A new leader has been chosen to helm the board of Indianapolis’ largest school district.
School board member Michael O’Connor was unanimously selected Monday to serve as president for 2018. He replaced Mary Ann Sullivan, who had served as president for two years.
O’Connor was initially appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board in 2015 and elected in 2016. He is currently the senior director of state government affairs at Eli Lilly and Company and previously served as deputy mayor under Mayor Bart Peterson. He represents district 1, which includes the near eastside.
As president, O’Connor said that he would make sure the district is open and transparent about its decisions.
“I pledge that we will continue to work very hard as a board and continue to make this a district that every one of our students [will] have the opportunity to have a world-class education,” he said.
The board also elected Venita Moore, who is in her first term, to serve as vice-president, and Elizabeth Gore, who previously served on the board and was reelected in 2016.
“We have a lot more work to do, and I have a lot of confidence in Commissioner O’Connor to lead the charge,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.
The board members are largely united in their support for controversial policies — such as partnering with charter operators to run schools, giving principals more flexibility, and closing high schools — so the leadership is unlikely to shift the direction of the district. But this is a politically significant moment for the district, and the president could play an essential role over the next year. Three of the district’s high schools will close, and voters will face referendums to raise $936 million for the city’s largest district.
Former-board president Mary Ann Sullivan lauded the work of the administration and her fellow board members during her term.
“Over the past several years, we have thoughtfully and methodically laid the foundation for a new type of urban school district,” Sullivan said, “One that believes all students can achieve at high levels, allocates resources fairly and equitably, operates efficiently, is designed for continuous improvement, and understands that teachers and school leaders together with their families, are best positioned to make key decisions about schools.”