Published Feb. 17, 2023
BY EMMA BROWN
During the comment portion of the regular CUSD board of education meeting Wednesday, board president Tess Arthur announced her resignation, a decision that comes during a time of district turmoil after Carmel High School principal Jon Lyons was released from his position and leaked employee documents detailed accusations that a district employee who made sexually graphic comments about students and staff was transferred to River Elementary School.
At the conclusion of a nearly four-hour closed session, the board of education announced that they would be pursuing an outside investigation into the conduct of CUSD Superintendent Ted Knight regarding personnel matters, adding to a sense of uncertainty within the district.
“My family and I have lived in this community for almost 20 years and I’ve served on the school board for over four of those years,” said Arthur during board comment. “I’ve given my heart and soul to this district. My passion for education started in the classroom and at this point, I need to pursue my calling and return to opportunities where I can work directly with children.”
In November, Arthur was re-elected to the board of education and subsequently took over the board president position. Following Arthur’s announcement, other board members gave statements to the public, many noting the difficulty of their position and the recent criticism that they have been subjected to.
“I just want to acknowledge that our community is in pain,” said board member Seaberry Nachbar. “And as you can see, I am in pain too. There’s different perspectives rolling around, and it’s very tough. This has been really difficult.”
Board member and former CHS principal Karl Pallastrini spoke directly to meeting attendees, acknowledging the frustration that community members have expressed with the district and school board’s actions.
“We’ve got a problem, and I’ve got to be the one who says we do,” said Pallastrini. “It’s disappointing, and I know we’ve disappointed many of you in the community. I also know the superintendent has tried to do the right thing, I get that. But there’s obviously something wrong going on here.”
Following the conclusion of board comment, the meeting moved into public comment, during which some parents of CUSD students spoke in support of the district and the board of education, while others spoke in opposition to Knight.
“The easiest thing to do is to scapegoat our leaders,” said Maija West, the parent of a CHS senior. “If we change our leadership every year, we can’t say what this community is capable of.”
Critics of recent district decisions expressed concerns that district administrators have not been listening to community members’ concerns.
Mia Bagglietto, the CHS American Sign Language teacher, expressed frustration with Knight and the school board’s actions and noted the confusion and turmoil on the CHS campus.
“I’m praying that the board will stop the constant imploding of our district,” said Bagglietto. “I have not recently spoken to any person that trusts Mr. Knight, and, in fact, every day there seems to be another person that expresses distrust of him.”
Some speakers encouraged unity within the district, asking the community to come together to resolve the issues facing the schools.
“We need to come together instead of ripping everyone in this district apart,” said Kris Lehman, the parent of two CHS students.
Heather Lyons, the wife of former CHS principal Jon Lyons, delivered a statement prepared by their attorney about the investigation and dismissal of her husband from his position. Jon Lyons later spoke, addressing the Carmel community, asking for the board to reconsider their decision to dismiss him from the principal position.
“I want to go back home,” said the former principal. “I want to go back to my job.”
Chelle Rittermal / February 17, 2023
I was at this meeting. Again, solid job reporting. Thank you.