Teachers union votes “no confidence” in superintendent, board

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Fate of Early College program to be determined June 15

A majority of members of the teachers’ union for Richmond Community Schools have voted that they have no confidence in either Superintendent Dr. Curtis Wright or the school board.
Meanwhile, RCS officials announced at the May 25 board meeting a reversal of one plan that had upset some Richmond Education Association (REA) members in recent weeks. They also announced a vote will take place on another of the plans raising concerns in about two weeks.
> Media specialists will remain in their current roles for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. Earlier, RCS has indicated it would reduce its number of librarians in schools to one for the district.
> Members of the board serving on the Educational Planning Working Group took a 15-minute break during the meeting to discuss the plan for Early College at the Hibberd building for the 2022-23 school year. It recommended that Early College will be dissolved, and students will join their home schools for 2022-23. That recommendation will be on the board’s June 15 agenda for board action.

> More information is in the June 1 Western Wayne News print edition.

No-confidence vote at a glance
Separate votes were conducted, with 98.7 percent having no confidence in the school board and 92.2 percent having no confidence in Wright, a Richmond High School and Earlham College graduate serving in his first year as superintendent.
REA President Kelley McDermott announced the results of the vote at the May 25 RCS board meeting. She estimated about 120 adults and students in the audience, some of whom were there to discuss a variety of topics, such as potential changes to the school nursing program.
McDermott said board President John Weber told the group that he didn’t want trouble, but there were more present than the room’s 88-person capacity. No one chose to leave, so he urged the group to keep aisles clear for safety. The board heard from 22 speakers during a public commentary session that was about 80 minutes.
McDermott said more than 90 percent of REA members participated in the anonymous survey conducted by email. Although no additional data was collected about the respondents, it was limited to one response per employee email address, so that no one could vote multiple times, McDermott said.
Public commentary surrounding McDermott’s announcement of the vote concerns include board members voting themselves the option to purchase health, life, dental and vision insurance for $1 each per year (single or family policies) in lieu of an annual $2,000 stipend, planned dissolution of Early College at Hibberd while plans for a science/technology/engineering/math program are being developed for the 23-24 school year, and the scrapped plans to reduce the number of school librarians.

Teachers union explains concerns

Richmond Education Association President Kelley McDermott presented this list of concerns to Richmond Community Schools board at its May 25 meeting, describing why 92.2 percent of the approximately 90 percent of union members who responded to a survey voted that they did not have confidence in the district’s superintendent and 98.7 percent said they had no confidence in the school board.
The “vote of no confidence” in the Superintendent’s leadership was precipitated by multiple issues and concerns including, but not limited to, the following:
n Failure to engage in meaningful discussion on issues concerning staffing during the May 4th, May 9th, and May 18th Corporate Discussion meetings.
n With regard to proposed staffing changes:  using Corporate Discussion to inform the Association of the changes, rather than to engage in discussion as required by Indiana Code 20-29-6-7.
n With regard to proposed staffing changes:  the inability to provide a rationale, answer questions, or provide supporting evidence for the changes that could be justified with intellectual integrity or withstand reasonable challenges and questioning.
n Failure to provide employees who have been removed from their positions with any performance evaluation evidence or rationale supporting the change in placement.
n Disrespecting, devaluing, and demeaning employees who have served RCS with professional competence, fidelity, and dedication.
n A climate of mistrust and fear precipitated by leadership changes and administrative action.
n Failure to ensure that accurate financial information was provided to the RCS bargaining team during the traditional bargaining window and during the period of mediation.
n Failure to provide for corporate discussion information requested regarding the use of and accountability for ESSER funds, which are intended to address learning loss due to the Covid pandemic.
n Failure to exercise due diligence in ensuring that the protocols of the Group Health Insurance Plan are adhered to with regard to the change in the health, dental, vision, and life insurance premium rates for the RCS Board, despite notification, on multiple occasions, by the Association that the Trustees of the Group Health Plan have not approved the change, as outlined in the Trust Plan and required in the language of the Board’s resolution.
The “Vote of No Confidence” in the Superintendent was overwhelming.  92.2% voted “no confidence” in the ability of the Superintendent to lead the District.
The “vote of no confidence” in the RCS Board is the result of, but not limited to, the following:
n Failure of the RCS Board to operate in good faith and to engage in the transparency required by Indiana Code with regard to providing financial information and documents during the traditional bargaining window and during mediation.
n The  action of the RCS Board in unanimously approving a resolution providing Board members health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance at the premium rate of $1.00 each, at a time when all eligible employees were subjected to a $480 per year premium rate increase.
n The refusal of the RCS Board to engage in conversation/discussion with REA leadership, following a request by REA leadership to meet to share concerns with Board regarding the Board’s Resolution and change in RCS Bylaw 0144.1, which provided Board members with $1.00 premium rates for health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance.
n The failure of the RCS Board to adhere to the terms of its own resolution, and the requirements of the Group Health Insurance Trust Plan, with regard to the changes in the health, dental, vision, and life insurance premium rates for RCS Board members.  As previously stated, both the Administration and the Board have been informed of this, yet still have taken no action to abide by the terms set forth in their own resolution or in the requirements of the Trust plan.  If the Board can so casually dismiss the terms of their own resolution and the requirements of the Trust, even after being challenged about this very issue, why would the teachers of RCS, or any employee of RCS, have confidence that the Board is exercising its oversight responsibilities in good faith and with fidelity?
n Extension of the Superintendent’s contract for a period of five years, months prior to the completion of his first year of service and without the completion of his first  performance evaluation.  The teachers of RCS are held to a much higher standard of accountability with regard to their performance evaluation than the Board has required of the highest educational and administrative leader of the District.
n Based upon the experiences of REA and its members, whether at the bargaining table, the Corporate Discussion table, or elsewhere, it is apparent that the traditional role of the RCS Board as a governing body, charged with oversight of the performance of the Superintendent, has encroached into administrative areas of focus that are traditionally reserved for the Superintendent and his administrative team.   In doing so, the Board has hampered the ability of the Superintendent to lead.  Never has this been clearer than during the three most recent corporate discussion meetings.

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