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Survey: James Turner urges IPS to reject partnerships and look inward

Oliver Morrison

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.

James Turner, a graduate of IPS whose children currently attend Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, returned to the district after college to work as a graduation coach. He is now a dean and athletic director at Fall Creek Academy charter school. He is running in District 3 against Samantha Adair-White and Kelly Bentley.

1. Do you support the direction of the school district under Superintendent Lewis Ferebee?

No.

What, if anything, do you like about Ferebee’s leadership of the district? What would you change?

Budget transparency — to have an accurate account of what is coming in and going out was needed. I would not partner with other school corporations (House Bill 1321 law). I would concentrate on strengthening IPS. I would put programs in place that identifies disengaged students at the elementary and middle school level. I would continue to grow our sports program because as we all know athletes have the highest graduation rate of any group in the school building.

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?

To have central office is a necessary function of any school district. Is it efficient? If the salaries were adjusted to fit the IPS budget, then yes. Whatever is needed to run the district should be spent and nothing more.

3. Should the school district partner with charter schools?

No.

Do you support the House Bill 1321 “innovation network” law? What is the ideal relationship between the district and a charter school operator?

I do not support the 1321 innovation law and there is no ideal relationship between IPS district and the charter school operators. If you bring in other forms of leadership, it becomes a problem of who’s model to follow and a struggle for power begins. If we have a bunch of schools acting as individuals we no longer have a district. A district needs to operate as a district meaning operating together.

4. Do you support the state’s voucher program?

Yes.

If yes, why do you support vouchers? If not, would you propose ending it?

I support the state voucher program because I don’t believe that just because a person is impoverished, that you should not be offered the best education or type of education they desire to receive.

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?

No.

If not, why not? If yes, what would you envision those partnerships with charter school organizations look like?

No, because of the political influence that the reform groups bring to the table. I think people should have options like IPS, charter, private but as separate entities. If you combine the two systems that takes away from choice.

6. Teachers haven’t received a pay raise in several years. What budget changes, if any, would you support to make this happen?

I would first start by evaluating the pay of central office employees then I would look into real estate that is currently owned by IPS but not being used.

7. What percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation score should be based on student test score growth?

Thirty percent and this is why. Out of 100 percent of our students, 30 percent are not great test takers. Thirty percent of our students that don’t pass standardized testing have good grades and demonstrate knowledge beyond grade level.

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?

First we must address the poverty issue. I think in different areas of the city you have different set of circumstances. If a student does not know where their next meal is coming from or where they will sleep it would be hard for this population of students to focus totally on school.

Next, test prep classes need to built into school schedules as a required class.

Mandatory after school tutoring for students that demonstrate grade point average lower than 2.0.

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?

1. Separate middle school students from high school students: K-6 elementary, seventh and eighth grade middle school, and 9-12 grade high school.

2. Put programs back in place that identify disengaged students starting at the third grade level.

3. Equal education for all students across the board The solutions that have been successful at the magnet schools we need to replicate them at the community schools.

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?

Central office should still handle the business of the district, the pay scale of central office workers should be evaluated. The principal and assistant principals should concentrate on test scores, curriculum, school coaching and evaluating staff to ensure that we put the best educators in front of our children.

11. What didn’t we ask? Tell us about your platform, or another issue you’re passionate about.

I work for Fall Creek Academy charter school. I was given the opportunity to be an athletic director which was one of my goals as a high school educator. I live in IPS’s district, my children go to IPS: Crispus Attucks medical magnet. I’ve worked in IPS for seven years as a graduation coach, special needs assistant, dean of students and basketball coach for several of the high schools. I believe in IPS and the students that it serves. I’m running for school board because I believe the students deserve leadership that is going to fight for IPS and not give it away.

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