(Chalkbeat talked with the 10 candidates running for a spot on the Indianapolis Public Schools board about their backgrounds, educational philosophies, and why and how they want to influence the school district if they are elected Nov. 4. To compare their positions against other candidates, visit our interactive election tracker.)
Ramon Batts is making another run for a seat on the Indianapolis Public School Board with a goal of refocusing the district on improving from within.
Batts said he thinks IPS is on the right track to be successful, but thinks the new administration’s openness to partnering with charter schools and other outside groups will only distract from its core mission. He’s running for an at-large seat against incumbent Annie Roof and three other challengers: former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton and Butler University instructor Josh Owens.
The pastor at Restoration Baptist Church and IPS athletic coach ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat in 2010 and 2012. He’s running again, Batts said, because his experience makes him a good fit. He attended the district as a child, is committed to IPS students and their families and he argues he can be a strong advocate for students.
Here is what Batts told Chalkbeat about his background, goals for the district and thoughts on education issues:
(Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat and WFYI’s Oct. 23 education conversation event at the Indianapolis Public Library)
Batts thinks IPS needs to do everything it can to encourage parent involvement.
“Parent involvement is so important,” he said. “You need to keep them engaged. I think there should be legislation to allow parents time off work to spend time at their children’s schools. That’s if our legislators are serious about helping children.”
Batts said IPS’s successful schools were being innovative before last year’s House Bill 1321, designed to encourage innovation through partnerships with charter schools. IPS needs to encourage innovation from within the district, he said.
“It’s crazy to me that we have programs that are working, but we let other schools go downhill without replicating what we’re doing (at our successful schools),” Batts said. “They have the same children in those schools. Some come from the same neighborhoods. If we were thinking about kids, some of this wouldn’t be rocket science.”
He doesn’t believe the candidates who are seeking “school autonomy” have the best interest of IPS at heart.
“Autonomy is just another code word for dismantling IPS,” Batts said. “You need to allow principals to lead and do their job, but you have a district to support those principals and support those teachers.”
He’s skeptical about the purpose and effectiveness of state takeover, and wants four Indianapolis schools that were taken over — Arlington, Howe and Manual high schools and Emma Donnan Middle School — to be returned to IPS.
“They’re not working, because (the new school operators) are not able to pick the students that they want and keep them,” Batts said. “They had to take what was there. I think it was all a farce to put money in someone’s pocket. The IPS community, that’s where (the schools) belong. Those communities should have an opportunity to have those schools back to help be a viable entity in that community.”
Batts said IPS families are the base of his grassroots campaign.
“I’m clearly the front runner even without the money,” Batts said. “I’ve been campaigning for a few years because of the work I’ve been doing in IPS for families. I’m a candidate that our parents know and trust. I don’t have to buy anything or anybody. It is truly a grassroots effort.”