Local superintendents coach others on how to hold a successful referendum

2012-03-01T20:00:00Z 2012-03-31T21:10:39Z Local superintendents coach others on how to hold a successful referendumBy Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

A Plainfield-based nonprofit held a meeting Thursday featuring two local school superintendents coaching others on how to hold successful referenda.

Teresa Eineman, superintendent of the Crown Point Community School Corp., and Larry Veracco, superintendent of the Lake Central School Corp., presented information about their campaigns.

The news media was not allowed in the meeting.

FAIR, or Fostering Accuracy Involvement and Responsibility Inc., has been partnering with Marion-based Indiana Wesleyan University to hold such meetings across the state, said Indiana Wesleyan's regional dean, Marlon Mitchell. Thursday's meeting was held at the university's Merrillville location.

According to the agenda, Eineman was to focus on the Crown Point school district's $5 million general fund referendum, approved in May. The referendum called on taxpayers to pay an extra 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to boost the general fund, also known as the operating fund, which pays the bulk of salaries and benefits.

Veracco focused on Lake Central's $160 million construction referendum, approved in November. Veracco also was scheduled to talk about why the referendum succeeded in 2011 after it failed two years before that. The construction money made possible by the referendum will go to the high school and Protsman Elementary School.

FAIR President Jerry Holifield defended the request that media leave the meeting, saying a reporter sitting in the room would restrict people from asking questions. He said the organization, which holds meetings across the state, never has had a reporter attend any of its meetings.

According to information from FAIR, it is dedicated to communication and collaborative decision-making among local officials, taxpayers, businesses and all stakeholders in the community.

As a nonprofit agency, FAIR Inc. is not required to comply with the Indiana Open Door Law, said Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage.

"A key question is whether they are audited by the Indiana State Board of Accounts; if they are, then they would have to comply," he said.

A check of the Indiana State Board of Accounts indicates the state agency does not perform audits on FAIR, thus the agency is not subject to Open Door laws.

Indiana Wesleyan's Mitchell also said the university and FAIR want workshop participants to feel as comfortable as possible. He offered to have FAIR officials meet later with a reporter to discuss what happened in the meeting.

According to its website, FAIR Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide research and advocacy organization created to bring greater fairness and cooperation to Indiana's public construction referendum process.

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