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CEEP Assists with Saudi Education Reform


The Saudi Arabian government is looking to reform its education system with the help of experts at Indiana University. The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at IU’s School of Education will focus on designing and conducting a series of evaluation projects for the Saudi government. These projects will help that government’s 45 school districts evaluate leaders, principals, teachers and the districts themselves.Challenges like communication, funding and local leadership are handled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Education Evaluation Commission. Marcey Moss is co-director of the Saudi Arabia Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

The group has delivered their results, but Moss says they can’t be shared because of confidentiality agreements between the Saudi government and the CEEP. Moss says that eventually, in a year or two, the Saudi Arabian government will take over with evaluations of their own. Those evaluations will be an amalgamation of all that the international team helped to develop.

County Plan Commission has Recommended Approving Communication Tower Near Airport

The Monroe County Plan Commission has recommended approving a controversial wireless communications tower near the county airport. At its meeting on Tuesday, the Commission had its final hearing on the request from Verizon to build the tower on a small parcel of land, currently zoned residential. The Commission had heard this request previously, first, in April, then in July and August. During those meetings, neighbors criticized the tower’s location and height as well as a flashing light that would be on top of the tower. So the Commission sent the request back for revision. The County’s senior planner, Jackie Scanlan, reviewed the case for the Commission on Tuesday.

“This petition is for a rezone to add the wireless communications facility overlay to a portion of a parcel on … west Barge lane, so you can see it located here near State Road 45, west of the city of Bloomington,” Scanlan said.

The revised proposal reduced the tower height from 155 feet to 135 feet, plus a four foot lightning rod. The petitioner also committed not to raise the height in the future, even though new state legislation would allow that to occur starting next year. But despite those concessions from Verizon, several Commission members were still opposed, including John Irvine.

“The very purpose of having zoning is to protect yourself from intrusion by unwanted development,” Irvine said.

Irvine motioned to reject Verizon’s application, but that motion was defeated five to four. Commission member Kevin Enright then moved to recommend acceptance and provided reasons for his support

“What we get is a lower tower and we get a commitment to keep it that low. We get a commitment for co-location for first responders in that area and improved services on the west side,” Enright said.

Enright is referring to a nearby water tower also has a flashing light at the top. Enright’s motion to send the petition to the County Commissioners with a favorable recommendation passed five to four.

Local Candidate Forums


The League of Women Voters of Bloomington and Monroe County is hosting three local candidate forums starting Monday, September 28. The first event will start at 7pm at the City Council Chambers and will feature the Mayoral candidates and the City Council at-large candidates. On September 29 the forum will also take place at the City Council chambers at 7pm and will include candidates for City Council Districts 1 and 3. The final forum will be on September 30 at 7pm at the Ellettsville Fire Department Training and Conference Room. That forum will include candidates for the Ellettsville Town Council Wards 2 and 3. The forums seek to let people ask the candidates questions and get a feel for who these candidates are as people. Questions will be taken on notecards at the events.

Promotion of Anti-Discrimination Laws in Indiana


The former CEO of Angie’s List says he is forming a coalition aimed at promoting anti-discrimination laws in Indiana. The Indianapolis Star reports today that Bill Oesterle is starting a group called Tech For Equality, which he says will advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers. In many parts of Indiana, there are no laws barring employers and others from discriminating against a person based on sexual orientation. The group will support a proposed non-discrimination ordinance now being considered in Carmel and Oesterle says he also hopes to put pressure on state lawmakers to pass statewide measures. In cities like Bloomington and Indianapolis, local laws already prohibit discrimination. According to the Star, Oesterle says he has held preliminary discussions with technology organizations around the state about joining the coalition. He says he will release a list of members on Monday. Another coalition, Freedom Indiana, also announced this month it would be campaigning for statewide laws outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bloomington Utilities Has Designed Water Stations


For the last couple of years, the Bloomington Utilities Department has set up water stations at IU’s major sporting events. Utilities Director, Patrick Murphy, described the program to the Utilities Service Board last week. He said that the utilities department has had a unique history in developing this type of thing.

Murphy told the Board members they could see the equipment where it is being stored in the Utilities building. Or, he could have it wheeled in to the meeting room for their perusal.

Freedom Indiana Is Seeking More Legal Protections


The statewide grassroots organization that successfully fought a constitutional marriage amendment and campaigned against the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has a new legislative project. Freedom Indiana has launched a new campaign to update the state’s existing laws against discrimination. Updates would include prohibitions on discrimination against gay and transgender Hoosiers. Chris Paulsen is the new campaign manager of the effort. Paulsen says that they will be doing much of the same thing that they have done before and get the word out because ultimately everyday Hoosiers are against discrimination.

