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Furthermore …

An ethical approach

Give the director of Indiana’s Department of Child Services credit for a refreshing approach to conflicts of interest involving the child-protection agency.

The Indiana State Ethics Commission ruled Thursday that no conflict was posed in the agency’s business arrangement with a company operated by the former sister-in-law of DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. The director, a former Lake County judge, was appointed to her position by Gov. Mike Pence in late January.

She sought guidance from the ethics panel on the renewal of the contract with a therapy clinic in northwest Indiana owned by Suzanne Bonaventura, who was married to Mary Beth Bonaventura’s brother at the time of his death more than 15 years ago. Suzanne Bonaventura has since remarried.

The director’s approach is in sharp contrast to that of her predecessor. An Indianapolis Star investigation found that Director James Payne intervened in the agency’s case involving his own grandchildren – an egregious violation of ethical standards.

The new director’s effort to ensure DCS decisions are not compromised included a request, approved by the ethics committee, to establish a “screen” between herself and her former sister-in-law’s company.

Pence reveals education choices

Gov. Mike Pence’s new appointees to the Indiana State Board of Education are one of the first signals of how he’ll use his authority to shape education policy. With a debate over Common Core State Standards raging, it looks as if the governor will tread carefully.

Of the four new members appointed, only Indiana Policy Review columnist Andrea Neal has publicly commented on the proposed standards. The General Assembly agreed to delay further implementation of the Common Core pending hearings this summer. The State Board of Education approved adoption of the standards in 2010.

“There was no public discussion at the time. Since then, a host of experts have emerged to question their quality and effectiveness,” Neal wrote in a March column. “At minimum Indiana lawmakers should ask this question: Who’s running Indiana schools? Local elected boards and state policymakers? Or philanthropists, consultants, publishers and testing companies?”

In addition to Neal, the appointees are an Indiana University-South Bend education professor, an Indiana Wesleyan administrator and the principal of Henryville Jr.-Sr. High School.

Pence’s board selections suggest he isn’t looking to make an end run around legislative intent.

Superintendent Mike Pettibone of Adams Central Community Schools asked not to be reappointed to the state board. He is retiring this summer.

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