SOUTH BEND --Number of people who spoke in support of South Bend school board Vice President Bill Sniadecki: 16.Number of board members who voted in favor of censuring Sniadecki: four.Number of people President Roger Parent ordered to be escorted out of the meeting: two.One after another, a stream of parents, community members and teachers filed to the microphone in the board room of the South Bend Community Schools administrative building.
The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, and consisted largely of support for Sniadecki, initially wasn't scheduled to have a public-input portion.
In between speakers, there was applause and cheers from the audience of about 70.
They were diverse in age, gender and race.
But their message was the same: A vote to censure Sniadecki would be a vote to censure his district.
"This is an effort to negate the election," said Mario Sims, with the group Citizens United for a Better Government. "People want him to represent them," Sims said of Sniadecki, who was re-elected this week to a third term. "This invalidates the election."
Board Secretary Michelle Engel presented the list of grievances against Sniadecki.
Parent said board members have the responsibility to hold each other accountable.
Sniadecki's behavior can no longer be tolerated, Parent said.
In the end, four board members, Parent, Engel, Maritza Robles and John Stancati, voted in favor of censuring Sniadecki.
Dawn Jones voted against it. And Jay Caponigro wasn't present.
Aside from the public act of discipline, the censure amounts to Sniadecki's being stripped of the title of vice president for the three remaining meetings of the year.
The censure expires on Dec. 31, the last day of his current term.
Before the board's vote, a parade of Sniadecki supporters took to the microphone.
Catherine Hostetler said she's never met anyone with as much passion as Sniadecki.
"Yes, he gets frustrated," she said, "and maybe sometimes his passion and frustration comes through in ways this Prozac generation don't find acceptable. ... He will stand up for his principles. He will stand up for his beliefs. He will stand up for kids," she said.
Another woman said if she were looking for someone to lead a seminar on decorum, Sniadecki wouldn't be in the top 100 people she'd consider. But if she were looking for an advocate for a child, she said, he'd be her top pick.
One member of the audience was admonished after shouting "Anyone have any duct tape for Mr. Parent?"
And two others who singled Parent out for criticism were escorted out by security at the board president's request.
When he had an opportunity to speak, Sniadecki told the board they should be ashamed of themselves.
"There's been an attack on me since last year," he said.
"They're trying to silence me because they don't' want you to know what goes on behind closed doors," he told the audience.
Sniadecki told Superintendent Carole Schmidt he regrets her hiring.
"I made a huge, huge mistake when I went along with making you in charge of our kids," he said.
Jones said the entire process has made her sick to her stomach.
There are more important issues, she said, the school board should be spending its time on, from finding ways to improve graduation rates to retaining students who are leaving the district by way of vouchers and charter schools.
Engel said the move was not an effort to censure the public, but only Sniadecki, for his actions toward employees, including Schmidt.
The collection of allegations against Sniadecki surfaced publicly when Parent, along with Engel, Robles and Schmidt, came to The Tribune on Oct. 10.
Sniadecki had alerted The Tribune to what he thought might be an illegal executive session of the board on Sept. 19,. Indiana's Public Access Counselor later ruled the session was legal, so long as the conversation hadn't strayed -- as Sniadecki still alleges it did -- from the topic of the desegregation order South Bend schools has been under for years.
That accusation of Sniadecki's, Parent said, led him and others to initiate an investigation into Sniadecki's past actions as a board member.
Parent said it's clear that Sniadecki has established a pattern of violating school corporation policies, and even state law.
Sniadecki has said he considers himself the watchdog of the board and the corporation.
When an issue raises questions, he said, "I'm not going to close my eyes."
The Tribune filed a Freedom of Information Request with the school corporation on Oct. 11 asking for the legal fees charged to the district for the preparation of the 30-plus page document supporting Sniadecki's censure.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the information was still not available.
Staff writer Kim Kilbride:email@example.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times