Analysis: Ritz shares blame in problems with ed board


By Lesley WeidenbenerLesley Weidenbener, managing editor,


INDIANAPOLIS – Members of the State Board of Education have taken some flack for going behind the back of state Superintendent Glenda Ritz to ask lawmakers for help with calculating A-F grades for Indiana schools.

Analysis button in JPGAnd Ritz – who chairs the state board – ensured that everyone who follows education was talking about the move when she took the other 10      members to court, accusing them of acting illegally to undermine her authority.

But it’s clear from the last state board meeting – and the couple before it – that the problems plaguing the group are far from one-sided. In fact, it may be that Ritz has simply done a better job telling her side of the story.

At issue in part is the way the board actually operates, including how much authority Ritz – as the chair – can exert over the agenda, discussion and votes.

Last spring, the board attempted to deal with the issue by approving a deal that gives both the superintendent and members power to put items on the agenda for discussion and votes.

The key terms say that the “chair and the board members may add items to each board agenda. Reporting or discussion items may be added to the agenda before the meeting, or may be added during a meeting as is consistent with Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5. Items that require a board resolution or a vote must be submitted to the State Board Administrator at least 10 business days before a board meeting.”

But despite what seems to be a fairly explicit agreement, members of the board say they’ve been unable to get items on the agenda. They complain they’ve requested items in writing than either don’t end up on the agenda or do in ways that limit discussions or votes.

The issue exploded at last week’s meeting when David Freitas of South Bend complained that he’d asked that a discussion on board operational issues be put on the agenda. That morning, the agenda posted online didn’t include it and Freitas was not happy.

He complained that he’d asked more than 10 days before the meeting that the item be placed on the agenda, which would have made it eligible for a vote, and it wasn’t there. But Ritz countered that she’d put it on a revised agenda in a discussion section and then it would be on what’s called a “consent agenda” for the group’s next meeting on Wednesday.

Freitas said that’s not what he wanted. But as he tried to discuss it further, Ritz kept trying to push past the discussion and move on.

“I’d like to hear from other board members and not constrain conversation,” Freitas said.

“I’d like to go on,” Ritz said.

The meeting did eventually move on with Ritz promising the group would come back to the operational issues later in the meeting. And they did – with just minutes to go. Still, it was enough time for more debate.

At that point, Freitas kept asking Ritz whether she was willing to follow the original agreement for board operations. And Ritz kept saying that she was working with the governor’s office on new board procedures. That didn’t go over too well with the members, including one who insisted that they – not the governor’s office – should be deciding how the board would operate.

And Freitas asked for a promise from Ritz that the next meeting could include action on board operational issues. She just refused to go there, insisting instead that the item was on the so-called “consent agenda.” But typically, the consent part of the agenda is reserved for items that are approved as a group, with little discussion and no amendments.

That’s definitely not what Freitas was seeking and it’s clear Ritz knew it. But with every question he brought up, she would repeat that the item would be on the consent agenda. Finally, he and other members gave up. And when Ritz asked for a motion to adjourn so she could head to Muncie for an event with the Ball State University Democrats, she got it.

But while the meeting may have finally ended, the operational issue is far from resolved – and it’s unlikely that educational policy will be done well until it is.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


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