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Frequently Asked Questions about North West Hendricks School Corporation
The district and the school board appreciate the comments, questions and concerns expressed by our community members over the past few months. We acknowledge that there has been too little information forthcoming and that has caused misinformation, speculation and mistrust to flourish.
We are committed to providing greater transparency and communication in the future, starting with this FAQ. This forum will respond to questions pertaining to all things North West Hendricks School Corp. with some reasonable exceptions. This forum will remain a dynamic public document on the district webpage, so that information is consistent and available for reference and resource.
Send your questions to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
All questions will be read and responded to within a reasonable period of time, and all questions will remain anonymous when published. Please submit a brief question (questions will be edited for space, grammar, and language), and we will provide you with the best, most accurate information we have available.
We will not respond to questions that:
For individual or private concerns, please contact the school or central office by phone.
Will students have to make up these missed days?
In his statement yesterday, Gov. Holcomb provided a 20-day waiver for all school districts who close school. We will only miss 9 days prior to spring break which means we will not need to make up those days. IF our schools need to remain closed for a longer period of time after spring break, we have 11 instructional days that could still be waived.
Many schools are utilizing e-learning to compensate for missed instructional days. Why isn't NWHSC?
NWHSC is not a one-to-one computing district and we have places throughout the district with no internet service, so we are not equipped to provide E-Learning at this time. E-Learning is, however, something we are currently looking into.
Why was Tyler Bruce’s termination not on the 2/11/2020 school board agenda?
Like all Indiana school districts, North West Hendricks is obligated to follow an Indiana law (I.C. 20-28-7.5) that provides teachers with due process, including a series of “appeals.” After school administration gives the teacher a written notice of their preliminary decision to cancel the contract, the teacher has 5 days to request a private conference with the superintendent. If the teacher does not request a meeting, the administrator’s preliminary decision becomes the final decision and is given to the school board for its vote.
If the teacher requests a meeting with the superintendent, the superintendent has 10 days to schedule it (note that the meeting must be scheduled within 10 days, not held within 10 days). After that conference, the superintendent makes a final written recommendation to the school board.
After the conference with the superintendent, the teacher has 5 days to request an additional private conference with the school board before the board makes its final decision. The board must hold the conference (wherein the teacher and school administration can present evidence) and make a final decision within 30 days of the teacher’s request for the conference.
If the teacher choses to proceed through the entire statutory process, it can take approximately 45 days before the board makes a final decision. At any point in this process, the teacher can resign, or the superintendent may withdraw their recommendation for cancellation of the contract.
Can I trust my children to be safe in this district?
As a district, the safety and security of our students is always our priority. We provide training for ALL staff, we have policies in place and we offer convenient ways for anyone to report any safety or security concern, which we immediately investigate.
Why are we paying a PR consultant?
The board and administration have a school district to continue to run for the benefit of our 1,873 students. As a veteran school communications professional, the consultant is advising the district on how to increase transparency, be more responsive to community concerns, and address the media. Additionally, we recognize there are wonderful things happening in our school district and the consultant is helping us to promote that information as well.
Why did we not get to share our opinion on how tax dollars are spent?
The school board is elected to represent the community on these matters. Patrons are welcome to make comments on agenda and non-agenda items at board meetings.
Why isn’t the board answering any of our questions? Are they acting on the advice of the attorney?
Any time a school district is dealing with a personnel issue, it becomes a slippery slope, not unlike student issues in that regard. Individuals have the right to expect privacy, so many details of a situation, as well as the consequences, are simply not available to the public. In addition, when there is an ongoing investigation, any public comment can compromise that investigation.
In relation to the school board meetings, like any other government meeting, the intent is to meet in public to discuss the business of the public, hence the necessity for "open door" laws. Boards can choose to allow for public comment at these meetings, so the public can express their thoughts, opinions, etc. but the government body is under no obligation to respond or engage in a dialogue. They take comments under advisement and may respond through another forum (like the FAQ), but the intent is to let the community have their say in public.
The board has been pretty consistent in their practice and as much as some members of the community would like to engage the board in a debate or cross examination, that is not going to happen in a board meeting. The November meeting was an effort by the board to accommodate community members continued requests for a less restrictive environment and a more flexible timeframe within which to speak their piece. Several people took that opportunity and some hoped the board would jump right into the fray to debate or defend their decisions.
It is important to remember that there is an ongoing investigation and every time someone shares information which may be true, or may be hearsay presented as truth, the investigation can be compromised. It would be inappropriate for the board to debate the merits of their decisions or to try this case in a public school board meeting. And that leads to some frustration. We all anticipate a rapid conclusion to the investigation, so there can be closure to this painful and divisive issue.
When will we see new construction begin at Tri-West HS & MS? Athletic fields, new parking, bus lots, roundabout, etc. And when would it be expected to end?
Bids recently received for the transportation project came in significantly over budget. This is a major setback and other options are now being considered that would reduce project costs. We will continue to share information as it becomes available.
Did the board wait to vote for Tyler Bruce’s probationary period to roll over so he would be covered by the teachers union?
No. He remains a probationary teacher.
Are you getting all your answers from the board itself or are you investigating these questions?
