Hockema to LSC board on ‘woke’ books check: ‘The idea isn’t to find fault’
Plus, when and where to vote early in the May primary. New scooters, now allowed in WL. Return of the Columbian Park Zoo penguins. Holcomb signs, ACLU sues on trans care bill. And more
Thanks to sponsor Stuart & Branigin for support to help make this edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project possible.
And thanks to ongoing support from The Long Center for the Performing Arts, presenting Cory Asbury Saturday, April 15. Asbury’s 2018 album “Reckless Love” landed him at the top of the Billboard Christian Albums chart in 2018, leading to two Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination. The title track spent 18 weeks at No. 1, earning Billboard, ASCAP and BMI Christian Song of the Year honors, and has been certified triple platinum with over 3 million equivalent units. His follow-up album, “To Love A Fool,” featured the single “The Father’s House,” which was certified a gold hit. For tickets, go to longpac.org.
LSC BOARD MEMBER: ‘THE IDEA ISN’T TO FIND FAULT,’ BUT STILL WANTS LIST OF CLASSROOM BOOKS
In the Lafayette school board’s first meeting – a Wednesday night work session – since a newly elected board member requested an inventory of all books used in LSC classrooms, to check for LGBTQ and what he called “woke” influences, Chuck Hockema tried to explain that he wasn’t looking to accuse or persecute teachers.
“The idea isn’t to find fault,” Hockema said in the closing minutes of a meeting that had been largely about insurance funds, background on a proposed four-day week at Vinton Elementary and a proposed civic arts pathway to a diploma at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
He said he wasn’t interested in a particular deadline for teachers and librarians to make lists of the books they have in classrooms. (The initial notes went to schools suggesting an April 7 deadline. Here’s an account about that.)
“This isn’t just a request for me, but for people in the school system who have expressed their concerns,” Hockema said, in his first comments in a board meeting since he was sworn in at the start of 2023.
Since the initial request, made just before LSC’s spring break, two board members and Superintendent Les Huddle met with Hockema, where they agreed to slow the process while still getting to Hockema’s request. Huddle sent notes to the district’s principals Monday, the first day back from spring break, telling teachers that the request was on hold.
That was laid out in Wednesday’s edition. In case you missed it, Hockema says he still wants the controversial check on what’s in classrooms, saying it’s the “only way that we can make John Q. Public believe that everything's all copacetic with our school system.” Here’s the full story: “LSC taps brakes on anti-‘woke’ board member’s demand for teachers’ book lists.”
Wednesday night’s work session was crowded with teachers and community members. But it was the first since January without extensive public comment aimed at Hockema’s campaign claims about public schools indoctrinating students.
Board members did not immediately address Hockema’s comments Wednesday night. Huddle said the LSC administration was working out a plan to accommodate Hockema’s request in ways that wouldn’t burden teachers or affect the school day.
“At some point, we’ll be bringing that back,” Huddle said. “As one administrator, I’m pretty comfortable that we find no fault.”
Meanwhile, at the Statehouse: The Indiana House Education Committee stripped a bill dealing with graduation rates to reignite debate over banning materials considered “harmful to minors,” leaving teachers and librarians without protection from criminal charges if they use or distribute those under the heading of “educational purposes.” Similar provisions made it through the Indiana Senate under Senate Bill 12. That controversial bill never made it to a committee hearing, so House members are looking to plug the language in this way. Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Casey Smith had this version of Wednesday’s committee arguments: “Indiana lawmakers debate bill allowing parents to challenge ‘obscene and harmful’ library materials.”
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EARLY VOTING CLIPPED TO TWO WEEKS, STARTS APRIL 18 IN WEST LAFAYETTE
With other parts of Indiana already rolling on early voting ahead of the May 2 primary, here’s a reminder that the Tippecanoe County Election Board decided in February to trim early voting to two weeks, rather than the typical four weeks. The reason: There’s a single contested race on the May ballot – the one with four Democrats vying for three nominations for at large West Lafayette City Council seats. There are no other contested primary races in Lafayette or West Lafayette.
The upshot: Early voting will start Tuesday, April 18. The only ballot available will be for Democrats in West Lafayette, who will be able to choose three at-large city council candidates among incumbents James Blanco, David Sanders and Gerald Thomas, along with Iris O’Donnell Bellisario.
Earlier this year, County Clerk Julie Roush, a member of the Election Board, said the most recent municipal primary, in 2019, drew a 3% turnout of registered voters in election that included a single city council race – a Democratic Party contest for Lafayette’s three at-large seats. She said that election drew fewer than 600 voters for satellite vote centers set up ahead of the primary election day. The rest of the Election Board took her recommendation to condense early voting.
Where to vote ahead of May 2: Early voting starts April 18 at the Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays and will continue until noon May 1. The County Office Building also will have polls set up noon-4 p.m. Saturday, April 29. Early voting also will be available at West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave., noon-6 p.m. Monday, April 24, to Friday, April 28; and noon-4 p.m. Saturday, April 29.
