South Bend School Board progress: Part 1

By: Erin Logan Email
By: Erin Logan Email

After talking with all board members, WNDU was told there are still many red flags, as far as working effectively as a group. On a positive note, the board has some good educational opportunities right around the corner for students.

One of the most important lessons a young child learns on the very first day of school is how to follow the rules.

But longest serving school board member Marcia Hummel says it's difficult to enforce rules if they're not followed by the leaders of the school corporation.

"You break process once, it's easy to pick and choose when you want to break process or policy," says Hummel.

Both she and Ralph Pieniazkiewicz say from day one this group was officially a new board -- policy was broken.

"This is the first superintendent hired when process was put aside completely," Hummel adds.

New member Stephanie Spivey thought this was strange, "We were not given the ability to choose a superintendent. After the election he was named superintendent," she says.

The board did vote, but the vote wasn't done following the normal process according to members.

Around the table, we're told two board members are happy with the board as a whole -- Roger Parent and Dawn Jones.

"I'm quite satisfied with where we are now," says Jones.

Stephanie Spivey and President Shiela Bergeron are also satisfied, but agree there are certainly issues that need to be worked out.

"There's a lot of strong personalities on the board. A lot of strong feelings, but most of the time we're able to reach a consensus," says Bergeron.

Others say it's nothing but chaos. Trying to reach consensus, means a rise in blood pressure for Marcia Hummel, Bill Sniadecki, and Ralph Pieniazkiewicz

Hummel says already this year, there have been about 57 board meetings since January. In years past, that was the total amount in one year.

Bergeron says it's simply because the board is working on several different new programs that were voted on in the school system.

For example:

  • A new trimester program at Washington High School

  • Full day kindergarten, which has been talked about for years

  • New Tech High School, a unique, state of the art school, expected to be open in the 20-10 school year

  • Early college credit for high schoolers

  • Jefferson Intermediate will be the first traditional middle school

While the team goal is to give students the best possible educational experience, the key players have different ideas and game plans. Some say they feel more like opponents than teammates.

As you remember, former Superintendent Dr. Robert Zimmerman was ousted by the board after just 20 months. Last year, Zimmerman himself told WNDU -- it was highlighted in his evaluation -- that five out of the seven board members felt he wasn't communicating well.

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