elementary because I toured the school and thought the education my child would receive there was superior to the private schools that I saw,” she said.

Tisdale said she was “most concerned about the school boards’ actions of the last few months. I read in the newspaper that the board violated open door laws, considered giving funds to the Community Montessori School, rejected promotions while making several disparaging remarks.”

“I cannot think of any such reason for anyone on this board to make statements such as “we can do better” or “we need to post the position on monster.com” or “we need to go outside the district to find creative and forward thinking people,” she added.

She pleaded with the board to “make our children who attend the New Albany Floyd County School Corporation the focus and priority. I would like to ask for the board to support and empower teachers and administrators to do the work they have been trained for by attending college, obtain multiple degrees and spending years in the classroom with children. They are the professionals. They are the experts.”

Joy Lohmeyer, president of the New Albany Floyd County Education Association, said “The teachers have expressed some concerns of what they have heard and what they have witnessed.”

She said “It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. We would tell you that is also takes educators with special knowledge and expertise to provide all students with a quality education.”

Lohmeyer also said teachers needed the board members “tangible recognition that you view us as experts in our field….I encourage you to express your recognition for our professional expertise by not leaving a major leadership position in the district –vacant for months ever again.”

After the meeting, Board Member Lee Ann Wiseheart said “I am always humbled and grateful when anyone addresses the board. As an IU fan, I also understand what it feels like when your team doesn’t win. With the few that were upset about the middle school director candidate, there were also others who called and emailed in appreciation for the board going with a broader search.”

Wiseheart also some of the comments made were not correct. She said the board did not vote on renewing Dr. Hibbard’s contract. “It was a vote to eliminate the only remaining rollover clause.”

“ I respectfully disagree with those who think the board shouldn’t allow ‘those people’ to address the board. We serve all of Floyd County including schools that are not affiliated with the NAFCS district and children who don’t go to any of our schools. I, personally, believe we have a responsibility to listen to all people in our community, especially in regard to matters concerning kids. ALL KIDS MATTER!,” she said.

“There are some individuals and a particular organization that have tried to instill fear in our community, stating this board is giving NAFCS money to a public charter school. That, simply put, is a lie! This board has not voted on any such motion,” she added. “I believe Mrs. Thrasher’s challenge for this board to do better will be seen with the next recommendation for the middle school director. She is right! This board needs to do better and the survey is an opportunity for our entire staff to help us get better and serve them to the best of our abilities.”

Board member Elizabeth Galligan “I was happy to see so many people engaged in the decisions affected by public schools. I understand people are angry about the director of middle school position but I have heard from other who were happy about the decision that we made.”

“I am glad they have reached out and I will take their comments into consideration when I make a decision going forward,” she added.

Board approved Renovations to Building for NJROTC program

The board also discussed and approved moving forward with renovations to Floyd Central High School’s Building 2, which includes sections of Galena Elementary that weren’t demolished when the school was closed in 2010. This new project would enable the school to relocate the NJROTC program from the school’s basement to the new building and provide a more accessible location for all students.

But during the meeting, Board President Becky Gardenour caused quite a stir when she made a comment regarding students with disabilities joining NJROTC. During the discussion, Gardenour said “I’ve heard different stories that we need to put it over at Galena because it isn’t handicap-accessible,” Gardenour said. “Well, I hope this is not politically incorrect, but I can’t imagine any kids in a wheelchair that are going to be going into ROTC.”

The comment caused the room to be filled with groans and unpleasant reactions. Gardenour quickly said “I apologize if that was inappropriate. Of course, we have veterans who are in wheelchairs, but I don’t know children who would be. I mean, call me out. Was that inappropriate?”

The crowd immediately began screaming “yes,” Gardenour then asked how the comment was inappropriate.

The school’s Senior Naval Officer Mike Epperson corrected her. He explained that “there is an exception for students who are unable to meet the physical standards (to participate in the program).”

He said the program isn’t meant to prepare students for military service but rather to make them better citizens. “About 80 percent of these students will not go into the military,” Epperson said. “I’m not here to recruit them into the military. I’m here to teach them to be good citizens and to be proud of America. We get several cadets who come in shy. When they become seniors, they’re just positive and proud to be who they are. It’s an amazing turnaround of what you see with them.”

Epperson even referenced students who have broken their leg or torn an ACL. “We’ve had two kids this year, one with a broken leg and one with ACL surgery, and they couldn’t come to the class. One was out of the class for almost 90 days….Those students were placed in a study hall to complete their work.”

After the meeting, Gardenour said in a telephone interview that her “frustration was with the administration. They keep changing their story. They said we need it (the Floyd Central Building 2) for ADA accessibility, then it was we need it (the basement of Floyd Central) for tornados and then it was for storage. All this time, every since we re-did the downstairs, we asked. Lee Ann (Wisehart) was with me and we asked Mr. Wiseheart (director of facilities) about it (the basement) being ADA accessible by. They told us not to worry is because it will be grandfathered in.”

“At no time, through 8-9 years have they ever said there were kids in wheelchairs that wanted to be in the ROTC program. After I heard this, I thought why hasn’t anyone told us and why hasn’t it been corrected by any principal, the superintendent or anyone. We have not heard that this was a concern. This was the first time someone was upset and told us that kids could not get down there. It is frustrating,” she added.

During the meeting, the board also found out that the program’s shooting range will remain in the basement. Gardenour said “so it is still going to be a problem. If it (the basement) is being used a tornado shelter, how will students in wheelchairs get down there?”

Ultimately, the board approved the improvements to Floyd Central building 2 by a vote of 6-1. Gardenour voted against it.

Other items during the meeting included:

A moment of silence for two of the corporation’s teachers who recently passed away – Dave Mitchell, a Prosser instructor and Jim Adams, a 4th grade teacher at Mt. Tabor Elementary. During the meeting Loymeyer said “Both of these gentlemen left in an indelible stamp on students and colleagues alike. Each was a master teacher of their content and craft and they each approached teaching and working with colleagues with a servant attitude. They always put others first.”

The board approved two new administrators: Leslie Pendleton was named the new assistant principal at Highland Hills Middle School. She comes to NAFCS after being a secondary education coach in Greater Clark County Schools. In addition, Nancy Campbell was named the principal at Prosser. She has been involved in Career Technical Education for over 18 years. She was an assistant principal and comes from Indianapolis.