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5th State Board of Education member says there was no meeting violation

Andrea Neal and four other members of the State Board of Education who have been named as defendants in Ritz v. Dan Elsner et al., requested that Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz drop her lawsuit against the 10 individuals who serve on the board.

The full text of Neal’s letter, in full, is below:

Oct. 25, 2013

Dear Superintendent Ritz:

When Governor Pence asked me to serve on the State Board of Education this past summer, I jumped at a chance to work with you and other committed Hoosiers on behalf of Indiana children. I could not have imagined that four months later I would be named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The lawsuit is upsetting because I have done nothing wrong and because I had every intention of partnering with you on issues of mutual concern. When you and I met in August, I told you I could see being your ally on certain issues. One in particular I mentioned was the overemphasis on testing that is compelling too many educators to “teach to the test” rather than teach their subject matter. I also told you I looked forward to constructive conversation about the Common Core standards, which I consider deeply flawed in content and design. As we are now adversaries in a court case, the chance of collaboration on these issues seems less likely.

I don’t need to be deposed to tell you why I signed a letter aimed at speeding up the release of accountability grades for 2012-13. By state law, the State Board of Education is responsible for policymaking in certain areas, including school accountability. Since I joined the board in July, you have failed to produce requested agenda items and/or data we need to make decisions on matters for which we are responsible. In some instances, you have used data delays as an excuse to not move forward with programs already in place, such as teacher evaluation systems. It appeared to me that “data delays” were being cited as a convenient excuse to avoid the accountability law. I can tell you unequivocally I attended no meeting and engaged in no group discussion with any members of the board before affixing my signature to the letter.

I respectfully ask that you drop the lawsuit, put politics aside, and engage with the board in good faith communications. In exchange, I pledge to be honest, open, and collaborative with you to advance the best interests of Indiana school children.

Sincerely,

Andrea Neal

5th District representative, State Board of Education

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