Legal, ethical questions abound for Indiana School Superintendent Glenda Ritz
Democrat State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, still has a mountain of questions to answer in the wake of the drummed up email controversies about State Superintendent Tony Bennett and Governor Mitch Daniels. Most urgently, she must answer “Did you, Glenda Ritz and/or your staff, authorize or give consent to your legal counsel to lie to a constituent seeking information about how those emails surfaced?” and, “Did you, Glenda Ritz and/or your staff, authorize or consent to searches through emails using state resources and/or state time before any formal public information requests were made?”
The questions arise after HA was tipped off about Ritz’s legal counsel assuring a constituent that AP reporter Tom LoBianco made requests verbally for the information that led to two high profile stories accusing Gov. Daniels and Supt. Bennett of wrong-doing via their emails. Ritz’s legal counsel then relented and gave different information after telling the constituent that his own public information requests must be made in writing and it snowballed from there. Inconsistencies, odd formatting, and questionable time-stamping on the evidence have now raised more questions than answers about the DOE administration’s conduct, and HA is awaiting information from its own public records request.
Though Ritz carefully tiptoed around questions asked at yesterday’s Board of Education meeting (aired this morning during Abdul-Hakim Shabazz‘s guest hosting appearance on WIBC morning news) deeper data about DOE correspondence will help shed light on more angles of what could be going on. These questions compound with others raised by Shabazz about DOE performance, legal compliance, and ethical conduct:
1) Are you still opposed to “high stakes testing” now that an independent audit by a firm you hired showed that the April glitch in ISTEP+ testing had a negligible impact on scores? You were opposed to IREAD-3. Did that have anything to do with your office not promptly putting out information regarding the improvement in test scores?
2) Why does your office continue to fail to comply with state law by providing lawmakers with the reports you are required to generate by state statute?
3) When you were on the board of the Indiana State Teachers Association, what role did you have, if any, in the administration of funds overseen by the Indiana State Teachers Association which is now in settlement talks with the Secretary of State’s office regarding the mismanagement of insurance trust funds?
4) What role, if any, did you have in oversight, discipline or representation of Washington Township school district employees who were involved in a major cheating scandal while you were the head of the union there?
5) Glenwood School in Evansville is in year five of failure. At this point, none of the public hearings have been held. Will there be any in the near future?
6) You frequently criticized your predecessor for not having enough teachers on his senior staff. How many of your 12 top advisors have teaching credentials?
7) Did your office really get so far behind in approving federal grants for Indiana schools that a number of them were passed through with a rubber stamp?
Whatever the answers to these questions, it is true that Ritz administration’s release of information worked as Democrat partisans hoped it would. Some teachers and statist activists got some of the public to look cynically at Governor Daniels for daring to express his opinions via email about a controversial book. Bombastic pieces even went so far to cry censorship when the claim is devoid of evidence. Then, Ritz and her staff succeeded in beating a dead horse, the opponent she beat in the general election 10 months ago, and his school accountability system. She even succeeded in getting Bennett to resign his new post as Florida’s head of public instruction. But right now, those victories may be short-lived.
After Ritz’s seven months in office, the public is no doubt turning its eye toward the Indiana Department of Education as voters await a sign of substantive effort to improve education in Indiana. If explanations for her office’s conduct are thin and wrong-doing seems evident while it appears they are shirking their statutory responsibilities and facing problems–if not scandals–of their own, this could be another strong blow against the educational establishment in Indiana.