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Teachers union to Pence: Reappoint Cari Whicker to the state board

State Board member Cari Whicker, flanked by Dan Elsener and Brad Oliver, was recommended for reappointment by the Indiana State Teachers Association.
State Board member Cari Whicker, flanked by Dan Elsener and Brad Oliver, was recommended for reappointment by the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Scott Elliott

A list of recommendations from the state teachers union for who Gov. Mike Pence should appoint to the Indiana State Board of Education is telling for who it suggests, and who it doesn’t.

ISTA says state board member Cari Whicker, a middle school teacher from Huntington who was first appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and later reappointed by Pence, should keep her job. She was one of seven Indiana educators that ISTA suggested Pence consider for one of the eight appointments he must make by June 1.

“We’ve heard from people in her area of the state she is very open to listening,” said ISTA President Teresa Meredith. “We might not always agree with her but we feel she is doing all she can to represent her area of the state and doing the right thing for all the students of the state.”

But missing from the list were the other active K-12 teachers on the state board: Avon teacher Sarah O’Brien, Evansville teacher B.J. Watts and Andrea Neal, a private school teacher and former Indianapolis Star editorial writer.

Meredith said ISTA only considered recommending ISTA members and declined to discuss the O’Brien, Watts or Neal specifically.

“There are some reasons we didn’t pick some of them,” she said.

Senate Bill 1, which Pence signed earlier this month, will result in the rare, one-time appointment, or reappointment of 10 out of the 11 state board members. Normally state board selections are made by the governor in smaller sets of appointments every two years.

Pence was thrown a bit of a curve ball by the legislature when he lobbied to strip state Superintendent Glenda Ritz of the guarantee in state law that she serve as the board chairwoman. Ritz, the only elected Democrat serving in statewide office, is the only member of the board not appointed by Pence. Lawmakers gave the board the power to select its own chair after 2016, but the bill also gave one appointment each to the president of the Indiana Senate and the speaker of the House.

Pence objected to cutting his appointments to eight from 10, but relented when the bill gained steam with those changes included.

In general, Meredith said she hopes the board gets an infusion of mostly new members to try to reduce the tension that has led to regular discord between Ritz and much of the rest of the board.

“I think it would be helpful if they’re replaced with the right kinds of people,” she said, “people who are very student-centered and looking at what it’s going to take to make the changes that need to happen in Indiana.”

Whicker has been quoted in a newspaper story saying she would like to return to the board. Board members Gordon Hendry, David Freitas and Brad Oliver also issued a joint statement asking to be reappointed. The law set a June 1 deadline for appointments, so Pence and the legislative leaders have just 13 days to decide.

ISTA is Indiana’s largest statewide teachers union. Also on its list of candidates Pence should consider are:

  • DeLyn Beard of Evansville, an eLearning coach and founder of the non-profit eLeader Academy of Evansville. She is a former elementary and middle school teacher with masters degrees in educational leadership and special education.
  • Janet Chandler of Fishers, who has more than 36 years of teaching experience in social studies and French at Hamilton Southeastern High School. She is a Mock Trial and We the People team coach with a masters degree in education and a law degree.
  • Janet Hearne of Shelbyville, who has taught social studies at Shelbyville High School for 16 years. She is also the former principal of St. Therese Catholic School in Indianapolis and St. Joseph Catholic School in Shelbyville.
  • Alexander Holtz of Elkhart, a math teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School. He is a former school district teacher of the year and president of the local teachers union.
  • Hilda Kendrick-Appiah of Jeffersonville, a kindergarten teacher in Clark County schools who was ISTA’s statewide teacher of the year in 2014. She also is the union’s minority affairs chairwoman.
  • Doug Taylor of New Albany, a middle school teacher with 23 years experience in New Albany schools. Taylor is on ISTA’s board of directors.

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