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State board member Andrea Neal's letter: Drop the suit

Andrea Neal, a one-time Indianapolis Star journalist named by Gov. Mike Pence to the State Board of Education over the summer, publicly released a letter to state Superintendent Glenda Ritz on twitter Friday afternoon calling for Ritz to drop her lawsuit against the other 10 members of the board.

Four other board members — Troy Albert, David Freitas, Sarah O’Brien and Tony Walker — also sent a separate letter they jointly signed to Ritz asking for her to drop the suit. You can read it here. (UPDATE: I’ve also added board member Gordon Herdry’s letter below.)

In Neal’s letter, she argues that Ritz’s actions have damaged her ability to work collaboratively with board members and suggests Ritz used data delays as an excuse to delay accountability provisions of state law. Read it after the jump:

Here’s Neal’s letter:

Oct. 25, 2013

Dear Superintendent Ritz:

When Gov. Mike Pence asked me to serve on the State Board of Education this past summer, I jumped at a chance to work with you and other committed Hoosiers on behalf of Indiana children. I could not have imagined that four months later I would be named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The lawsuit is upsetting because I have done nothing wrong and because I had every intention of partnering with you on issues of mutual concern. When you and I met in August, I told you I could see being your ally on certain issues. One in particular I mentioned was the overemphasis on testing that is compelling many educators to “teach to the test” rather than teach their subject matter. I also told you I looked forward to constructive conversation about the Common Core standards, which I consider deeply flawed in content and design. As we are now adversaries in a court case, the chance of collaboration on these issues seems less likely.

I don’t need to be deposed to tell you why I signed a letter aimed at speeding up the release of accountability grades for 2012-13. By state law, the State Board of Education is responsible for policymaking in certain areas, including school accountability. Since I joined the board in July, you have failed to produce requested agenda items and/or data we need to make decision on matters for which we are responsible. In some instances, you have used data delays as an excuse to not move forward with programs already in place, such as teacher evaluation systems. It appeared to me the “data delays” were being cited as a convenient excuse to avoid the accountability law. I can tell you unequivocally I attended no meeting and engaged in no group discussion with any members of the board before affixing my signature to the letter.

I respectfully ask that you drop the lawsuit, put politics aside and engage with the board in good faith communications. In exchange, I pledge to be honest, open and collaborative with you to advance the best interests of Indiana school children.


Andrea Neal
5th District representative
State Board of Education

And here is Hendry’s letter:

Madame Superintendent,

I am writing to respectfully request a meeting with you once the matter of your lawsuit against me has been resolved.

As a fellow Democrat, I believe there must be areas where we can find common ground on education policy that will prepare Hoosier students for success in the real world. I was appointed to the Board one month ago today, and I regret that we have not had the opportunity to explore that common ground.

I accepted this appointment because I believe that I bring a different approach to the issue of education, an approach that’s focused on the critical relationship between our schools and our economy. As you may know, I served as former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson’s director of economic development and headed up a regional economic development group in Central Indiana.

Education plays an enormous role in our ability to recruit new employers and jobs to Indiana. We must have an educated workforce, and we must have high-quality schools where our workers can send their children.

I have great faith that we can find areas where we can work together as Democrats who care about our students, and I look forward to hearing your reply and setting up a time to meet once your lawsuit against me has been resolved.

Democratically yours,
Gordon Hendry

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