New Albany Floyd County School Board

New Albany Floyd County School Board sign.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Incumbent and president Elaine Murphy will no longer have a seat on the New Albany Floyd County School Board after Tuesday's general election, a major change those on the board said will make meetings look and feel a lot different.

Four seats were on the ballot, and three were won by new faces. Thad Neafus joins Connie Baugh in the At-Large seats, Melanie Northup was elected in District 1, and Lee Ann Wiseheart won reelection in District 2.

Wiseheart and current board member Donna Corbett, who didn't run again, said they aren't upset Neafus and Baugh were specifically the individuals who were elected. But they said how they won is unfair.

"The saddening part to me that this is the first time in my life and being on the school board that party politics has now entered Floyd County local school boards," Wiseheart said. 

"On the information sent out by the PAC, they even mentioned politics has no business in school board elections," Corbett added. "But their goal was to get super conservative people on the board."

Neafus and Baugh were supported by Liberty Defense, an out-of-town political action committee that hired people to campaign at polls for candidates across the state.

"I saw it first time multiple times when I was working the polls," Wiseheart said. "Literally (people) were handing people cards and telling them lies. So that part makes me angry."

Neafus said he simply campaigned on transparency and didn't do anything wrong.

"The political action committee sent out questionnaires, and we answered the questionnaires, and they decided to back whichever candidates most line up with their ideals," Neafus said. "I received no direct funding from them. If I did something illegal as far as campaign laws go, I'm happy to face the consequences. But I think I took advantage of an opportunity that was there for everyone."

Neafus said he does agree with the PAC's mission statement but he said he thinks board members are only bringing attention to his political views because they "haven't had to campaign for their seats" in past elections and "they are surprised there was so much interest."

"I didn't really have any intention on running but I wanted to stay informed on what was going on," Neafus said. "And it was actually the meetings themselves and the way they're conducted and, apparently, keeping the parents and citizens at arms length and not giving them any input on what's going on."

The Floyd County Sheriff's Deputy said bringing more transparency to the board and allowing parents to have more than three minutes to speak at public meetings is on his list of things he plans to advocate for in his new role. 

Moving forward, both Neafus and Wiseheart said they want to work together and vow to keep what's best for students at the forefront.

"I have no ill will," Wiseheart said. "I'm excited to learn from them and to serve alongside them."

"I think they'll be, maybe not pleasantly surprised, but at least surprised that I'm easy to talk to and I want to talk to people on all sides of it," Neafus said.

The new school board members will be sworn in in January. 

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