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Chandler Elementary Repurposing

On 2-22-23 a press release was sent out notifying the public of the repurposing (closing) of Chandler Elementary in order to open a career center for high schoolers. In the Goshen News article about this, the following quote was made:


“This is part of Goshen Community Schools becoming more efficient,” GCS Superintendent Steve Hope said by telephone Wednesday. “We’re just trying to be very good stewards of taxpayer money and cutting costs where we can.” Hope also said that the decision on the part of GCS is final. “We did not enter into it lightly, but it is done,” he added.

Following this announcement, I was sent communication from various concerned members of the community who said this should have been a board action not a unilateral decision by the superintendent. Since I was a new board member, I was unfamiliar with our board policy related to school closure and I began to study it to see what applied in this situation.


After a thorough study and a meeting with our board president (Roger), I presented the following case on 2-28-23 to the Superintendent and our board president, and vice president (Bradd):


Gentleman,
I have been looking into the situation at Chandler to the best of my ability now that I'm not working for two weeks.
I was just reading our Board policies:
I.C. 20-23-4, 20-26-3, 20-26-5-4, 20-26-5-5
The School Board shall have the management and control of all facilities and programs in the Corporation and the employees, students, and other persons entering upon its premises.
Roger, you told me yesterday that the decision to support Steve in closing Chandler was made by the board members in executive session in January. Seeing as that is not training board members nor combining school districts into one, that would not have been a legal decision under open door. I was also told that no vote was taken by the board at any past board meetings in support of this idea. Since Chandler is under the management and control of the board, this is, to my understanding, a board issue that requires a public discussion, public input, and then a public vote. I do not believe plans to repurpose the school can move ahead because I do not believe the decision made is valid and I believe we could be sued over this.
Please see this article about the issue:
Thank you for your prompt consideration,
Ryan

In addition to this letter, I called our School counsel and requested a more legal opinion on this matter. He was not overly helpful or happy that I had called. However, I got enough that I sent a follow-up email.


Tue 2/28/2023 1:26 PM I did reach out to Tim Shelly and request his perspective, and specifically on the issue of it being voted on, he believes that final action would require a board vote. Thanks for your consideration of this. Ryan

I did not get a report back on this - however on March 1st I received the agenda for our next board meeting, and it suddenly had a vote for Chandler - after it was declared official and done.


Action Items
I will ask for your approval of the repurposing of Chandler, including the new attendance zones.

In addition, our standard practice on larger items is to have them introduced in one meeting, discussed the next meeting, and finally voted on the third. This rubber stamp vote of a past action was being done the first month. Therefore, I felt compelled to follow up with a more lengthy case on why we could not follow our board policy and vote the first month. I sent a letter March 2nd. You may read it below:


This argument was rejected and the vote remained on the agenda. In addition, the scheduled parent meeting prior to the vote also remained on the schedule for March 6 - even though no vote authorizing the school closure would take place until March 13.


On March 4, I wrote again about the parent meeting:


I would like request clarification on the appropriateness of this meeting. I believe it is in violation of our policies because it is occurring prior to a board vote on the closing and repurposing of Chandler. Further, the new districts are to be announced. That is also up for a vote which has not occurred. This cart is before the horse and I lean that as stated below, this meeting is not in accordance with policy. Thank for your prompt consideration and action as needed to resolve this, Ryan GCS will host a parent meeting for all Chandler families March 6 at 6 p.m. at the school. At the meeting, GCS will: • Provide a map outlining the newly updated elementary districts. • Provide updated transportation/walk zone information for the 2023-24 school year. • Introduce the principals from Parkside, Chamberlain and West Goshen. • Give parents and students a chance to ask questions about the next school year.

Again, this was rejected. The meeting continued as planned. On March 13, the vote occurred and I abstained from the vote as I was not able to comply with board policy and provide the best vote possible. To my knowledge, no public input was gathered in this decision to close and repurpose Chandler.

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