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.
(Editor’s Note: Ramon Batts has acknowledged he erred by using material from other published sources without attribution in this survey.)
Ramon Batts is the founder and senior pastor at Change & Restoration Community Baptist Church. He coaches sports teams at Indianapolis Public Schools, and formerly was employed there as a program director. He is a graduate of Arsenal Tech High School. He is running for an at-large seat on the board against Annie Roof, David Hampton, Mary Ann Sullivan and Josh Owens.
1. Do you support the direction of the school district under Superintendent Lewis Ferebee?
What, if anything, do you like about Ferebee’s leadership of the district? What would you change?
Dr. Ferebee’s leadership has held the hand of different groups at different times. I appreciate his willingness to share the budget publicly; certainly the recent flaws found from (former interim superintendent) Peggy Hinkley’s tenure.
I would change Dr. Ferebee’s seemingly allegiance to the big business community and his support of House Bill 1321 (allowing IPS to forge charter school partnerships).
I would change his direction concerning the athletic community of IPS. Certainly limiting the funding in athletics is counter productive; as studies have shown athletes graduate at a higher rate than any other group.
I would revisit the programs Peggy Hinkley destroyed in the name of a “budget deficit.”
2. Do you believe the operation of IPS’ central office is efficient?
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 believe central office could operate with less confusion. Teachers and students should be provided with all things necessary to achieve at a high level. There is no price tag.
3. Should the school district partner with charter schools?
Do you support the House Bill 1321 “innovation network” law? What is the ideal relationship between the district and a charter school operator?
No I do not support House Bill 1321. I think there are some opportunities for relationships, but sending our best students to be experiments with a charter is ridiculous. Charter schools are in competition with IPS, therefore we should not allow them into our buildings or our programs. So the ideal relationship is most likely see them on the playing field.
4. Do you support the state’s voucher program?
If yes, why do you support vouchers? If not, would you propose ending it?
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?
If not, why not? If yes, what would you envision those partnerships with charter school organizations look like?
Mind Trust and Stand For Children are a smoke screen for big business to take over the public school system. They are not looking out for the interest of children and families; their interested in making money for the rich off the backs of poor families.
6. Teachers haven’t received a pay raise in several years. What budget changes, if any, would you support to make this happen?
We have to find the fat in the budget to pay teachers. Certainly the monies being spent by the Mind Trust and Stand For Children for these elections would help.
7. What percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation score should be based on student test score growth?
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?
IPS has programs that work. We need to replicate those programs and restore a sense of pride in our students and families. IPS needs to fight to eliminate the labeling of schools so our children, teachers and administrators can focus on being whole instead of parts.
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?
Again, I believe we already have the solution in our system. My vision would be to replicate Center for Inquiry schools, Sidener Academy, Project Restore and the math and science magnet (Arsenal Tech High School).
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?
Principals and their assistants were hired to lead a school. They are not hired to be superintendents. Principals should help, along with parents and the community, to create an environment where learning can take place.
11. What didn’t we ask? Tell us about your platform, or another issue you’re passionate about.
1. Family engagement and empowerment
Schools should be child- and family-centered places for teaching and learning. It is the schools’ responsibility to extend a hand of mutual collaboration to families and initiate the process of engagement. It is important for IPS to set up an infrastructure for effective parent and community engagement.
2. Eradicate the school-to-prison pipeline
“Zero-tolerance” policies often criminalize minor infractions of school rules, which lead to students being adjudicated for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Research shows students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the uneven application of discipline.
3. Authentic assessments of student achievement
Student assessments are designed to demonstrate what teachers are teaching, and what students are learning, not simply teaching to the test. Believing in the potential of each individual child and what he or she can do with their knowledge is imperative.
4. Recruitment and retention of quality, culturally-competent teachers
Educators with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds can be advocates and provide crucial support for diverse students and families.