EVANSVILLE, In. (WEHT)- The integrity of the Evansville-Vanderburgh school corporation’s ‘school board’ is being questioned by a former school board member.
Former EVSC school board member-Ann Ennis- filed a complaint against the board, saying they violated the Open-door Law”. The law essentially says that publicly funded business needs to be available to the public. She says she has proof that issues were being discussed behind closed doors when she served on the board, that should have been discussed in public meetings. Ennis filed a complaint with the state saying, they are in violation of a state law regarding how the decision was made to close “Harwood Career and Preparatory High School”.
Ennis says, “After I left the trustees, I did not run again for reelection. So that was December 31st 2022, by the end of February 2023, there had only been 3 meetings. They had not even announced in the meetings, but they had passed the word around that they were closing Harwood School. I filed the complaint because there had been no public dialogue”. Ennis explains that it’s not that she disagrees with their decisions, but rather the way these decisions are being made.
Ennis says, “it kind of just shows up like a done deal and taxpayers don’t have any kind of notion of why or what these costs are, or why this decision was made, until after the fact”.
Patrick Shoulders, EVSC’s attorney, explains, “the school board conducts itself and its’ meetings completely in compliance with the law and there’s no findings in any court that they’ve ever violated the open-door law.”
Ennis says the board never responded to these complaints, “The Public Access Council said they found it unusual that the trustees didn’t even respond to any of these requests for information out of his office, or respond to the decision that was made. That doesn’t suit the caliber of the school corporation of the EVSC to just ignore state law”.
Shoulders says, “…we didn’t respond to Luke. The public access counselor and I have been on statewide panels together, he knows who the lawyer for the EVSC is, he knows who the superintendent is. Somehow, we were asked to respond to a “dear sir” email that was sent to a general email box, that simply wasn’t checked. I wish we were able to respond, I think things could have turned out differently”.
Ennis says if there isn’t a change in how the board communicates with the public, there are further actions to be taken. Ennis says, “There’s an option of filing a suit, but I would hope that it wouldn’t come to that…on the other hand, you can’t get away with ignoring state law”.
We asked Shoulders what happens next. He says, “Nothing is happening, because we haven’t violated anything. The fact is, and the law requires, that we have an agenda, that anybody that comes, like the news media, can watch us operate, board members can ask questions and discuss. And that’s what happens. This is silly.”
The next EVSC school board meeting is on Monday.