ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — A group of concerned residents in Anderson are upset because they feel like they’re being shut out of the process to pick the next school superintendent.
The Anderson School Board recently shut down a proposal to add a person of color from the community to the search committee.
But, the diverse citizen group said they’re not giving up. They requested to meet with the school board members either Thursday or Friday evening, but School Board President Patrick Hill declined. Hill also refused to be interviewed by News 8, but suggested in a statement that public input on the superintendent search has been adequate.
The school board is looking to find the next superintendent of Anderson Community Schools.
The citizens group is spearheaded by Lindsay Brown, the former head of the Urban League of Madison County. Brown said the next superintendent of Anderson Community Schools does not need to be Black.
“No, they need to be a person that is well-qualified to do the job and that’s all,” Brown said. “It’s not a color thing.”
While the board held two community input meetings, conducted a survey, and allowed comments to be emailed in, Brown believes that, in this case, it’s not sufficient.
“First and foremost, there is COVID,” he said. “In a low-income community like the city of Anderson, you have people with transportation issues” and email access issues, too.
During the board meeting last week, member Carrie Bale asked if anyone would join her in a proposal to include a nonvoting person of color on the search committee process, but no other board member agreed, so the proposal died. All the school board members are white.
“They do not want to face reality,” Brown said. “This community is becoming more and more diverse.”
The school district, according to the Indiana Department of Education, is 53% white, 22% Black, 15% Hispanic and 10% multiracial.
“With 47%, that’s a strong voice that needs to be heard,” said Brown, the former Urban League leader.
Bale declined to be interviewed Thursday, but emailed a statement about her proposal.
“”I listened intently to community members who asked for a way that the minority voice could be a part of the process, because our board is all white. My listening and reflection is what made me want to find a way to build trust, have transparency (to the degree possible during a superintendent process) and be inclusive to include a voice for our concerned community members of color and be able to speak into the process. 46% of our student body identifies as students of color and to not have a way for our families and community members to have a voice in this most important process is not how I wanted it to proceed, hence I made the motion. As an elected official I feel it is my duty to not only listen to our school system stakeholders but to act on their behalf and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and the community I represent.”Carrie Bale, member of the Anderson School Board
Brown said he knows the school board is elected but that, in this case, he believes the board needs a more direct voice from a group unrepresented by board members.
“We do put people in office to make decisions for us, right? But as an elected official, your job is to listen to people and be a part of the community, not just because we elected you to be there.”
Brown and his group said they aren’t giving up. Upon further consideration, they hope to get both a Black and a Hispanic nonvoting member to the search committee. “Continue to keep fighting. I’m not going to stop because they say no.”
News 8 emailed and left voicemails for each of the seven school board members and Interim Superintendent Joseph Cronk. Other than Bale, only President Hill responded.
He refused to be interviewed for this story or provide a statement, referring me to the email he sent to Lindsay Brown in which the board declined to meet with the citizen’s group.
“Re: Meeting Request
“In response to your request for a special meeting of the board members of Anderson Community Schools (ACS) on Thursday, February 18th, 2021 or Friday, February 19th, 2021 at least a majority of individual board members have communicated to me individually that they are not willing to attend such a suggested meeting.
“The board has had several community outreach meetings over the past four years (including two extras around the superintendent search, in addition to special survey and email) and our contact information is publicly available for people to make comments.
“These meetings were done to the board to take into consideration community recommendations received. The board is elected to do this job and takes all communications into the context of the decision before us.
“Anderson Community Schools Board of Trustees”E-mail response to News 8 from Patrick Hill, president of the Anderson School Board