Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Social media attack on newly named school superintendent bleeds into Duneland

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Dr. Ginger Bolinger is coming to Duneland after an embattled tenure as superintendent of the Madison Consolidated Schools.

Only hours after the Duneland School Board on Wednesday morning announced Bolinger as its choice to succeed Dr. Dave Pruis--an announcement timed to coincide with Bolinger’s resignation from Madison Consolidated--disgruntled Madison residents hit the social media to “warn” the DSC of its mistake.

Several also contacted the Chesterton Tribune, by e-mail and phone. Their language: heated verging on shrill, and in one case ugly.

Most immediately at issue: in January, Bolinger bumped into a small town’s third rail when, on her recommendation, the Madison Consolidated School Board (MCSB) split-voted 3-2 to re-assign the very popular Madison High School (MHS) principal--and a native son--to a new position, at the same pay and with the same benefits: “Alumni Relations-Outreach Coordinator.”

Reaction from a portion of the community was swift and angry: some 300 MHS students walked out of class in protest, and only two days after the re-assignment more than 2,000 had already signed a petition calling for Bolinger’s “immediate termination.”

In the same month, however, Bolinger bumped into an altogether different third rail, when the MCSB again split-voted 3-2 on her recommendation to close an elementary school described by a local newspaper as “ailing.”

That decision similarly occasioned a bitter response from some Madison residents, as well as from the two MCSB members who voted against the move. Among other things, Bolinger and her administration were accused of ignoring the public’s concerns and of denying the community and teachers a voice in that decision.

These controversies do not come as news to the Duneland School Board. Neither do they in any way alter the School Board’s confidence in Bolinger. In a statement released to the Tribune after deadline on Thursday, the School Board expressed its enthusiastic and continuing support of its choice to lead the Duneland Schools.

“The Duneland School Board of Trustees was aware of the issues that Dr. Bolinger faced while at Madison before making the decision to hire her as the new Duneland Superintendent,” the statement said. “We addressed these matters directly with our search consultant, Dr. Bolinger, and her references, and we are satisfied with the responses. The Duneland School Corporation has always enjoyed strong support from our community. We work together to provide great opportunities for our young people. The board finds Dr. Bolinger to be an experienced and professional administrator who is going to bring a lot of new ideas to our district. We have made a great choice for our next superintendent and she will be impressive.”

Meanwhile, here in Duneland, the social-media attack on Bolinger appears not to have thrown the School Corporation into a panic. One member of the Duneland Teachers Association told the Tribune that it’s his hope, but also his belief, that faculty will give Bolinger the time and space she needs to hit the ground running.

An administrator said much the same thing. Noting that Duneland isn’t Madison, he suggested that the Duneland School Corporation has a history of finding ways “to make it work.”

A member of the Southern Indiana media who’s followed Bolinger’s career at Madison Consolidated told the Tribune that he has no reason to think the Duneland School Board chose poorly, that his impression of Bolinger has always been that she’s highly professional and competent. He did, on the other hand, describe the MCSB as weak and fractured and suggested that the actual rationale for re-assigning the MHS principal was never well articulated.

Bolinger, for her part, acknowledges that her tenure at Madison Consolidated has been challenging at times and that she made that clear to the Duneland School Board during the interview process. “We have a group of citizens against virtually everything,” she told the Tribune this morning. “The mayor, the city council: every elected and appointed official here has taken turns getting beaten up.”

On the issue of the principal’s re-assignment, Bolinger said that the new position was “a more suitable one for his skills.” Bolinger declined to say more, but one of the two MCSB members who voted against the re-assignment told a local newspaper that the “likely reason for the superintendent to move (the principal) was his performance reviews.” The other MSCB who voted against re-assignment voiced doubt, however, that those reviews warranted the principal’s removal.

The former principal, Bolinger added, “is a life-long resident of Madison with a lot of family and friends in the community.”

Bolinger said as well that the decision to close the elementary school was a painful one to make. “I have always tried to make decisions in the interests of the children. Those decisions may not have helped some adults. And there are some residents who believe that those decisions didn’t benefit their children. We worked with parents and personnel on some very difficult issues and I’m sorry those issues arose under my leadership.”

“I only ever wanted the best for the Madison community,” Bolinger added. “I wish some people had been able to see that and I’m sorry a part of the community didn’t come along with us. I will always have a special place in my heart for Madison and I hope the decisions that I made will be for the best in the future. I wish for the community the healing process and hope the school board and the new superintendent will be able to help the community move forward.”

 

Posted 5/19/2017

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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