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Phyllis Pond: teacher, legislator

Pond

State Rep. Phyllis Pond died Sunday, shortly after resigning the House District 85 seat she held for 35 years.

A retired teacher for East Allen County Schools, it is fitting that her signature piece of legislation was the 1984 Prime Time Education bill, which gave financial incentives to school districts for maintaining low student-to-teacher ratios for students in kindergarten through grade 3.

Gov. Robert Orr called the Prime Time bill the "most significant piece of legislation that passed this session."

"Pond, being a kindergarten teacher, is aware of the value of small classrooms," according to a news release she issued in announcing her plan to seek re-election that year.

I didn't get to know Rep. Pond until late in her legislative career, but she quickly became one of my favorites when I joined The Journal Gazette in 2000.

She often talked about the former students she met in her later years as a lawmaker. She was especially tickled when one of the General Assembly's doorkeepers introduced himself as a former student.

Just a couple of years ago Rep. Pond showed up at my office door. I had called her about 45 minutes earlier and left a message, asking for a comment on some issue. She said she had just missed the call and decided it was easier to drive from New Haven to Fort Wayne and talk to me in person.

By the time she was seeking re-election last year, it was clear she was suffering from physical challenges. She showed up for her endorsement interview in her usual Keds sneakers, but she was winded from climbing the stairs.

One thing had not changed. She was as adamant as ever that we should use a decades-old photo instead of a more recent picture our own photographer had taken. Rep. Pond objected every time a reporter asked for her age.

In a news clippings file this morning, I found a nearly 30-year-old candidate questionnaire she had filled out and returned. Next to a line asking for birthplace and date, Rep. Pond had written in longhand: "(What a sneaky way way to ask one's age)

You'll find her age in plenty of the obituary notices, but in her memory I won't include it here. I'm also using that legislative photo she liked so much.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Pond.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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