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EACS’ divisive board

The East Allen County Schools board’s attempt to function without a superintendent is threatening to move from an unwelcome distraction to an outright disaster. If the board leadership doesn’t move quickly to designate an interim superintendent, the school district is likely to send talented and experienced educators searching for new jobs.

A divisive and damaging tone seems to have settled over the board since three new members took office in January. When Superintendent Karyle Green was forced out in late February, some board members seemed to embrace the vacancy to indulge their worst instincts to micromanage.

At board meetings, administrators have been the targets of accusations and uninformed views. The corporation secretary was criticized, for example, for not including unnecessary detail in meeting minutes.

A 4 1/2 -hour meeting April 16 found the board at its most dysfunctional. Veteran board member Bill Hartman, who missed the meeting, called the board out in a stunning exchange last week, apologizing to building principals, staff members and central office administrators for some of his fellow board members’ behavior and warning them not to speak individually to board members.

“What you say has, does and will continue to be used against you and your colleagues,” Hartman said, addressing an audience of mostly administrators.

“Until we put a superintendent in place who can shield you from us individually, it’s our job to shield you from us individually,” Hartman said. “I suggest you say as little to us individually as possible.”

He also called on the board to re-examine its stated priorities, making board development its top goal and recommending the board contract with William “Tuck” Hopkins, a Fort Wayne attorney with expertise in supervisory and executive training. The current plan is to allow an unsuccessful board candidate to conduct board training.

Hartman’s remarks prompted an angry response from Bob Nelson, one of the newly elected board members, but Hartman’s criticism was on target. What may be sincere intentions to serve the district are threatening the school district’s stability. Board President Neil Reynolds must restore decorum, and East Allen County parents and taxpayers should demand at least an interim superintendent be named to restore some semblance of authority and order. Without it, the district is at risk of frightening off any qualified candidate for permanent appointment as superintendent.

To their credit, teachers and administrators continue to do excellent work in their individual buildings, but their work – and students’ progress – will inevitably suffer if board members’ individual and collective behavior does not change.