State board members Cari Whicker (right) Dan Elsner (center) and B.J. Watts (obscured) speak with CECI attorney Michelle McKeown after State Superintendent Glenda Ritz walked out of the meeting.
The Indiana State Board of Education descended into chaos Wednesday as Superintendent Glenda Ritz declared the meeting adjourned and walked out over the objections of the rest of the board.
Rife with confusion, the remaining nine board members tried to press on until an attorney and a representative from Gov. Mike Pence's office advised them to end the meeting without further action.
"We have debates every meeting between the State Board of Education's lawyers and the Department of Education's lawyers," an exasperated Ritz said just before leaving. "I'm taking this to the attorney general."
Incredulous, board member Dan Elsener, who serves as secretary, tried to step in and continue the meeting.
"This is bad governance, bad leadership and it's inappropriate," Elsener said.
Debate throughout the three-hour meeting repeatedly came back to questions of control — who writes the official minutes, who sets the agenda, who gets to speak during discussion and which staff members get to have input into the board's decisions. On Tuesday, Ritz authored a newspaper guest column sharply criticizing Pence's push into education policy making as an "education takeover."
Attorney Kristie Anderson, left, representing State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education, debated with Michelle McKeown, right, an attorney for Gov. Mike Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, before the Indiana State Board of Education Friday.
The struggle between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence for control of Indiana's education policy reached a fever pitch Friday with dueling lawyers arguing over interpretations of Indiana's A to F rules before a sometimes befuddled Indiana State Board Education.
Kristie Anderson, representing Ritz and the the Indiana Department of Education, stood side-by-side with Michelle McKeown, an attorney for Pence's new Center for Education and Career Innovation, offering competing interpretations of state law.
Board members, meanwhile, sparred over which advice to follow.
“It seems as if our debate is about the board’s role and when it should start,” Ritz said
The first meeting since tension boiled over last month into a lawsuit by state Superintendent Glenda Ritz against the other 10 members of the board lived up to its billing as another battle royale.