This is one of nine school board races in Marion County. Check back with Chalkbeat Indiana throughout the week for more information on the other candidates.
Warren Township school board candidates face a district in flux. The district’s ISTEP scores dropped in 2014, down 1.1 percentage points to 64.2 percent. Earlier this fall, Superintendent Dena Cushenberry said high staff turnover, implementing new academic standards and a growing population all contributed to the decline.
But the district is also seeing success: it received a $28.5 million federal Race To The Top grant to help support a college- and career-ready test overhaul, efforts to focus on personalized student learning and a program to rethink how the district disciplines its students.
Candidates in this race discussed the issues recently on Amos Brown’s radio show.
Key school district data
- Enrollment: 12,132 students
- Ethnicity: 48.3 percent black, 31.7 percent white, 11.6 percent Hispanic
- Eligible for free and reduced-price lunch: 72 percent
- ISTEP math and English passing rate 2014: 64.2 percent
- 2012-13 graduation rate (most recent available): 83.4 percent
- Terri Amos, 43, sixth-grade teacher at School 31, running as an at-large candidate.
- LaShanna Hill-Shaffer, 44, financial analyst at Aramark Corp, running as an at-large candidate.
- Cheryl Hizer, 39, owner and operator of Mechanically Inclined Auto Repair, running as an at-large candidate.
The following candidates could not be reached or did not respond to survey questions.
- Catherina Boggs, running as an at-large candidate.
- Tony Mendez, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
- Roosevelt Stanford, running as an at-large candidate.
- Jay Wise, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
- Michelle Wright, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
Why did you choose to run for the school board?
Amos: My desire to obtain an open board seat is based on my passion for education, and my commitment to Warren Township. I believe that I would be an asset to the school board.
Hill-Shaffer: I believe building a strong foundation of a quality education begins very early in life and often at the helm of the school system. The privilege to serve on the school board of Warren Township would allow me the opportunity to directly and indirectly touch the lives of our children in ways that will benefit them far beyond the classroom.
Hizer: I am concerned that public education is losing local control, and increased focus and resources are being spent on areas that do not increase student academics, performance, or accountability.
What issues will you focus on?
Amos: It is my belief that the role of a school board is to put in place the proper components that will allow students to achieve at the highest level possible using best practices, while increasing student achievement, and encouraging the involvement of the community to reach that goal. As a board member, vision is key; as it is necessary in formulating goals for the educational future of the students in which we serve, and the township. School board members should work collaboratively to make decisions based on data and what is in the best interest of the district for short-term and long-term goals. Board members should have the district vision, values, and goals in the forefront of their mind in all decisions and should be open-minded in board discussions. Board members should be visible and approachable at school-related events and be a positive role model in the community.
Hill-Shaffer: Vocational education, graduation rates, and alternative programming.
Hizer: If elected, I want to improve the classroom environment, in order to increase authentic student learning in a safe environment that values the input of all stakeholders. Some steps necessary to reach this goal: Smaller class sizes, increase resources for high-need general education students, decrease focus on high-stakes testing, clear set of expectations for all students with a clear set of consistently enforced consequences, improve relationships and collaboration between school, teachers and families.
What is the most important issue facing your district?
Amos: The district is faced with a handful of issues; however, what I believe is the most important issue that the district faces involves student achievement, and continuing to increase. One issue in particularly that I want to be involved with is how the district is supporting students, teachers, and administrators as they prepare for the college- and career-ready standardized test. With three different state standards in three years, I believe that teachers and students need additional support as they prepare for the new ISTEP test.
Hill-Shaffer: Providing alternative programming that meets the academic needs of our at-risk students amongst the challenges in their lives helping to create a balance and understanding that promotes success.
Hizer: Much like the national trend, we are losing highly qualified teachers at an alarming rate. Losing the brightest and most dedicated does not help student achievement, relationships in the community, our limited budget or public education as a whole. We need to adjust policies in order to retain highly effective teachers, such as reducing the number of changes to curriculum, behavioral policies, administration, assessment data and evaluations; making ourselves, as board members, more available to teacher input and using it when we have it; and, most importantly, providing support that teachers and staff need, in the way they need it, when they need it.
Anything else about yourself you’d like to share.
Amos: I have been married to my husband, Mark, for 21 years. Together, we have three children that have attended or are still attending Warren Township schools. Our oldest, Madison, is a 2014 graduate of Warren Central, and now is a freshman, studying athletic training, at the University of Indianapolis. Our son, Mason, is a junior at Warren Central, and a member of the National Honor Society, the student council and the swimming team. Our youngest, Maggie, is an eighth grader at Creston Middle School.
I am a 2004 graduate of IUPUI, and hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in elementary education. Since 2005, I have been a classroom teacher in the Indianapolis Public School system. I have taught fifth and sixth grades; currently teaching sixth. In addition to my classroom responsibilities, I serve on various school boards, tutor after school and am the cheerleading coach.
Hill-Shaffer: My personal enthusiasm for learning is evident through the testimony of my own pursuit for education throughout my life. As a member of the Warren Township school board, I want to transfer my enthusiasm for education by knowing and understanding the education goals of Warren Township, working with administration to successfully balance life in our community with Warren’s education goals and maintaining high levels of performance throughout the district that connect to academic success.
Hizer: Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Indiana University, Masters degree in Curriculum and Educational Technology at Ball State. Resident in the district since 1986. Warren Central High School 1993 graduate. Four children: Tony, USAF in Anchorage, Alaska; Zack, senior at WCHS; Savannah, senior at WCHS; Sydney, 6th grader at Raymond Park Intermediate.
Answers have been edited for length.