Two Warsaw School Board members vow not to run amid term limits debate

Two Warsaw School Board members, whose terms expire at year’s end, say they won’t seek a third term if the policy to extend board terms from two to four is approved.

The decision by Board Vice President Matt Dick and Dan Metzger was read in a statement by Dick at the end of Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The School Board voted 6-1 on Dec. 13 to increase board member term limits from two to four.

Letters to the editor in the Times-Union have indicated a group of school district patrons may be planning to oppose the decision by circulating a petitions. If 500 signatures are certified, the term limits proposal would be placed on the May primary election ballot and would be voted on by the public.

The end of Dick’s and Metzger’s second four-year term is Dec. 31. Metzger was the sole vote in December against the term limit change.

On Tuesday, Dick said it wasn’t a plan to eliminate term limits altogether.

Dick said the decision to extend term limits “has been questioned by a group of patrons in our community. The last thing we, as a board, want to do is divide our community and bring unwanted negative attention to Warsaw Community Schools.”

“I want to reiterate that we are not proposing doing away with term limits, we are simply looking to create a system that is more in line with how other school corporations, local towns and cities across the state of Indiana govern. We want to update a document that was created in 1991 to meet our school corporation’s current trends and needs. We never wanted to eliminate term limits. With the proposed extension, we are still in the small minority of school systems in the state that have any term limits and members would still be required to win an election every four years,” he continued.

At the Dec. 13 meeting, Timothy S. Shelly, attorney with Warrick & Boyn LLP, attorneys at law, which represents the school board, said 3½ years ago he asked the board to consider extending its members’ term limits. He said there were 289 school districts in Indiana, and approximately 10 of them have some type of term limit. No other school board has a two-term limit such as Warsaw’s. Changing the term limits would be the first substantive change the school board has had in 27 years, he said.

On Tuesday, Dick also said some people have made the matter personal.

“My family members and I have come under fire by a small group of people as my second four-year term is coming up at the end of 2018. I want to take this opportunity to say that along with Dan Metzger, whose term also ends in 2018, neither he nor I plan to run for a third consecutive term if this proposal passes,”

Dick said it is his belief that extending the number of consecutive years a board member can serve from eight to 16 is in the best interest of the school corporation, students and the community.

“I understand the perception that could be created by the timing of this proposal and my term being up in the same year. I do not want my potential future service on the board to be a hindrance or a motivating factor for people to continue to fight progress and change,” he said. “It has been my privilege, and I think I’ll say for Dan, our privilege, to serve the Warsaw community and this outstanding school district for the last seven and a half years.”

Board President Heather Reichenbach thanked Dick for reading the statement.

“On behalf of the board, it has been an outstanding experience to serve with you and the leadership you’ve provided over the last seven and a half years, and we look forward to finishing out this year, 2018, with you by our side on our board. It has been a great privilege to work with you, and I think this speaks to your character of who you are as individuals and board members and how you guys serve that you  recognize this could be a conflict … so thank you,” she said.

Christopher T. Pottratz, also with Warrick Boyn LLP, explained the process of changing the term limits at the Dec. 13 meeting.

Notice of the resolution was published Dec. 15. Voters have 120 days to file a petition objecting to the plan or proposing their own.

If no objections are filed, the new plan is submitted to the State Board of Education for approval.

Contesting the plan requires obtaining 500 signatures from registered voters, Shelly said. If remonstrators obtain 500 signatures, a special election to choose a plan would be held in the spring.

Shelly said the State Board of Education would have final review of the plan, but he didn’t expect any issue with the term limit change.