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School board member Michael Brown sits in an English classroom at Northwest High School. Brown is running for reelection this fall.

School board member Michael Brown sits in an English classroom at Northwest High School. Brown is running for reelection this fall.

Michael Brown: Longtime volunteer wants another IPS board term

(Chalkbeat talked with the 10 candidates running for a spot on the Indianapolis Public Schools board about their backgrounds, educational philosophies, and why and how they want to influence the school district if they are elected Nov. 4.

To compare their positions against other candidates, visit our interactive election tracker.)

Michael Brown has been a fixture inside Northwest High School for more than a decade.

The longest serving Indianapolis Public School Board member has served the district officially since 1998. Before that, he was a coach, mentor and volunteer — three roles he still takes pride in today. Brown, whose kids and grandchildren have attended district schools, is hoping to keep his seat on the school board this fall. Brown is being challenged by LaNier Echols, a former Teach for America instructor who left the district to become the dean of a nearby charter school. The election is Nov. 4.

Here is what Brown told Chalkbeat about his background, goals for the district and thoughts on education issues:

He volunteers at IPS because he wants students to have a positive role model.

“If they don’t think somebody cares about them, they have nothing to strive for,” Brown said. “Normally every adult they see is an authority figure.”

He recently spoke at the funeral for the father of a current Northwest High School student. The man was shot while riding a bike, leaving his daughter parentless in high school.

“She has every reason in the world to give up,” Brown said. “It’s my job to make sure she doesn’t. I’m always going to serve students, but by being on the school board I have an opportunity to help form the future.”

Brown joined the school board to make a difference, but reality quickly set in when he was elected in 1998.

“I was going to change the school district and I was going to change the world overnight,” Brown said. “Then I found out you only get one vote. You have to work collaboratively.”

He thinks more money should be given to IPS’ worst-performing schools.

“Unfortunately, we want to reward high-performing schools but it’s the low-performing schools that need the resources,” Brown said. “We need to reduce class sizes in those buildings. The term ‘priority schools’ is a good one. It should be a priority.”

He’s lost faith in the state’s school intervention process.

“The takeover schools didn’t work,” Brown said. “The lead partners didn’t work. Why would it? They’re people who aren’t vested in the community. For them it’s a job. I want someone that cares about this society, this city and the culture of Indianapolis.”

Brown is skeptical of the motivations of school reform groups.

“I was elected to serve the children of this school district, not to serve the parents, teachers or businesses,” Brown said. “I want to do things that are unpopular but that are the right things to do for kids.”

Read more: Six critical questions the IPS school board race will answer

Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat and WFYI’s Oct. 23 education conversation event at the Indianapolis Public Library