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(The top 10 stories of 2011 have been selected by employees of the Daily Democrat. This is No. 3.)
By J SWYGART
By the end of 2012, the number of appointed school boards in Indiana will decrease, following approval in November by the Indiana Department of Education of a request from the North Adams Community Schools to have an elected board.
In February, a community group known as Our Children, Our Future submitted a petition seeking an elected school board that contained the names of 1,893 registered voters of the North Adams district to the Adams County Clerk. Following the certification of the petition, the school board had the option of rejecting the plan and allowing voters in the district to decide the issue at the polls, or approve the plan and allow it to become enacted, or formulate and submit its own written plan which would also be subjected to the voters.
At that point, the board voted 4-1 to accept the Our Children, Our Future plan, with only former member Juan Gutierrez in opposition.
Key components of the plan call for a seven-member, non-partisan board (currently the board has five members) with both rural and city districts. Three members will be elected from each district and one member will be an at-large post. The terms will overlap and be staggered so that all seven positions will not be up for election in any given year.
Our Children, Our Future has worked for nearly two years to have an election process in place for the North Adams school board. The efforts of the group will replace the school district’s 40-year method of filling board seats by appointment.
The public group first asked the school board in 2009 to make itself elected but the board voted no. After working to develop a plan with state officials for such a move, Our Children, Our Future took that plan to the board but was again rejected. That plan was then attached to the petition drive which obtained the necessary 20 percent of the registered voters in the North Adams district.
The school board vetoed the procedure again which forced the advocacy group to take the petition to the County Clerk for verification. The board finally relented and approved the move and saved the expense of a district-wide vote in this year’s city election.
The non-partisan election will initially have four seats on the North Adams up for a vote next November. Two of those four seats will be occupied by new members while the other two will be replacements of current board members whose terms expire next fall.