NLCS Files For Judicial Review And Declaratory Judgment In PAC Ruling

(BEDFORD) – North Lawrence Community School Corporation filed two separate motions in the Public Access Counselor Ruling.

In the first court filing made on January 30th, North Lawrence Community Schools Attorney James G. Pittman filed for a Judicial Review of the Indiana Public Access Counselor ruling that the school corporation violated the Open Door Law.

Jason Johnson, of Springville, filed a complaint on November 19, 2019, alleging that the school corporation violated the Open Door Law.

On December 11, 2019, the North Lawrence school corporation filed a response to the complaint. On January 7th, Luke Britt issued an advisory opinion stating that he believed the North Lawrence Community Schools violated the Open Door Law.

Pittman claims the advisory opinion is not in accordance with the law and is not supported by evidence.

Pittman went on to explain that the largest issue is whether the Visionary Committee is a governing body. Pittman says the committee was not directly appointed by the board or the board’s presiding officer.

There were three board members that were appointed to the Visionary Committee according to Dr. Ty Mungle. Mungle provided updates to the public during school board meetings.

On Friday, Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Nikirk recused himself from the case citing a conflict of interest.

The involved parties have seven days to agree on a special judge and file a written agreement with the court. If, after seven days, the parties have not notified the court of the special judge, one will be appointed.

In a separate filing on January 31st, North Lawrence Community Schools filed a Declaratory Judgement by North Lawrence Community Schools against Jason Johnson, Jerry Ford, Deanna Ford, Gerald Hill, and James Evans.

The above-mentioned persons have become interested parties in the case because they sought the request of public records.

In the complaint, the North Lawrence Community Schools hired Superintendent Ty Mungle in February 2019. Dr. Mungle began reviewing the corporation and discovered:

  • North Lawrence Community Schools experienced a reduction in student enrollment during the past ten years.
  • 10 elementary schools within its district had less than 300 students. One only had 77 students.
  • Six schools were receiving a school grade of “D” or “F” in 2019.
  • In July 2019, after being hired as the permanent superintendent, Dr. Mungle hired a consulting group, ESOLVE Solutions, to advise him on reviewing data, gathering input from experts and community stakeholders and setting a vision for the future.
  • Based on other school districts and on the advice of ESOLVE, Dr. Mungle invited 30 community volunteers to participate in a series of meetings and consider options for North Lawrence Community Schools.
  • The purpose of the volunteer group was for North Lawrence to review data, gather input from experts and community stakeholders and set a vision for the future.

The complaint goes on to say the school board did not appoint the Visionary Committee and the President of the School Board did not appoint the Visionary Committee.

Dr. Mungle, his consultant, and his administrative team formed a plan for reorganizing, restructuring, and consolidating elementary and middle schools within the North Lawrence Community Schools district from the comments, opinions, and information received from the Visionary Committee volunteers and from the community members who spoke at the forum.

Therefore, North Lawrence Community Schools is seeking a declaratory judgment that the Visionary Committee is not a public agency or governing body and is not subject to the Open Door Law.

At the beginning of the Visionary Committee’s appointment, it was agreed upon by the school corporation and the volunteer members that their names would not be released to the public.