The Journal Gazette
Monday, January 24, 2022 10:05 pm

NACS board resumes public comment without decorum breaches

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

About two dozen people sat quietly in an elementary school cafeteria tonight as their elected leaders conducted Northwest Allen County Schools business without incident or interruption.

The respectful tone continued as four audience members approached the microphone and addressed the five-member school board in person for the first time in months.

Ron Felger, board president, thanked the audience for the cooperation.

"This is so much better that we can conduct business and, you know, maybe reset things here at NACS," Felger said to applause.

The board – which has attracted disruptive, unruly audiences in the last year – shifted to a virtual format Oct. 13, and it held its first meeting without public comment Sept. 27. The board restructured its meetings because of increased safety concerns during and after meetings.

Board members and district administrators sat two to a table in the Perry Hill Elementary School cafeteria, where decor behind them encouraged such positive behavior as "make good choices" and "treat people right."

Copies of the agenda and meeting minutes were available for attendees, as were summaries of the public participation guidelines revised Jan. 10.

Those wishing to speak were told public comment would be limited to 30 minutes unless extended by a majority of the board, with each person limited to two minutes.

Only three people signed up to speak, and when they were finished, Felger asked if anyone else wished to talk. Someone reminded him the sign-up period closed when public comment began.

"I know that's technically what the rule is," Felger said. "I guess I never have been a believer in zero-tolerance policies. Come on up."

In other business Monday, the board promoted Brandon Bitting, Carroll High School principal, to chief operations officer effective June 8. He replaces John Miller, whose retirement was approved Jan. 10 and is effective March 31.

Bitting said after the meeting that leaving Carroll is bittersweet, but he is excited for new challenges. His new role involves oversight of multiple areas, including buildings and grounds, transportation, technology and food service.

The board also approved a $214,900 contract with Project Design & Piping for a Huntertown Elementary School plumbing renovation project and a $286,500 contract with C3 Construction Services for renovation and expansion of offices at Carroll Freshman Center.

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