VALPARAISO | The backlash continues over Valparaiso Community Schools' January approval of a contract with Lumenus USA that would have enrolled up to 30 Chinese students in the fall.
Resident Christopher Pupillo, who first challenged the decision, brought his concerns about the School Board's actions to Monday's City Council meeting.
In addition to complaining about the board's failure to talk about Lumenus and other issues, Pupillo said he and others have been called racists by board members for questioning the Lumenus contract.
The City Council appoints four of the five School Board members and will be accepting applications for its annual appointment in May. Pupillo asked the council what it intends to do to change things.
The council and Mayor Jon Costas said the issues with the School Board have not gone unnoticed. Costas owns a minority share in Lumenus.
He and the council are gathering information from a variety of sources. He said the School Board has been told orally and in writing that the City Council would like to see more public comment on issues, but the council is not satisfied with how things are being done.
"The issue of the schools today is the most pressing issue," Costas said. "The opportunity is great, but we need to find a way to collectively address it."
"It's fair to say we've been disappointed on more than one occasion with the process," councilwoman Deb Butterfield said. "We can and do have a meaningful process, and we've always felt there was no reason it shouldn't be the same with the schools."
Resident Walt Breitinger asked why the board is all men. Costas said it is difficult to recruit people, male or female, to seek the job. He encouraged everyone to find people with the talent and good will to serve on the board.
"The board's process is not what we want," Councilman Joey Larr said. "Changes have been made in the past, and they can be made again."
Kevin Cornett, a leader of a petition drive to change to an elected school board, said that effort has died for now. After spending months gathering about 2,000 of the needed 3,500 signatures, Cornett said it didn't seem to make sense when the petitions would first go to the School Board for consideration.
If, as the group expected, the board refused to act, the effort would have to start all over. Cornett said the goal now is to elect a state representative who supports an elected school board.