Over the past several months, Freedom Indiana has lobbied for local rules prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. There have been efforts in cities across the state. Just last night, the city council in Columbus unanimously approved a human rights ordinance on Tuesday that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Some cities, such Bloomington and Indianapolis, already have similar human rights ordinances.

Confusion Over Law Could Delay A-F School Grades

The Indiana State Board of Education voted today to instruct state officials to issue a new batch of A through F grades to each school in the state. That’s despite the fact the legal status of the school grading system has been called into question in recent weeks. According to the Journal Gazette, the Indiana Department of Education is leading the investigation into the validity of the grades. Superintendent Glenda Ritz believes the rule that allows for A to F grading of schools expired in November. The agency has asked Attorney General Greg Zoeller for his legal opinion on the issue. A document that the Journal Gazette procured said that there is no active A to F model. Schools that use state paid vouchers are supposed to be grouped into A to F categories under Indiana law. How they are grouped depends largely on their performance on the ISTEP among other factors. According to Chalkbeat Indiana the confusion could lead to a delay in grades until early 2016.

Former County Council Member Critical of Process and Data Used for Addressing Pay Raise Request


Former Monroe County Council member, Scott Wells, is critical of both the process and the data used for addressing a recent request to raise the pay of the County Commissioners. The Commissioners had requested a roughly 24 percent pay increase next year. The Council rejected the request last week. Wells addressed the County Council on Tuesday. He first addressed the process.

“If I was going to vote on a salary increase, that would be in my mind, that we gotta have a better process,” Wells said. “That’s not the way to do it.”

Wells then criticized the statistical data presented by Council President Cheryl Munson at the September 1st budget hearing, and as reported in the Herald-Times. Munson had displayed a table with population, budget and salary data, including that of county commissioners, for what she described as peer counties of Monroe County. She concluded that that the table demonstrated that Monroe County Council members were paid somewhat more than average, while our Commissioners are paid a little less. Wells presented data from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance with a different finding.

“If you look at the population and their budgets you’ll find that in fact your statement that is in the paper is not really correct it could be argued that in some cases the commissioners are being paid too much,” he said.

Wells concluded by saying his data base showed that every comparable county, except for Madison County, pay their Commissioners less than Monroe County does.

IU to Invest $300 Million to Develop Solutions for the Planet’s Most Pressing Problems


In other university news, IU has announced it plans to invest $300 million over the next five years to develop solutions for QUOTE “some of the planet’s most pressing problems” UNQUOTE. A press release called the new Grand Challenges program the most ambitious research program in the university’s history. The university has not decided which issues it hopes to address. The press release states up to five large-scale research projects will be selected through a competitive review process. The university has already requested proposals from teams of faculty. The plan is to begin work on the first two projects in the Fall of next year. The university has not announced exactly where it will get the funding for the program, although they say that IU-Bloomington, IUPUI, the IU School of Medicine and President Michael McRobbie’s office are all dedicating funds to the effort.

Students Against State Violence Rally


A student organization at Indiana University is rallying tonight against what they call an extreme rape culture in Bloomington. The group Students Against State Violence organized the event after a rape was reported behind Kilroy’s Dunnkirk on August 29th. An Indiana Daily Student article about the incident states that an IU police officer witnessed two people behind the bar at around 2:30 a.m. According to the article, a 20-year-old victim told police that the 28-year-old suspect had engaged in sexual activity without consent. The officer did not arrest the suspect. A member of Students Against State Violence, who would identify herself only with the alias Nodet, says her group is demanding the officer involved be held accountable for not making an arrest.

“We felt this was ridiculously negligent and part of a really dangerous culture that exists here in Bloomington,” she said.

Lt. Craig Munroe of the IU police department told WFHB this afternoon that the incident is still under investigation and it’s possible an arrest could still be made. Munroe says there are facts the public doesn’t know about the incident, although he did not provide further details.

“These cases are very complex sometimes and there are a lot of parts to the puzzle to put together,” he said. “So all we ask is that people will trust us as we go through this investigation and that we are doing the right thing.”

Two additional rape cases were reported this past weekend at the McNutt Quad, according to a report in the Indiana Daily Student. Both victims were younger than 18 and were reportedly visiting from Indianapolis. No arrests have been made in that case either, according to the newspaper. The demonstration tonight begins at 9 p.m. at the Sample Gates.

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