KENDALLVILLE — Denise Holbrook became the third East Noble school board member to resign her seat within the last two months.
Like her two colleagues before her, Holbrook cited her inability to work under board president Barb Babcock as the primary reason for leaving the board.
Holbrook’s seat is up for election this year and was contested by longtime East Noble Principal Dave Pine, who retired from Avilla Elementary at the end of the 2019-20 school year with 39 years of service.
It’s too late to be removed from the Nov. 3 election ballot, but Holbrook has now left the board.
Three of the seven East Noble school board members have now resigned since August.
John Wicker was the first to go, resigning his seat after he said Babcock made wild and unfounded accusations that he was engaging in an extramarital affair with another board member.
Following the Sept. 9 board meeting, when discussion about Wicker’s resignation was shut down at the public meeting and the Sept. 23 meeting when Doug Jansen was selected to fill the vacancy, board member Kara Hand turned in her resignation on Sept. 28.
Hand, a first-term board member whose seat is up for vote this fall, also cited Babcock’s statements and raised issues about the process used to replace Wicker, stating she felt the process, while legal, was not transparent or fair to people interested in serving.
On Friday, Holbrook, also a first-term board member, turned in her resignation, airing similar grievances.
“I feel I have no choice but to resign from the school board due to the lack of ethics exhibited by the president of the school board and the majority of the school board members,” Holbrook wrote in her resignation letter. “I can no longer be a part of the East Noble School Board as long as the current president is allowed to remain in her office and the majority of the school board members do not find it in good conscience to remove her. I like serving the community in this capacity but would not condone this type of behavior in my own children or let them be associated with this type of activity so I feel that at this point it is necessary for me to lead by example and step down.”
Holbrook said the comments made by Babcock about Wicker and Hand hurt both the school and the community, but she was also disturbed that other board members took no action to address the situation.
Like Hand, Holbrook also took issue with the process used to replace Wicker’s seat, stating that the process was closed off.
School boards appoint replacements to fill vacancies, but state law prescribes no specific process for how that is supposed to be done. East Noble did not take letters of interest or applications from the eligible public and Holbrook raised issues that the replacement candidate wasn’t even interviewed collectively by the board.
“The community was not informed of his resignation or given a chance to express interest in the position. The board never interviewed or talked to one of the candidates collectively,” Holbrook wrote in her resignation. “There were many people interested, yet the school board did not take the time to interview all the candidates and find the best person for the job. How is this in the best interest of our students and community?”
Although stating that she believes East Noble has great teachers and staff and that she had been “honored” to be selected to serve, the recent developments led to her ultimately giving up the seat just a month before Election Day.
“Finally, I believe that there are a lot of good and honorable people involved in East Noble and with the development of our children and community. The last thing I want to do is damage that reputation however I feel that the damage was already done by the president and furthered by the board when they did nothing to rectify the situation,” Holbrook wrote. “Because I do not believe the school board acted ethically nor were they willing to remedy the situation, I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on the board and at this time resign my position in hopes that awareness will be reached and the situation will be resolved so that one day I may serve in this capacity again.”
All three of the school board members who voted against installing Babcock as board president have now resigned.
In December, Wicker, Hand and Holbrook voted against naming Babcock as president, resulting in a 3-3 tie that was broken by then-president Dan Beall, who voted in favor.
East Noble next meets on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at the administration building.
As of now, the board has just five sitting members — Babcock, Beall, Jansen, Brent Durbin, and Jen Blackman.
The school board has not indicated how or when it plans to fill the two vacant seats. Vacancies are supposed to be filled within 30 days, but both empty seats are on the fall election ballot and have other candidates seeking them.
Superintendent Ann Linson said Monday the board could either find temporary replacements through the end of the year, or wait to see the results from the Nov. 3 and appoint the winners in the races. Board members will discuss their options at the upcoming meeting next week.
Hand’s seat still is contested even if she is taken out of consideration, with Scott Truelove and Lisa LeRoy vying for the seat.
In Holbrook’s at-large race, if she is taken out of consideration, that leaves Pine as the only other candidate in the race.