Routine business including approving locker and roof replacements didn't spark much discussion Monday among the new Fort Wayne Community Schools board members.
Their passion instead emerged when speaking directly to the in-person audience at Grile Administrative Center and to those watching via livestreams and cable TV.
Without going into detail, member Julie Hollingsworth said she is worried about the bills state lawmakers might consider this legislative session. She urged public education supporters to pay attention to the activity in Indianapolis and speak up.
“Our parents and community members this session need to make their voice heard,” Hollingsworth said.
Noah Smith, who was sworn in Monday along with two others, gave the audience a call to action.
“Talk with us as board members. Talk with our state representatives and legislators,” said Smith, who was chosen last month to fill the District 3 vacancy. “Try to make productive change.”
Smith described the upcoming legislative session as one of the most important for schools. He specified challenges wrought by the pandemic and a potential decrease in funding.
Smith noted he and fellow new board member Jennifer Matthias know how effective speaking up can be. They began attending board meetings three years ago to fight for honors classes. Smith belatedly publicly thanked members Monday for keeping the courses they lobbied for.
“There's no voice more important than the parental voice, the community voice,” he said.
Superintendent Mark Daniel agreed.
“If we could have, say, 50 people contact our state legislators, I think that would be extremely powerful,” Daniel said, adding the message would be strengthened if other, similar districts would do the same.
In other business, the board selected new officers for 2021. Maria Norman retained her position as vice president while Anne Duff and Hollingsworth switched roles. Duff now is president, and Hollingsworth is secretary.
The officers were nominated by Steve Corona, a longtime board member who Monday again took the oath of office.
Hollingsworth led the board four years, beginning January 2017.
“I want to thank the rest of the board for the honor and privilege of serving as president for four years,” Hollingsworth said after welcoming Smith and Matthias. “But I do strongly believe that that position is something that should be not dominated by any one person for a long period of time.”