The president of the American Federation of Teachers Indiana said the organization is keeping a close eye on the Indiana State Board of Education's treatment of its elected state superintendent, Glenda Ritz.
Rick Muir, who spoke at the state board's meeting Dec. 20, asked the board to work with the superintendent.
Ritz, the Democrat elected to the post last year, beat out former Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. Ritz launched a grassroots campaign, with the support of both large teachers unions, AFT and the Indiana State Teachers Association, to get rid of Bennett because of his education reform policies.
Muir told the board he travels the state, and the perception is that the board is trying to "stifle" Ritz.
"There has been an attempt to change the rules on the way meetings are conducted, change the authority of this office," he said. "I've had the pleasure of working with other state superintendents and this superintendent has the trust and respect of educators across the state, and she deserves to have the respect of this board."
Some school boards across the state have approved resolutions in support of Ritz, most recently the School City of East Chicago. In part, the resolution says, "To remove Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction, as the Chairperson of the Indiana State Board of Education, or any attempt to do so, would clearly and inappropriately insert political considerations into a governmental function that should solely be concerned with the education of the children and students in the State of Indiana."
Muir and many at the board meeting expected Friday's meeting to continue its controversial tone.
The board was set to debate its meeting procedures, which has been the primary source of conflict between Ritz and board members who claim Ritz is not following the procedures she and Pence approved in May. Some board members also believe the rules should have been rewritten to give more authority to board staffers working for the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new state agency Pence created in August.
Ritz has charged Pence established CECI as a shadow to her Department of Education, and the board is actively working with the governor to seize the administration of Indiana's schools from her.
However, the December meeting moved along smoothly. The board approved its meeting procedures, leaving Ritz as chairwoman, with little fanfare.