Dozens of Indiana Department of Education employees fired, asked to resign

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 40 employees with the Indiana Department of Education were fired when Indiana State Superintendent for Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick took office.

But multiple sources within the department tell I-Team 8 that the job cuts figure could be closer to 60 employees who were either fired or asked to resign as part of the transition from former superintendent Glenda Ritz’s administration to that of newly-elected Superintendent Jennifer McCormick.

“Obviously that’s the side that no one enjoys and it’s never pleasant for anybody involved. But that is part of it,” McCormick told I-Team 8 during an interview in her statehouse office.

When pressed about what divisions within her department were hit hardest by the job cuts, McCormick said: “They were across the board.”

She declined to name specifics when pressed further or asked if she was uncomfortable discussing it.

“It’s not about whether I am comfortable or uncomfortable,” McCormick said. “It’s that we are in the middle of a transition and it only makes good solid sense to take a really good look at where we need to put our efforts and put our monies that makes some staffing decisions.”

More than a half dozen now-fired employees, who asked not to be identified, tell I-Team 8 that the bulk of the firings occurred in the areas of: student services, the 21st Century Scholars program (that helps students in good standing pay for college), and outreach coordinators, who work in one of nine districts throughout the state and help schools directly with questions about assessment and student achievement, according to former employees who spoke to I-Team 8 on a condition of anonymity.

One employee told I-Team 8 that when hundreds of state employees and office managers returned from the inauguration ceremonies on Monday, they passed people in the hallways carrying boxes. Some of them had been fired.

That same employee, who said she was among the dozens let go within her division, said employees were given the choice: either resign or be fired.

Many employees, she said, chose to resign so that they could remain in good standing with the state and increase their chances of being rehired.

That employee also said that by resigning, she thought it may be a way for the incoming administration to keep the job cuts figures down.

When I-Team 8 reached out to McCormick’s office on Tuesday with follow-up questions, a spokeswoman said that the number of employees fired stood at 35. McCormick had identified more than 40 during our interview.

With regard to her plan for the Indiana Department of Education, McCormick has released some details about her vision. An interview last week, McCormick shared with WISH-TV  that she wants a limited expansion of pre-kindergarten, and hopes to work with lawmakers on school safety and student assessment

Dr. Harold Olin, superintendent with Greenfield-Central schools, told I-Team 8 that the firings of the outreach coordinators might signal a return to what many superintendents are accustomed to – content specialists at IDOE – many of whom, Olin said, were eliminated during the Ritz administration.

“It’s a difference in philosophy. I don’t want to take anything away from the outreach coordinators. Many of them were doing a good job,” Olin said. “Going back to some content specialists I think Dr. McCormick feels like schools would get answers more quickly.”

I-Team 8 sought to get a clearer indication on how much employee turnover is underway this week.

A spokeswoman for the State Personnel Department said she would get back to us but did not before news time. Repeated calls and emails placed with the Holcomb and newly elected Attorney General Curtis Hill’s administrations were also not returned.

But Holcomb has released details on appointments and re-appoints within his administration. He has reappointed 17 agency heads who previously worked for Gov. Pence’s administration.

Here is a list compiled by I-Team 8 based on releases from the Holcomb administration:

New Appointments:

Brian Pigott, Commission of IDEM (formerly Chief of Staff at IDEM)

Jason Dudich, State Budget Director (formerly of LHD Benefit Advisors, former Chief of Staff for former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard)

Adam Krupp, Department of Revenue Commissioner (formerly General Counsel of Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Special Counsel to former Gov. Mike Pence)

Joe Heerens, General Counsel to the Governor (formerly General Counsel to Airport Authority, Chief Legislative and Assistant General Counsel to former Gov. Mitch Daniels)

Susana Suarez, Executive Director of Strategic Communications (councilwoman at-large Zionsville town council, CEO of Media Moon Communications)

Allison Karns, Deputy Chief of Staff of Legislative Affairs (formerly Policy Director for Public Safety for former Gov. Mike Pence)

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, Secretary of Family and Social Services Administration (formerly the Deputy Director of Indiana State Department of Health)

Reappointments:

Jim Greeson, Director of Fire and Building Safety – State Fire Marshal

Sara Gonso Tait, Executive Director of Indiana Gaming Commission

Deb Frye, Executive Director, Indiana Professional Licensing Agency

Steve Braun, Commissioner of Department of Workforce Development

Rick Ruble, Commissioner of Indiana Department of Labor

James Betley, Executive Director of Indiana Charter School Board

Dan Huge, Indiana Finance Authority Director

Courtney Schaafsma, Department of Local Government Finance Commissioner

Ted McKinney,  Director of Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Jacob Sipe, Executive Director of Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority

Duane Embree, Director of Indiana Office of Defense Development

Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, Director of Indiana Department of Child Services

Jessica Robertson, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration

Micah Vincent, Director of Office of Management and Budget

Danny Lopez, Deputy Chief of Staff (formerly Chief of Staff for Holcomb)

Adjutant General Corey Carr, Indiana National Guard

Carolene Mays-Medley, Executive Director of White River State Park (former Executive Director of White River Development Commission)