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North Adams Board of Education Attorney Scott Ainsworth told board members at a meeting on Tuesday that he received a history lesson after researching a letter he recently received from the Indiana Department of Education. The education department is in the process of reviewing a petition filed by a group of local residents that would change the method of seating North Adams school board members from the current appointment process to a seven-member elected board.
In the letter, the DOE stated that after reviewing North Adams files it found that there had been a vote on an elected school board back in 1980.
Ainsworth said that, at that time, two elected plans and one appointed plan were presented. One of the election plans got more 'yes' votes than the other two plans — but none of the three plans got the necessary number of votes needed for approval. He added that 30 years ago, people also voted 'no' on plans for each question. There were three plans, and if you supported one, you voted 'no' on the other two.
The DOE wanted to know what happened in 1980, so Ainsworth said he "dug in the archives" but came up short on information. He discovered that not only did the school have no record, neither did the county clerk's office. It turns out that the records were lost when the clerk's office was flooded, and the box with that information was lost with several other boxes of information.
Ainsworth said he sought out another source for the information, Jay DeVoss, who was the attorney for the school board during that time.
Under the current law, a proposal that receives the most 'yes' votes would be approved. DeVoss said that because the plan had more 'no' votes than 'yes' votes, and because of the way the law was set up in 1980, there was a continuation. However, no one appealed the case.
Ainsworth said he sent the information he learned from DeVoss to the DOE via a letter after several failed attempts to contact the department by telephone. Now, he is just waiting for a response.
"I have no idea why the state asked that question," said Ainsworth, adding that the DOE "gave no timeline for a response."
Also in its letter as it pertains to the current elected board petition, the DOE explained that if an existing board member wins in a school board election, that person will move into the new position and the board will appoint a replacement until that term expires.
The DOE also asked for additional certification from the county clerk of courts stating that there were no remonstrance petitions filed. Ainsworth said that issue has also been taken care of.