FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — At its first meeting of 2022, the Northwest Allen County Schools board approved Superintendent Chris Himsel’s leave of absence, appointed an interim superintendent, approved changes to the district’s public comment and COVID-19 policies and elected new officers.
Himsel told WANE 15 Monday that he’s on leave until January 31 to “address health concerns.” He did not elaborate beyond that. Assistant Superintendent Gloria Shamanoff, Ph.D., was named interim superintendent in Monday’s meeting, which took place virtually over Zoom.
Ron Felger was unanimously elected to serve as board president, replacing Kent Somers. Somers was elected by a 3-2 vote to take over the role of vice president. Elizabeth Hathaway was serving as the vice president and she was nominated against Somers. She and Kristi Schlatter voted against Somers for vice president with Somers, Felger and Steve Bartkus voting in favor. Schlatter was elected to keep her role as board secretary.
The item of business that garnered the most discussion revolved around changes to the district’s COVID-19 quarantine rules. In a 3-2 vote, the board adopted the updated policy, which was written based on the guidelines from the Allen County and State Health Departments.
It’s similar to the updated policies recently adopted at Southwest Allen County Schools and East Allen County Schools.
Somers and Bartkus voted against the policy change, citing concerns about having different rules for people who are vaccinated versus those who are unvaccinated.
Watch the entire board discussion on the COVID policy change in the video below.
The board also voted 4-1 to adopt a revised policy for public comments at board meetings. Somers voted against it, only saying “for a couple of reasons and I’ll leave it at that.” Read the entire policy in the file link below.
In another 3-2 vote, the board struck down a proposal to send some teachers and staff to the Whole Child Summit in February. Felger, Somers and Bartkus expressed concern about the keynote speaker, Tim Wise, who is known for his speeches on critical race theory. The conference is supposed to educate and train teachers on how to monitor and address students’ emotional and mental health. Schlatter and Hathaway voted in favor of the conference, saying the keynote speaker is a small part of the conference and should not outweigh the other 25 sessions that would greatly benefit the district’s staff.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of seven buses and new technology devices for Kindergarten, 5th and 9th grades as the elementary school teachers under the five-year replacement plan.