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Eight candidates compete for two spots on Lawrence Township school board

The board is responding to recommendations from a recent equity audit.

The facade of Harrison Hill Elementary School, a red brick building with a green roof.

Eight candidates are vying for two spots on the school board for Lawrence Township, which is known for its dual-language Spanish immersion program.

Carson TerBush / Chalkbeat

This article was co-published by Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI as part of a collaboration ahead of the 2022 school board elections. Join Chalkbeat Indiana and WFYI to hear from candidates for IPS school board at a forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Indianapolis Public Library, