The Duneland School
Board reaffirmed its position on keeping the district closed to transfer
students at a special meeting yesterday.
The Board scheduled
the meeting following an Open Door Law complaint by Duneland resident John
Doyle. The Indiana Public Access Counselor subsequently issued an opinion in
response saying that the Board was “asleep at the wheel” in its duties when
it inadvertently closed the district to transfer students by passing all at
once a packet of policy updates containing more than 40 amended policies
that totaled over 100 pages at its August 2018 meeting.
The purpose of the
meeting last night was to get public input and revote on Policy 5111, the
policy that determines whether or not the district is open to transfer
students, “to put to rest the legal validity of this policy,” according to
Board Attorney Charles Parkinson.
Doyle was the first
to step forward for public comment last night. He asked the Board to give
him an honest answer whether or not the district was open and alleged that
there isn’t proof Policy 5111 was passed legally.
Parkinson said the
Public Access Counselor’s opinion doesn’t overturn the policy, though the
conclusion of the opinion is that the Board’s August approval of the policy
wasn’t done properly in the public eye and is vulnerable to a court order
overturning the decision.
“It’s open. It
can’t be closed,” Doyle said. “I’m just looking for honesty. It’s open.”
Kroft said the Board and Parkinson disagree.
Doyle had a back
and forth with the Board where he repeated his question several times.
Kroft’s answer stayed the same.
“It can’t be
closed. You never closed it legally. Period,” Doyle said.
“I respect your
passion for this issue, you may not believe that, but I do. We have a
difference of opinion, and I’m sorry for that,” Kroft said.
saying the Board was refusing to answer if the district was open or closed.
“I’ve answered, and
you just don’t like the answer,” said Kroft.
Doyle that the rules for public comment were laid out at the start of the
meeting--each person gets three minutes to speak. “You’ve gone over the
the Board’s public comment policy before yielding the floor. “Where do we
get ‘allotted time?’ How do we have honest discussions about policies that
change people’s lives, and you only give the public three minutes to talk
about it? That needs to get changed.”
Three other members
of the public spoke, imploring the Board to reconsider closing the district.
Mark Vittetoe, of
Crown Point, was disappointed to find out that his son, a student at
Discovery Charter who’s on the autism spectrum, can’t transfer to CHS next
year. “It’s not just a piece of paper. These are students. There are
families that have planned the next few years over where they’re kids are
going to school,” Vittetoe said.
Valparaiso resident with four kids in the district said, “This was like a
Tianna Wilson said
her son, also a Discovery student, has severe ADHD and was already very
anxious about moving up from Discovery to CHS. “Sending him out there, I
feel, is like just sending him to the wolves because of his severe
The Board heard
from Parkinson before the vote. He said the Board could reverse its August
decision, but he feels the issue of public access has been rectified.
“When the Public
Access Counselor says this was done improperly, no one takes that lightly at
all,” Parkinson said. “But I think you’ve done almost everything you can do
to make this an open and informed process.”
“You discussed it
in September, you’ve taken any number of private opportunities to discuss
this with individuals who’ve been affected by the policy, discussed it with
the press, and held an entire meeting for the public to address it in
February,” Parkinson said.
“I would suggest
that you out of any school board in Indiana have thought more about this
issue than any other school board,” said Parkinson.
The Board voted
unanimously to keep the district closed for now.
Kristin Kroeger commented after, saying the issue has brought extreme
passion on both sides that isn’t lost on the Board.
closing the district has been a topic of discussion since 2013, and keeping
it open would involve putting new administrative guidelines into place at a
time when the Board’s energy is already stretched thin.
“We’ve reflected on
it and thought a lot about it. This current process has taken the Board and
distracted the Board from the two most important tasks we can ever be tasked
with: ensuring our financial security from continuing our referendum and
hiring and selecting a new superintendent to lead our schools,” Kroeger
“The Board has been
heavily criticized, a lot of it warranted under the circumstances, but some
of it not, and some of it very unfair,” said Kroeger.
Kroeger said the
Board voted to keep the district closed not because they all agree it’s a
permanent solution, but because it’s the right decision for the majority of
students and staff right now.
“When we have the
time to put those administrative guidelines in place, the Board will have
this discussion again, but right now, we need to continue to focus on those
two very, very, very important things,” Kroeger said.
Kroeger. “This policy is going to be looked at again and reviewed once we
have a permanent superintendent. And we’re not doing that simply for the
purpose of the referendum. It’s going to be looked at well down the road,
well past that time.”