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Glenda Ritz sues the Indiana State Board of Education (updated)

Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz just released a statement saying she is suing the other 10 members of the Indiana State Board of Education, charging that they violated state transparency laws when they collectively asked the state legislature to calculate school A to F grades.

From Ritz’s statement:

“Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that ten members of the State Board violated Indiana’s Open Door Law when they took action by requesting that Senator Long and Speaker Bosma appoint Indiana’s Legislative Services Agency to perform calculations to determine the 2012-2013 A-F grades for Indiana schools. The suit alleges that no public notice was issued for a meeting that allowed for this action and that Superintendent Ritz was not made aware of this action until after it was taken, despite her role as Chair of the State Board of Education. “

Ritz argues that she had a responsibility as state superintendent to take action.

“When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana,” she said. “I take this oath very seriously and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the State Board have not complied with the requirements of the law. While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, I feel they have over-stepped their bounds.”

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, who had not been told the suit was coming, was dismayed that the tension on the state board had resulted in legal action.

“My immediate reaction is can’t we all just get along?” Bosma said. “It would be my hope we all can work together to move Indiana forward.”

At the state board meeting earlier this month, Rising tension boiled over between Ritz, the only Democrat holding statewide office who chairs the state board, and the remaining 10 members, all of whom were appointed by Republican governors.

UPDATE: Political and education leaders are reacting to Ritz’s lawsuit.

House speaker Brian Bosma said he’d not been told the suit was coming.

“My immediate reaction is, can’t we all just get along?” he said. “It would be my hope we all can work together to move Indiana forward.”

Bosma said he is not aiming to usurp Ritz’s authority.

“I really don’t believe there is a concerted effort to limit her power or take authority away from her,” he said.

Bosma argued that Ritz’s supporters have unfairly portrayed honest efforts by Republican leaders to facilitate conversations among state board members as obstruction.

“I honestly feel there is an active effort to paint that picture of opposition,” he said.”I’ve done everything I can to try to reach out to the office of the superintendent to try to move forward and solve communication problems by going directly to the source.”

Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and a Ritz ally, said Ritz may have had no other choice but to sue.

“I can’t imagine being Glenda right now,” she said. “I think the board is being unreasonable.”

Meredith said the board did not play fair in asking the legislature to intervene while Ritz was traveling in China.

“In sports we’d call that unsportsmanlike conduct to do what they did while she wasn’t even in the country,” she said.

Meredith on the negative attitude of the other board members toward Ritz has been increasingly clear.

“”There is such an obvious lack of respect at every state board meeting,” she said.

State board member Dan Elsener said he was surprised by the suit.

“Apparently the state superintendent is suing the State Board of Education,” he said. “It’s totally out of the blue. I’ll keep working with the other board members to advance education in the state but I need to find out what’s going on before I comment further.”

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