Community Message 9/30/21

Dear CCS Families,

Due to the disruptive behavior of adults at this week’s regular meeting of the Carmel Clay Board of School Trustees, and after consultation and review by counsel, CCS Board meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

School board meetings have become a lightning rod for contention because they are public. Some believe the loudest in the room or those with the most media attention will “win” an argument in today’s charged climate. We are here to serve the 16,000+ students of Carmel Clay Schools. In a district as large as CCS, disagreements will occur. However, we will no longer allow our board meetings to be a means to divide our community.

An outside group deliberately orchestrated multiple disruptions to the business portion of the meeting Monday night. When the Board called for a recess, the group booed, began name-calling, and continued their rude and inappropriate behavior. Claims that the Board and administrators were trying to silence parents were remarkably unfounded given the evening’s agenda contained four opportunities for public comments.  

The Board returned to the meeting, and despite the continued heckling from audience members, took the necessary steps to approve the teacher contract that includes well-deserved raises. State law requires public comment before it can be approved. Two of the group’s members spoke against giving our teachers raises. 

The Board continued to advance the meeting and held public hearings on the budget, bus replacement plan, and capital projects fund. The Board approved changes to the public comment bylaw and a new policy on Civility and Decorum. Its importance, unfortunately, was demonstrated throughout the evening. Some like to remind the Board and administration that we “work for them” or claim these tactics, threats, and harassment are constitutionally protected. We know of no workplace that would tolerate this form of mistreatment from any boss or supervisor. And we especially refuse to let them target our teachers and staff.

This summer, the group proudly publicized a video showcasing two teachers identified by name and classroom location at CHS. They politicized welcoming signage and classroom décor and used signs from last year to falsely claim the teachers would force students to wear masks. The video encouraged parents to have their students drop required English classes.

This targeting of teachers to scare and intimidate the hard-working individuals who put in hundreds of hours to meet the needs of the students and families they serve is unconscionable. 

The group has most recently targeted our Mental Health Coordinator, who has worked for over 17 years as a mental health provider, 12 in school-based services. She has genuinely saved student’s lives. The group published threatening posts that disparaged her and demanded her resignation. One far-fetched post claimed she favored defunding the police. She not only works closely with CPD but is also married to a police officer. She has led the district’s partnership with St. Vincent/Ascension to provide school-based mental health support to reduce the barriers for students and families to receive needed help. Yet, these political groups sent emails to district leadership with ultimatums and threats calling for her to resign. It is harmful and inappropriate to intimidate the teachers and staff who provide direct support for our students. 

We typically would not engage or comment on outside groups but felt our parents and community needed to know the inappropriate activities we are experiencing. Board members have had their home addresses posted in acts of intimidation. Teachers have received letters and emails with threats of violence and unwarranted references to family members. School librarians and media specialists have been steadily under attack with accusations. We must return to civility and question those who find these tactics appropriate.

Many residents have received emails, texts, and slick mailers intended to divide our great community. These campaigns spread false and misleading information to disparage Carmel Clay Schools, our outstanding teachers, and accomplished students. Carmel has a national reputation for excellence, and we are proud of our schools’ role in our city’s success. 

We must continue to question the motives of those who seek to diminish our accomplishments, tarnish our reputation, and sow division in our community. The percentage of Carmel Clay students passing ISTEP and ILEARN consistently ranks #1 in the state compared to districts of similar size. Between 2010-11 and 2020-21 students’ SAT average composite scores increased 97 points, reading scores rose 49 points, and math scores increased 48 points. In the last ten years, the graduation rate increased from 89.6% to 95.7%. Students earning an Academic Honors diploma increased from 50.3% in 2010 to 60.5% in 2020. Last year, CHS celebrated a record 61 National Merit Semifinalists, and one student earned the prestigious Presidential Scholar Award.

CCS will be live streaming future Board Meetings beginning with the Special Session scheduled for Monday, October 4, to interview the four finalists for the vacant District 2 seat. Tuesday, October 5, we will live stream another Special Session held for the Board to discuss and choose the candidate to fill that seat. We will regularly reevaluate the need for live streaming and inform the community of any changes.

Thank you, 
Carmel Clay Schools