Posted on

Decision not to show Obama’s speech live raises concerns

Several parents attended the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees’ meeting Sept. 10 in the North Harrison High School auditeria to find out why their children did not have the opportunity to view President Barack Obama’s televised speech to students two days earlier during the school day. Even some of the school trustees were confused about how the decision was made.
Interim Superintendent Randy Barrett said he had received phone calls and e-mails about the president’s speech.
‘Parents wanted the opportunity to opt their kids out of viewing the program,’ he said.
Barrett said the Indiana Department of Education was late in notifying schools of its approval of showing the speech and how to use it in the classrooms.
‘We decided we could show it later’ rather than broadcast it live to the students in the North Harrison school district, he said.
An e-mail also was sent to building principals stating they could show the speech as long as parents had the opportunity to opt out their child.
‘We’re here for the education of our children,’ Barrett said, adding that the school corporation may not have handled this decision in the best manner. ‘I apologize for that.’
‘I’m still confused, as a board member,’ Michael Beyerle said after Barrett finished.
Beyerle said he wanted his child to see it, and he learned his child did see it the following day. However, ‘I didn’t have an opportunity to opt my child out.’
School board president Gary Byrne, who had communicated with Barrett during the Labor Day weekend about whether North Harrison students were going to view the speech live, said he agreed with Barrett’s decision to delay the showing of the speech.
Byrne said the long holiday weekend didn’t allow time to prepare for the live broadcast on the day students returned.
‘I just wanted parents to know what was going on,’ he said.
Beyerle replied, ‘I didn’t need to read the entire speech ‘ I didn’t need the Department of Education to tell us ‘ I didn’t think it was short notice. Everyone knew he was going to speak to the children about education.’
The three other school trustees ‘ Bobby Chinn, Fred Naegele and Jerry Renneker ‘ seemed in agreement that the speech should have been shown live.
‘I think we failed our children,’ Chinn said.
‘I understand it was short notice,’ Dan Haskell, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, said, adding that the text of the speech was made available the day before Obama spoke to the students about staying in school and doing their best.
Haskell, who admitted the president could have strayed from the advance copy of the speech but stayed pretty much on course, said past programs at NHHS have included ex-convicts, meth addicts and former professional sports figures that did not warrant parents receiving notice to ‘opt out’ their children from hearing those speakers.
One parent asked what would be done to prevent something like this from happening again.
‘Policy would be one way,’ Byrne said, ‘but Mr. Haskell said he didn’t think policy was needed.’
Haskell had asked the school board to trust staff to make the right decision when it comes to educating the students.
No decision was made on how decisions regarding programs will be made in the future, but Beyerle said during board member communication near the conclusion of the meeting, ‘The board member in me says policy is the only way. It’s clear cut.’
In other matters at the meeting, the school board:
‘ Set a public hearing for Oct. 8 regarding additional appropriations for the Rainy Day Fund. Barrett said if the additional appropriation, in the amount of $1.5 million, is approved, it will be spent on the Morgan Elementary School project while the school corporation waits to hear if it will receive stimulus money in the form of a loan.
‘ Accepted a $600 donation from Jones Machine & Tool to North Harrison High School athletics.
‘ Recognized Diana Prechtel for her retirement as a corporation bus driver. She was given a rocking chair.
‘ Honored teachers Rhonda Harmon, Lisa Oehmann, Gary Potter and Dana Striegel and maintenance employee Marvin Kost for their 30 years of employment with the school corporation.
‘ Approved the following appointments: Heather Comer as a special education instructional assistant at North Harrison Elementary, Amanda Hahn at a Title I instructional assistant at NHES, Sara Burdick as an instructional assistant at North Harrison Middle School, Rhonda Rowe as an instructional assistant at NHMS and NHHS, Lark Mull as a lay academic adviser at NHMS and NHHS, Miriam Robertson as an academic Superbowl Team adviser at NHHS, Jacob Blanton as a lay assistant percussion band instructor, Chad Lewis as a seventh- and eighth-grade lay assistant football coach, Joe Dones as a lay boys’ tennis coach, Tiffany Oppel as a lay seventh- and eighth-grade cheer coach, Jade Spalding as a lay fifth- and sixth-grade cheer coach, Angela Janes as a volunteer seventh- and eighth-grade volleyball coach, Kaleigh Parr as a volunteer seventh- and eighth-grade cheer coach and Jackie Bosler and Janice Shipley, both as cafeteria workers at NHMS.
‘ Approved maternity leave for NHES teacher April Riddle.