Kelly Bentley will return from a four-year absence to the Indianapolis Public School Board in January after a landslide win over incumbent Samantha Adair-White in Tuesday’s election.
Bentley had 55 percent of the vote, according to final, unofficial results from the Marion County Board of Elections. Adair-White had 26 percent, and James Turner garnered 19 percent.
Bentley was on the board for 12 years but stepped down in 2010, partly out of frustration with the board majority that consistently backed then-Superintendent Eugene White. But changes on the board and a new superintendent renewed her optimism about IPS and her desire to serve, she said.
Bentley said she is glad to be returning and expects the new board to make big strides starting in January.
“I think we are going to be a board that really wants to think about what the vision is for the district and how we get there,” she said. “I’d like to see the district reorganized in pretty significant ways. I’m not certain everyone is on the same page. But I think we are.”
Adair-White, who ran in 2010 after her husband, Jeffrey White, was fired as a school principal by former Superintendent Eugene White, served for one term. She could not be reached for comment. Turner, a former IPS employee now working as a charter school athletics director, was a first-time candidate.
Bentley massively outspent Adair-White and Turner, raking in more than $40,000, according to a report she filed in October. That angered Adair-White, who mocked the idea that so much money was required to defeat “little old me” in a Chalkbeat-sponsored candidate forum last month.
Bentley is strongly aligned philosophically with board members Caitlin Hannon and Sam Odle, who have pushed IPS to shrink the central office, expand school autonomy and partner with charter schools and other outside groups advocating for change in the district. She will join a board that has tilted strongly in favor of those ideas, with like-minded fellow challengers LaNier Echols and Mary Ann Sullivan, also headed toward winning seats tonight.
Adair-White was part of a minority on the board that has grown increasingly skeptical of some of those reform ideas. Her defeat appears to make the path easier for those who would like IPS to be more aggressive in making changes.
“I think people are ready for change,” Bentley said. “The district has some great things going on, but we have a new superintendent. Dr Ferebee has been in the district over a year now. It’s time to get that process started. I think it’s important to do that quickly.”