Responding to these questions is a group effort, relying on those who would have the best knowledge to answer the question. We must also rely on the advice of legal counsel, so the information shared does not cross any legal boundaries.
How much is the communications consultant being paid?
Once the contract has been approved, it will be a matter of public record.
When will the board be sitting down to answer all questions?
We are hopeful that community members will use the FAQ as the most public means of responding to questions. That way information shared is consistent, readily available, and very public. That said, the November board meeting will offer an opportunity for public comment without the 2 minute time limit.
Are these questions actually from the community?
Yes, and some are from the media.
Why didn’t the board accept the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate Tyler Bruce?
As it has been stated, after all testimony provided by district administrators and their legal representatives, as well as the three employees affected and their legal representatives, the four board members who voted on the recommendation, were not convinced there was just cause for termination at that time. Rather, they chose to wait for the results of the law enforcement investigation before taking further action.
It’s worth noting that prior to July 2019, the board unanimously supported the superintendent’s recommendations 99% of the time.
What is the status of the Tyler Bruce investigation?
Our latest contact with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s department confirms that the investigation is still active. Often cases like this take six to twelve months. The district has completed its investigation and complied with all due process requirements. We are all anxious for a resolution to this situation that has impacted our community. In the meantime, let us focus on all the great things occurring in our schools and school community."
Brad Williams, board member, is related to Tyler Bruce. Why was he involved in any decisions regarding Bruce?
Mr. Williams recused himself from the due process hearings and all executive sessions/employee meetings regarding Mr. Bruce. He also abstained from voting on any board decisions regarding termination. The one exception, which the board acknowledges was an oversight, was the board vote recommending placing Mr. Bruce on paid administrative leave July 9, 2019. Minutes of those board meetings are public record and can be accessed on the NWHSC website.
Mr. Diagostino was seen socializing with the Begles while they were on leave. Is there any school policy that speaks to that situation and was it the right thing to do?
It should be noted that the Begle and Diagostino families have been friends for over 10 years, so it is not at all unusual that they would continue that friendship and socialize in public. There is no district policy that addresses this; however, Mr. Diagostino did reach out to legal counsel in this regard and was assured there was no legal issue. That said, in the court of public opinion perception is reality which we acknowledge.
It is frustrating to be limited to two minutes of comment at board meetings and being threatened with a police escort is not helping. Why is this the policy?
It’s important to understand that school board meetings (like any local government meetings) are held in public because they are dealing with the public’s business. They are not intended to be forums for dialogue between the public and the board.
There is no law or policy that requires a school board to take comments during the meetings, although our school board allows public comments on agenda items and non-agenda items during each regular session. The goal is to hold an orderly business meeting and unrestricted public comments can be counter-productive to that end. That said, those rules can be suspended or enforced at the discretion of the board. There are numerous other ways to share comments, questions, and concerns with members of the board - email, in person, through the USPS, or phone. We encourage using those opportunities.
Will new protocols or policies be adopted for the district in response to the coaches/teachers under investigation for inappropriate conduct with students?
The district has -
Was Mike Springer “forced out” or “bought out” as superintendent?
This appears to be the perception of some, but the answer is NO. Mr. Springer submitted his resignation and the school board approved the severance agreement for compensation of the remainder of his contract set to expire on June 30, 2020. The actions between the former superintendent and the board were amicable, mutual and professional.
Why were the similar allegations against the two coaches handled differently?
These matters are entirely different based on the employment status of both individuals. One is a certified employee of the district who has a right to due process prior to any official action by the board. The other was a coach only and due process does not apply, thus he could be terminated without cause.
What is your response to Open Door Complaint?
The District was found out of compliance by the Public Access Counselor for failure to properly notice Executive Sessions. The District takes full responsibility and has taken corrective action. In a letter received on December 4, 2019 the District was notified that the situation had been remedied.
FOR YOUR REFERENCE:
The Open-Door Law (ODL) public notice of date, time, and place of any meetings, executive sessions, or of any rescheduled or reconvened meeting at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. A public agency must post a notice of meetings at the principal office of the agency, and if no such office exists, at the place where the meeting is to be held. State agencies are also required to provide electronic access to meeting notices on the Internet.
Regular Meetings: The school board convenes on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Administration.
Executive Sessions: These must be noticed at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. The public is not allowed to attend these meetings as no official action is taken.
Special Sessions: These can be called to take action prior to the regularly scheduled meetings, again with proper public notification.
UPDATE - The district has received a copy of the response from Luke H. Britt, Indiana Public Access Counselor, to this complaint. It reads in part:
"Based on the reply from the School, it appears as if they took your complaint and our investigation seriously and addressed the issues raised in your complaint. In essence, this is the purpose of our office – not to call out violations necessarily, but to ensure compliance. Although the School did indeed make some mistakes in noticing executive sessions – no small matter – they took responsibility for those oversights and corrected course moving forward. This outcome is one in which we seek and are glad your concerns were addressed."
Jim Diagostino, NWHSC board president, is the superintendent of Mill Creek Community School Corporation. Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
There is nothing in the Indiana School Board Association policy that would flag this as a conflict of interest, nor is this a unique situation in Indiana. Mr. Diagostino has been elected to serve our school corporation by the members of this community with their full knowledge that he is serving as a school superintendent at another county school.