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Newly Elected CAB School Board Members Elect Officers, Reverse Insurance Deal and Take Steps to Overturn Board’s Unpopular Public Speaking Policy
July 9, 2008 - The three new Charles A. Beard School Board members who took office last week wasted no time getting to work fulfilling campaign promises and showing just how significant their roles will be in governing the school corporation.
Steve Dalton, Mark Fort and Tim Wehr took their oaths of office at the outset of a special board meeting held July 1 to address yearly organizational issues and other matters. Within minutes, the three proved instrumental in restructuring the board's leadership for the coming year.
Dalton nominated board member Kevin Knott to be the board's new president and Fort seconded the nomination. With no one else nominated for the top spot, Knott, who abstained from the vote, received the unanimous support of the board's other six members.
Knott took over the responsibility for chairing the meeting immediately after his selection as president. The next two items of business, filling the positions of board vice president and board secretary, turned out to be divisive propositions.
Fort nominated Dalton for the vice presidency, and the nomination was seconded by Wehr. Board member Leah Kopp nominated Wade Beatty, the board's vice president for the past two years, with Ron Womack seconding that nomination.
Garnering support from Fort, Wehr, Knott and himself, Dalton narrowly bested Beatty for the vice presidency by a 4-3 vote, and Wehr was next selected over Kopp as the board's secretary, with voting breaking down along the exact same lines. After addressing some other organizational matters, including setting the date and time for regular monthly meetings, board member pay and committee appointments, board members moved on to other more substantive issues.
Fort made a motion to reinstate Chad Leakey of Leakey Insurance as agent of record for the liability, property and casualty insurance CAB has through Indiana Insurance, and Wehr seconded it. Leakey had lost the account a year ago when former Superintendent David McGuire instructed Indiana Insurance - on the same day he submitted his own letter of resignation to CAB - to switch the agent of record to Josh Estelle of the Pfenninger Agency in New Castle.
New Superintendent Gary Storie, whose tenure at CAB had begun earlier that morning, asked board members to table the insurance issue. He said that would give him time to speak with both agents and research the issues so that he would be better prepared to bring the board a recommendation.
Fort told Storie he thought the issue had already gone on for a long time. He said Leakey had assured him that CAB could keep the same coverage at no additional cost.
"I don't want to finger point," Fort said. "We could go on for days on that. I want to redo a wrong and make it right."
Dalton noted that CAB's contract for insurance coverage is with Indiana Insurance, not with the agent of record. He said he didn't think a simple change of agent would alter the terms of coverage provided by the insurer.
"I think we would be irresponsible to vote on this motion … tonight without letting Mr. Storie, our superintendent, do his job," Beatty said. "You said this has gone on for a long time. One more month will not make that big a difference, unless we're trying to make a political statement."
Dalton asked Beatty if he made a political statement when he voted against reinstating Leakey last fall, an unsuccessful effort by Knott, Kopp and Womack that failed by a 4-3 vote. "No, I did not," Beatty answered.
Fort, Wehr, Dalton, Knott and Kopp all voted in favor of renaming Leakey as CAB's agent of record, provided that the coverage and rates remain unchanged. Beatty voted against the motion, and Womack, who voted last October to return the account to Leakey, abstained, saying he thought the superintendent should have time to research the issue.
The board also voted 6-1at last week's meeting - Beatty cast the dissenting vote - to begin steps to amend a board policy that currently requires members of the public to sign up five days in advance if they wish to speak at a board meeting. Storie is expected to present the board with a draft of the policy change, which was prompted by a motion made and seconded, respectively, by Dalton and Fort, for them to consider on first reading at their July 15 meeting.
Another big change initiated by new board members last week was the decision not to renew CAB's contract with its current legal counsel, Indianapolis attorney Mike Wallman and his firm Rund Wallman & Robbins. If new counsel has not been obtained by August 31, the motion made by Fort and seconded by Wehr, would permit CAB to keep Wallman and his firm retained, as needed, on a month-to-month basis.
At the end of last week's meeting, Dalton read aloud a policy in the board's policy book addressing the right of board members to access to CAB's public records. He said he thought prior administrations had not respected board members in this regard.
"This is a board that's going to feel very strongly about public records, Dalton said. "And, candidly, I know we've had past situations where past superintendents have gone through and, by fiat or caveat, have gone through and declared certain records off-limits. They've redacted parts of these records and blocked school board members from access to information that they needed to have to make decisions.
"In my opinion, we have disregarded a lot of our … existing policy when we've done this, and it has to stop," Dalton continued. "When board members want access to information, we're not going to look at redacted records. … We need to have access to records, and I don't want to see anybody on this board denied access to records we have a legal right to look at."
The next meeting of the CAB School Board is Tuesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. It will be held in the media center at Knightstown High School, 8449 W. U.S. Hwy. 40, Knightstown.
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