The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 13, 2022 1:00 am


By the board

Actions at NACS show folly of partisan politics in matters of public education

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

When the students of this year's senior class at Carroll High School come back for a 10- or 20-year reunion, surely there will be discussions about the pandemic – a disruptive event that will have created camaraderie through endurance.

And there will be a rehashing of the vicious rhetoric and methods displayed by a vocal minority of parents and students, as well as a review of the tragicomic performances displayed by members of the Northwest Allen County Schools Board.

All over wearing a mask to protect a community – and nation – struggling to deal with the worst public health crisis in a century.

What we witnessed during school board meetings and protests was not passion or even bombast. It was terrifying tribalism in a country with the motto “E Pluribus Unum.” Board meetings, usually subdued affairs, became so unruly that NACS switched to a virtual format, citing safety concerns.

The board tabled a motion to revise its guidelines calling for the removal of a person or persons for use of profanities, raised voices, threatening gestures and physical force – the kind of behavior even kindergartners find repellent.

At the scheduled board meeting on Monday, Superintendent Chris Himsel was granted a leave of absence through the end of the month for what he called health reasons, according to The Journal Gazette's Ashley Sloboda.

We hope this isn't a prelude to something more permanent, as the students and parents of NACS have been well served since his appointment in 2010.

Finding a superintendent right now is difficult, according to a recent survey by the education journal, Hechinger Report. Turnover of superintendents is 25% – 10 basis points higher than the historical year-to-year rate of 15%. Contentious meetings over COVID mandates and political turmoil are two of the many reasons cited for leaders leaving.

Mercifully, a House bill sponsored by a Union City Republican to turn school boards into political battlegrounds did not receive support in a hearing earlier this week. Although Indiana is one of the 43 states that have nonpartisan school board elections, Rep. J.D. Prescott's bill would have forced candidates to label themselves as either independent, Republican or Democrat.

“House Bill 1182 comes after a particularly tumultuous period in which school boards have been the epicenter for fights on masks, curriculum and race and gender issues,” noted Journal Gazette reporter Niki Kelly, adding that “speaker after speaker said the bill would politicize a board that should be focused on serving the best interests of students.”

What we've witnessed at NACS is with a nonpartisan board. As this editorial board has opined before, partisan boards would mean educational policy would be filtered through the wishes of party officials. And the abhorrent behavior witnessed at board meetings locally and nationally could become the norm.

This year's graduating seniors have seen enough of nature's wrath as well as adult folly. Neither of which they wanted or could control. 

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