Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

November 19, 2013

Education board meetings raise 'Robert's Rules' questions

Absence of order contributes to chaotic, state-level meetings.

(Continued)

Ritz often declines to recognize board members for comment, yet they speak over her anyway. Some of her tensest exchanges have come with Dan Elsener, who has repeatedly called on one of Pence’s education lawyers to speak at meetings, over Ritz’s objections. Earlier this month, Ritz’s board lawyer and Pence’s board lawyer subtly elbowed each other for room at the microphone in front of the board.

The dueling education departments — Ritz’s Department of Education and Pence’s Center for Education and Career and Innovation — even draw up separate agendas for the board meetings.

“Robert’s Rules” usually act more often like an umpire or referee, more part of the backdrop of the sport of politics than the focus. But its absence, at least for the state board, has become glaring. Were the rules used, it’s likely both sides in the education war would have a few clear wins and losses.

Board members have begun openly complaining about Ritz’s refusal to place their requested items on the agenda for formal consideration at meetings, one of the many areas “Robert’s Rules” covers.

Brad Oliver, who offered the motion that ultimately spurred Ritz’s departure from last week’s meeting, said he has tried for weeks to get his motion dealing with Common Core assessment standards heard.

“I have tried since early August to get information from Superintendent Ritz on the process the board would follow to evaluate standards. Emails have not been returned. During board meetings, we were given partial information (e.g., committee rosters) but never provided an opportunity as a board to express how the evaluation of standards should be conducted,” wrote Oliver, who also serves as an education professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, in a detailed account of his struggles with Ritz’s department.

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