Chalkbeat asked the 10 candidates running for an Indianapolis Public School Board to answer a survey about their positions on issues facing the district and its students. Below is one response. If you want to see how these answers compare to other candidates, please visit our interactive election tracker at in.chalkbeat.org/ipselection2014.
Annie Roof was elected to the IPS school board in 2010 and was named board president in 2014. Roof is a parent of IPS students and a graduate of Howe High School. She became interested in running for the school board after getting involved in district schools as a parent. She is running for re-election for an at-large seat on the IPS board against Ramon Batts, David Hampton, Mary Ann Sullivan and Josh Owens.
1. Do you support the direction of the school district under Superintendent Lewis Ferebee? Yes.
What, if anything, do you like about Ferebee’s leadership of the district? What would you change? Dr. Ferebee has proven himself to be a patient, kind and trustworthy leader for IPS. He did a great job of hitting the ground running, making tough decisions quickly and efficiently. He reassessed our financial situation and righted the ship in many respects. I am confident that we made the right decision and he will continue to grow in his role as our leader.
2. Do you believe the operation of IPS’ central office is efficient? Maybe.
What is your opinion of the efficiency of IPS’ central office operations? How much money should be spent outside the classroom on high-level district operations? I think IPS is on the right path to being efficient. We should also look at services we can provide to other entities, for example, transportation and food services. I would like to see IPS budget from the classroom out. First, let’s make sure our classrooms have everything they need to support and educate our children based on their needs. And we branch out from there.
3. Should the school district partner with charter schools? Maybe.
Do you support the House Bill 1321 “innovation network” law? What is the ideal relationship between the district and a charter school operator? (House Bill) 1321 allows IPS the flexibility to create partnerships, such as the one we have on the west side with Gambold and Enlace charter school sharing space in the same facility. I am supportive of partnerships with carefully vetted charter school entities that have a track record of success with the populations that IPS serves, if the community is supportive and is in need of additional school options.
4. Do you support the state’s voucher program? No.
If yes, why do you support vouchers? If not, would you propose ending it? I do not support vouchers, because vouchers do not make private school options available to our neediest families. Vouchers help by making private school more affordable to those who already have the financial means to consider attending private schools, while leaving our neediest families with only “free” school options. This results in a two-tiered system of educational opportunity for Indianapolis kids, the “haves” and the “have-nots”. However, I would not devote any time or resources to ending the school voucher program at this time.
5. The district is moving toward more partnerships with outside groups like The Mind Trust and Stand for Children. Do you support stronger partnerships with school reform organizations? Maybe. If not, why not? If yes, what would you envision those partnerships with charter school organizations look like? I am supportive of outside groups who are truly interested in doing what’s best for Indianapolis families and children. The district has done more partnering with outside agencies during my tenure on the board than ever before. If the partnerships involve real positive change that will be felt in schools and classrooms, then I have generally supported those ideals. However, these partnerships have to be carefully vetted. It is my responsibility as a commissioner to put the best interests of the district, and its families and students first. If a potential partnership would not benefit the district as a whole, or the students attending IPS and their families, then I will not support it.
6. Teachers haven’t received a pay raise in several years. What budget changes, if any, would you support to make this happen? We need to look at our facilities. IPS has already begun this process by selling properties and utilizing our building in a more efficient manner by renting out space. IPS also need to look at the amount of money we spend in contracts and evaluate what of those services can we do within. This includes, but not limited to, teacher training. And if these options aren’t enough to compensate our teachers so that we can attract and retain the best talent, then we keep looking.
7. What percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation score should be based on student test score growth? Evaluating a teacher based on student scores is very tricky in a system like IPS where we have a huge percentage of (transient students). Many times a teacher starts the school year with one group of students, and ends the school year with only a few of those original students. However, we have recently changed our teacher compensation model to reflect higher increases in pay for those teachers who have been deemed “effective” or “highly effective” based on their evaluations. So the district, under my leadership as board president this year, has already made changes to reflect this process.
8. The state takeover process has been scrutinized recently. What’s your proposal for how to improve schools that have been rated an F for six straight years? During my tenure, and under the direction of Dr. Ferebee, we have created a support system in the district to address the unique needs of schools that are deemed failing. We also address the needs of schools that are in danger of failing in the future, in an attempt to be proactive and prevent further schools from being added to the list. However, I do not feel that the takeover system has yet proven itself to be an effective way of addressing failing schools. Some of the takeover schools have failed themselves, or seen very little progress. The individuals involved at all levels of the takeover process (from the classrooms to the Indiana Department of Education) should have conversation about what is needed to turn the school around. I pride myself as a commissioner on being very open to these types of “fearless” conversations and feel that is the only way we will make genuine progress.
9. Ferebee has identified 11 low-performing priority schools to receive extra support and resources. What is your vision for how to improve IPS’ low-performing schools? The IPS plan to identify and support priority schools is a solid plan that I am proud of being a part of — including making sure that the leaders of these schools are year round employees so that they can use the summer to plan for the next school year. My vision for continued improvement heavily involves community support. If our business leaders, churches and neighbors to our schools can wrap their arms around the school in their community, I believe we can do this together.
10. What is your vision for how schools within the district should be governed? What role should principals and their assistants have in leading schools? School leaders in IPS have gotten an increasing amount of autonomy in the district during my tenure on the board. They are now hiring their own staff with the assistance of a selection committee composed of stakeholders – parents, teachers, community members, and IPS administrators. This is something IPS has never done before. IPS principals also have the autonomy to use discretionary funds (such as title I dollars) to directly assess the needs of their school as they see fit. Again, this is unprecedented. I believe that the building leader knows their student population and their unique needs better than anyone else. Therefore, it makes sense that they are given the freedom to do what they feel is best for their students and staff. With the new found ability to make these kinds of decisions, comes a higher sense of accountability for the decisions that they have made.
11. What didn’t we ask? Tell us about your platform, or another issue you’re passionate about. In the last four years, IPS has seen more positive growth and change than ever before. I am proud of my service to the district, and I certainly hope to continue on this positive trajectory. I have had the opportunity to serve as the board president for the past year, and I have proven my ability to make the tough decisions. I am proud to be a product of IPS schools and my three children attend school in the district. We need a parent voice on the school board — someone who attends school functions, parent teacher meetings,and deals with getting her kids on a bus everyday. Let’s keep our IPS schools local — and keep a parent who is close to the district as a strong advocate for parents and the community on the school board.