Election Day voting: Polls will be open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at these sites in West Lafayette: Purdue Black Cultural Center, 1100 Third St.; West Lafayette Wellness Center, 1101 Kalberer Road; Faith West Community Center, 1920 Northwestern Ave.; West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.; and Connection Point Church, 2541 Cumberland Ave.
Check your voter registration status: Go to the Secretary of State’s portal at www.indianavoters.com.
On ballots, so far: Here are the candidates who filed by February deadline in Lafayette and West Lafayette municipal elections. (Incumbents marked with an asterisk.) Parties will have time after the primary to slate candidates for open slots. Same goes for independent candidates.
Mayor: Tony Roswarski*, D; Benji Milanowski, Libertarian
Clerk: Cindy Murray*, D.
Council District 1: Jerry Reynolds*, R.
Council District 2: Eileen Hession Weiss*, D; Mary Fisher, R.
Council District 3: Perry Brown*, D.
Council District 4: Lauren Ahlersmeyer*, D; Josiah Eller, Libertarian
Council District 5: Melissa Weast Williamson*, D.
Council District 6: Bob Downing*, D; Perry Barbee, R
Council at-large (3): Kevin Klinker*, D; Nancy Nargi*, D; Steve Snyder*, D.
Mayor: Erin Easter, D.
Clerk: Sana Booker*, D.
Council District 1: Aaron Abell, R.
Council District 2: Michelle Dennis, D.
Council District 3: None
Council District 4: Larry Leverenz*, D.
Council District 5: Kathy Parker*, D; James Waters, R.
Council District 6: Jeff Brown*, R; Stacey Baitinger Burr, D.
Council at-large (3): James Blanco*, D; Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, D; David Sanders*, D; Gerald Thomas*, D.
Candidate Q&As: Check back with Based in Lafayette ahead of April 18 for questions-and-answers from the four Democrats running for West Lafayette City Council at-large seats.
THIS AND THAT …
WEST SIDE SCOOTERS, IN THE WILD: Purdue’s latest deal with Veo – a California-based micromobility company that got its start as a bike-share startup at Purdue – might have had its first rides on the teal-and-black scooters on campus on March 17. But the edges of campus were about as far as they’d get anyone, until West Lafayette signed off on permits on Veo’s mixed fleet of 300 seated scooters and 150 standing scooters. That happened Tuesday when the city’s board of works gave the go-ahead for the company to unleash their rides on West Lafayette streets. (Until then, development director Erin Easter said, they’d been geo-fenced, or locked into areas only on campus.) Easter said Tuesday that permit fees were still being worked out through Purdue, which is managing the contract with Veo. Spin, another scooter company, pulled its fleet from West Lafayette near the end of 2022.
PENGUINS, A COMEBACK: Two years after suspected cases of avian malaria killed six of Columbian Park Zoo’s African penguins in 2021 – their first year in new exhibit – the zoo announced this week that it has seven new African penguins and that the entire flock of 10 would be in public view for the 2023 season. Zoo director Neil Dale said the penguins, on loan from the Metro Richmond Zoon in Mosely, Virginia, were acclimating and getting along with the three already living at the Columbian Park Zoo. Dale said the zoo had taken additional precautions with anti-malarial medications and changing aspects of the exhibit – more powerful fans, mosquito-repelling plants, mosquito traps and installation of purple martin houses nearby – to cut down on mosquitoes that might carry avian malaria. The penguin names: Rainbow, Zurg, Gengar, Forky, Kiwi, Plum and Ledger are the Virginia crew. They join Shazam, Sagely and Donner. Columbian Park is scheduled to open for the season April 15.
LAFAYETTE CROSSING GUARD CHANGES: Lafayette police will turn over duties of hiring and managing crossing guards for the city’s schools to a private company, beginning with the start of the 2023-24 school year. On Tuesday, the city’s board of works signed a contract with Cross Safe, a North Carolina-based company, to hire, assign and get uniforms for crossing guards. The cost to the city: $77.48 per crossing guard per day through Dec. 31 and then $79.79 per crossing guard, according to the contract. Lafayette Police Chief Scott Galloway told the board of works Tuesday that the move would free up police department time spent recruiting crossing guards, especially when an officer has to fill in if a crossing guard has to miss a shift. Galloway said he expected that the Cross Safe would take in many of the crossing guards on duty now. The contract starts July 15, about two weeks before LSC’s Oakland Elementary opens on its balanced calendar.
OTHER READS …
Among the reads after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 480 – one that would ban parents from getting gender-affirming procedures for their transgender children – Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Whitney Downard had this, with the governor’s comments, an ACLU lawsuit that came on his heels and Attorney General Todd Rokita’s vow to stand ready to defend the law in court: “Holcomb signs transgender medical care ban, ACLU files suit.”
ICYMI: Tim’s Picks, five choice ideas for the weekend and beyond in Lafayette/West Lafayette, went out to Based in Lafayette subscribers earlier this morning. Check it out below.
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