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Elsener: Ritz, board should focus on their jobs

Indiana State Board of Education member Dan Elsener said in a radio interview today he was disappointed by the recent squabbles among state board members and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz but he is optimistic the board can still function effectively.

“We are a bipartisan board,” said Elsner, who has personally clashed with Ritz over such issues as who leads strategic planning for the board and who sets its agenda. “We’ve never been partisan snipers. The last six months has been a little more difficult.”

In an interview with Amos Brown on WTLC’s Afternoons with Amos program, Elsener criticized Ritz for not yet issuing A to F school grades but expressed hope the board could begin working together more cooperatively.

Relations among the board members deteriorated fast over the past two weeks after 10 board members, but not Ritz, asked the legislature to intervene to help issue A to F school grades. Ritz responded by suing the other board members, arguing they broke state law that requires public bodies to make decisions in public when it decided without her to send the letter.

They key to improving the climate on the board, Elsener said, is for everyone involved to focus on their own jobs.

“If everybody does their roles, we’ll be fine,” he said. “The board set policy. The elected state superintendent is supposed to execute and deliver the education we set out in policy.”

When Brown challenged the notion that Ritz was late on issuing grades — he noted that school grades were delayed in part by the education department’s need to double check the validity ISTEP test results over the summer after troublesome online glitches — Elsner said that was no reason not to have grades issued by now.

School grades, he said, were sent to schools on Oct. 2 and time has already been allowed for them to check them for errors.

“We should have grades out to them for appeal already,” Elsener said. “This should be moving along. The board writes memos saying ‘let’s get this stuff moving.”‘ Teacher pay is affected by the grades. Communities want to know where they stand. Parents want to know where they stand.”