Writer / Larry Lannan
When Dr. Yvonne Stokes was hired as Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) Schools superintendent in April of 2021, the school district made history by hiring its first African American superintendent. On September 13, 2023, the school board made history again, this time by accepting the resignation and separation agreement of Stokes. The board, and Attorney Chris Greisl, portrayed the separation as a mutual agreement. Public speakers at the meeting described the situation as forced resignation.
The opening of the HSE school board meeting on September 19 featured the reading of a statement from Board President Dawn Lang, expressing “gratitude” to the local community, but “recognizing we don’t always agree.” She referred to moving “through the next steps with this plan,” but didn’t specify “this plan” in her statement. Lang expressed her commitment “to honesty, transparency and collaboration.”
Just days after accepting the resignation of Stokes, the school board hired the firm Administrative Assistance to provide mentoring services for interim HSE Superintendent Dr. Matt Kegley, and will begin the search for a new permanent superintendent in mid-November, after the vote on the referendum.
The debt rating agency Standard & Poor downgraded Fishers’ city debt, backed by property taxes, from AAA to AA+. Mayor Scott Fadness says he anticipated this development, due largely to the city’s purchase of the sewer utility serving city residents.
Fishers City Councilor David Giffel proposed the city explore awarding one private contract for city trash removal, in order to save trash collection fees for residents. Fadness says he will schedule a work session to explain the many steps that must be taken to begin that process.
During some years, Fadness uses his State of the City address to make big announcements, and other years he likes to just highlight what is happening in city government. In 2023 the mayor invited three of his department heads, including Health Department Director Monica Heltz, Fire and Emergency Services Department Chief Steve Orusa and Police Department Chief Ed Gebhart, up to his State of the City stage. They each summarized major issues being handled by their respective departments.
HSE Schools leaders unveiled their 2024 spending plan, totaling $296 million. Enrollment overall is a bit down in the current school year, but HSE Schools Chief Financial Officer Katy Dowling says this should not present any major budget issues this school year, presuming the referendum on the election ballot passes.
Verizon was initially eager to construct 5G towers around the Fishers and many are in operation. However, in recent months and years, Verizon has stopped construction of these towers. Once right-of-way is granted for the towers, Verizon has two years to at least begin construction. At the September 12 Board of Works and Safety meeting, Tami Houston, assistant engineer for the city, told the board seven such tower rights-of-way have had the two-year period expire, leading to the board vote revoking those rights-of-way. Houston told Fadness there are about 80 such right-of-way actions set to expire in the future if Verizon chooses not to construct towers at those locations, with 30 to 35 such grants expiring soon. Verizon has not commented on why it has chosen to stop constructing 5G towers in Fishers.
After serving under Planning and Zoning Director Megan Vukusich as her assistant, Ross Hilleary has moved up to the director’s chair with Vukusich’s departure. According to a city news release, Hilleary’s responsibilities will include leading the day-to-day operations and implementation as well as special initiatives for long-range planning of the city’s parks, trails and greenways efforts, and the Unified Development Ordinance update.
Dowling asked the school board budget and finance committee on September 19 what they are seeking from a contract with Bondry Consulting that she is not already providing. Ben Orr says he wants to learn more about school finance.
Orr later gave Dowling a vote of confidence. “I want to say very publicly that I have full faith…in our CFO,” Orr said. “Katy has been outstanding.”
My thanks to the Fishers High School parent-teacher organization, for inviting me to judge the Chili Cook-Off on September 29, sampling some tasty chili from some wonderful teacher-chefs. I enjoyed working with fellow judges, Master Chef Kelsey Murphy and WTHR Meteorologist Angela Buchman.