Tag Archives: IPS school board

Local Races Are Important Too

We are approaching midterm elections and for obvious reasons, most of our attention is on Congress. But we shouldn’t forget the importance of local races.

Especially school board elections.

Not only is it critically important to improve–and support– public education, but homeowners have a fiscal interest in good schools: the value of your home is significantly affected by perceptions of the local school system.

I have learned first-hand how thankless a job on the local school board can be. Our daughter has spent the last 20 years–with a one-term hiatus–on the Indianapolis Public School Board. I’ve watched as she and her colleagues (including a former student of mine) have worked their hearts out to improve the district, while every new effort has been met with brickbats and/or accusations of bad intentions from the inevitable naysayers and people with various axes to grind.

You have to really care about children and education to serve on a school board.

Our daughter is retiring, but she has endorsed one of the candidates who is running to replace her. She recently sent out a letter on his behalf, and I’d like to share that letter.

Since I announced that I would not be seeking re-election to the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners in July, I have been glad to see a number of high quality candidates enter the field to advocate for the interests of the IPS parents and families of District 3. These candidates represent the diversity of perspective and passion for our young people that gives IPS the incredible energy and potential it has as our state’s largest public school district. As someone who has stood for election a few times herself, I know the bravery, determination and strength of character it takes to put yourself before your own community and fight for the privilege to lead. For this reason, I wish every single candidate in this year’s election well.

With that said, elections are about choices, and when the polls close on November 6th only one candidate will take up the mantle of serving and supporting our public school system. I take pride in what I was able to accomplish as part of the team that has been guiding Indianapolis Public Schools in recent years, and I really do believe we have made incredible progress as a district.  Graduation rates are up and in District 3 more families are choosing IPS because of the expansion of successful magnet programs. But there is more work to be done. It is with the work still ahead of us in mind that I proudly and wholeheartedly endorse my friend Evan Hawkins in his bid to fill my former seat on the IPS Board of Commissioners.

Evan grew up in Butler Tarkington, just around the corner from my husband and me.  I have known members of Evan’s family for years; a family with deep roots in Indianapolis and IPS. I see in him the same passion for community and belief in our young people that drove me to run for the same office 20 years ago. Those values are important, but there’s more to Evan than what he values. IPS schools need leaders who not only have a vision for the future success of our district, but who have the experience it takes to plan and prepare for that future. Evan Hawkins is a career K-12 educational professional who has the expertise it takes to work with our school leaders, teachers, and IPS families to develop a comprehensive financial plan that will improve and sustain IPS for all of our kids.  And Evan and his wife live in Meridian Kessler and are parents in IPS.  They know first hand the the impact high quality public schools have on students, families, and neighborhoods.

From complex budget issues to school closures, my time on the IPS Board has meant hard choices for the district and the taxpaying families we serve. Everyone can see that in these changing times, more complex challenges and difficult choices will await those candidates who become commissioners after election day. IPS parents and families deserve to know that their district has the best prepared leadership at the helm to help guide our schools to success. This election, IPS District 3 has the opportunity to elect a leader with the passion of an IPS parent and the preparation of a professional in the educational field, and that is why I’ll be casting my vote for Evan Hawkins on Tuesday, November 6th.

I’ve known and deeply admired members of Evan’s family for a long time, and it’s clear that Evan shares his family’s belief in social equity and public service. If you live in IPS District 3, I hope you’ll consider voting for him. If you don’t live in District 3, I hope you will carefully consider the candidates for your local school board.

It’s one more important decision in a monumentally important year.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

This morning’s news included a report that the IPS school board had extended the contract of Superintendent Eugene White–by a 4-3 vote. Given the lockstep voting that has characterized the Board in prior years, the close vote was a notable signal that White should (but probably won’t) heed. In fact, his high-handed and arbitrary leadership style has landed IPS in hot water with our equally high-handed and people-skills-deficient State Superintendent, who evidently subscribes to the belief that privatization of school management is “the answer” to whatever ails education.

The current ego-driven arguments about who knows best how to educate all children is depressing in the extreme, so a morning discussion with Michael Durnil, Executive Director of the Simon Youth Foundation was a welcome respite.

I’ll admit that I didn’t know very much about SYF except that it existed, so I was impressed to learn that they operate 20+ alternative schools spread across several states, devoted to working with high school students at high risk of dropping out. Their success rate–in excess of 90% of their students graduate, and a significant number go on to college–is impressive.  What accounts for it? From what I was able to glean from our conversation, it is their focus on the individual needs of the students they admit. No rigid ideological framework that students must fit within, no “secret formula” that must be imposed. Just a recognition that students are people, and people are most likely to flower and achieve when they feel valued and listened to.

American political figures (and make no mistake, Superintendents these days are first and foremost political figures) are increasingly focused on the search for a magic bullet that will allow them to apply a favored approach to all students. It’s understandable, since recognizing and addressing the diversity of learning styles and personal attributes of every student requires much more work and is much more costly than “one size fits all.” But just because something is understandable doesn’t make it successful.

In the real world, one size doesn’t fit all.