E.C. School Board member keeps post after court challenge

2012-11-28T19:15:00Z 2012-11-29T00:04:09Z E.C. School Board member keeps post after court challengeSteve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 28, 2012 7:15 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | The sole appointed school trustee elected to serve a full term beginning next year has survived a court challenge to his position.

A city resident last week sought to remove School Board Vice President Frank Rivera from the body, claiming his oath of office had never been properly filed with the Lake County clerk's office.

Rivera, one of the last board members appointed by Mayor Anthony Copeland, won election earlier this month to a new nine-member School Board that will take office in January.

State law was changed in 2011 to permit the election of East Chicago school trustees, after decades in which a five-member panel was appointed by the city's mayor with confirmation by the City Council.

Resident Ashley Zavala sought a temporary restraining order in Lake Circuit Court to prevent Rivera from participating as a board member, which would have left only two appointed trustees, both of whom were defeated in the Nov. 6 School Board election.

Though County Clerk Michael Brown reported that no form for Rivera's oath could be found, attorneys for Rivera were able to produce a stamped copy dated June 14, 2011, and Judge George Paras denied the restraining order.

Rivera was then able to participate in the Nov. 20 School Board meeting.

Zavala's attorney, Gilbert King Jr., said Tuesday that he would be meeting with his client later this week to look at the situation.

"Facts change circumstances," King said. "We'll see how the new board operates. We hope for the betterment of the students."

In the meantime, newly elected board members are preparing for their duties, meeting with Superintendent Michael Harding and his staff, and learning about how to manage the schools' $70 million annual budget.

A meeting with the Indiana School Board Association, which has members in nearly all state public school corporations, was postponed without a new date yet set.

Fledgling trustees said this week they have been talking informally and unofficially in advance of their first convention as an elected School Board early next year.

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