Author Interview with Julie Young
Wiki Contributor Compensation Challenges

HSE's School Board Debacle

Dunce_corner_2Here's an excellent lesson in transparency and one that bloggers in particular should appreciate.  Earlier this week the HSE School Board decided to fire Superintendent Concetta Raimondi.  This event occurred approximately six months after the same board voted unanimously to not only extend Raimondi's contract but give her a raise as well.  The cost to taxpayers: $266K.  So while valuable school programs are being trimmed across the state, these knuckleheads decide to waste more than a quarter million dollars of taxpayer money.  Nice.

But the real lesson in all of this isn't so much the waste and indecisiveness as how the message was delivered and continues to be delivered.  I think the Indy Star's recent editorial summed it up quite well.  When Raimondi's contract was extended back in August, Board President Jeff Sturgis was quoted as saying, "We're very pleased with her performance in maintaining the standard of excellence that we have come to expect at Hamilton Southeastern."  The day Raimondi was fired however, Sturgis noted how the board has become more "seasoned and decisive" since last August.  Gee, I wonder what new direction we can expect this board to take six months from now after they're even more "seasoned."

There's all sorts of speculation about the real reason Raimondi was terminated but the board isn't saying much.  The decision to fire her was made by the board in a secret closed-door session that morning.  Now that the board is feeling the pressure from the community's reaction ("puzzled and infuriated") they're following up that first closed-door session with another one today "to clarify their reasoning."

Are you kidding me?!  They need to meet behind closed doors to clarify their reasoning?  Is there some reason why they didn't do that earlier in the week, before they fired this Superintendent?!  This situation just keeps going from bad to worse.

Even if the board could suddenly stop their waffling and avoid any additional embarrassing decisions, they now have the task of filling an open Superintendent's position.  This begs the question: What qualified candidate would ever want to work for such an awful board, one that could reward you one day and then fire you for no viable reason six months later?  I'd have to question that candidate's judgment skills.  Seriously, it reminds me of that old Groucho Marx line, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."

What an unfortunate situation for this community to find itself in.  I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't voted in a board election for several years, so I have myself to blame.  That will change though as I am committed to voting out all the incumbents in the next election.


Jason Marcuson

Joe and I have discussed this in the hallway and over email. I can tell you he gave some extra thought as to whether this topic was appropriate for this blog. Glad you expressed your feelings here, Joe.

I commented on's article about this situation, and I'll include those comments here, with one update: It turns out that Friday, February 22nd, was the last day interested candidates could file to run in the May 2008 school board election. This emergency meeting by the Hamilton Southeastern school board was then held at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, February 25th. Coincidence? Don't think so.

My original comments:

Controversial decision, no doubt about it. And the success, or failure, of this decision won't be known for several years. Seems to me a renowned, accomplished educator is the perfect CEO for an educational system. I guess we'll see.

But here's what I take away from this so far: School Board President Jeff Sturgis either stinks at speaking to the media, or he's an arrogant, foolish leader. Check some of his quotes for a better understanding.

In displaying his, and his team's, extreme lack of experience: "We had four board members who were elected in 2006, including me," he said. "I think between the summer and now, we were able to crystallize the direction we wanted to go."
Wow, Jeff, almost 2 full years in this business? Glad we turned to you for your insight.

In demonstrating his people skills: "...she (Raimondi) went through the full range of emotions."
Couldn't Sturgis have enough class to leave the description of the fired superintendent's emotional state to Raimondi herself, if she so chooses?

The totally nonsensical opinions: "Concetta's background is as an educator, a good one, but that's more suitable for a smaller district."
If that's the case, then how did school enrollment SUCCESSFULLY rise 65 percent since she was hired? Isn't that just about the best measure of a person capable of handling a district growing at record rates?

Sturgis' sincere efforts to describe the contributions Raimondi had given one of the top school districts in the nation: "Not that she was all that bad..."
Utterly classless, Mr. President.

I don't know Raimondi or Sturgis personally. I don't know yet if this was the right decision.

I do know that the reasoning behind it was pathetic and pedestrian. And I confidently speculate that Sturgis himself -- and his fellow board members -- won't survive past the next board election. *(See comments above regarding election deadline.)

T. Wilson

This is such a typical story of arrogant elected officials. I don't live in your school district but you're totally right about the need to toss the incumbents.

fishers parent

can we fire the board and rehire the superintendent? that seems to be the best solution. i read where the sat scores and other key indicators improved steadily under her watch. why did these idiots fire her?


Wow - I thought the school board members for the district in which my family and I reside (suburb south of Pittsburgh)were horrible (we actually elected a criminal on the board this year). Our board forced our superintendent out and just recently hired a new one - he has to pass a criminal background check (what hypocrits we have here).


Its nice to see that the good old fashioned mutiny is alive and well in central Indiana! I saw the update to this story today and it seems the super's direct reports were unhappy with her and were about to stage a walkout.

See, that's one of the key problems with how the education system works. I happen to work for a total jerk and many of my coworkers feel the same way about this person. What would happen if we all staged a walkout in protest? We'd get FIRED, that's what!!!

I think this only goes to show more weaknesses of this so-called board. Why didn't they intervene and work to resolve these issues instead of firing a leader who had done so well? And did this situation really get this screwed up in a few months? I DOUBT IT! The board was asleep at the wheel when they gave her that new contract and raise!!!!!

Jim Minatel

There's stunningly little information about any of the challengers for HSE school board seats. Russel (Rusty) Allanson and Darren Sink are newcomers running against each other for an open seat. The only info I found on them was an article in a local paper that was 90% quote and bio looked like it could have been written by the candidate. And some name calling by their supporters in a newspaper forum. The only challenger running against an incumbent is Phillip Belcher against incumbent Sylvia Shepler.

I know it's only a school board, but I'm surprised that none of the candidates has even a blog. To me that shows a disappointing lack of effort on their parts. I wonder how serious any of them are about the investment of time this position requires if they haven't made even the simplest internet effort to state their case.

Joe Wikert

Jim, I'm glad you're researching this more than I've been able to up to now. All I know is I plan to vote against anyone who is listed as an incumbent next month. If two incumbents are really running against each other it will be a tough choice. Is it possible to vote against both?!

Joe Wikert

Since I'm unable to vote in person next week I managed to get my absentee ballot over the weekend. Sure enough, one incumbent, Karen Harmer, is running unopposed and two newcomers (Rusty Allanson and Daren Sink) are running against each other. At least I'm able to vote against one other incumbent, Sylvia Shepler; I'm voting for her opponent, newcomer Phillip Belcher.

I'm hoping other HSE parents and taxpayers will do the same. It's been a couple of months now but the $266K of waste the current board voted for is still very fresh in my mind.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)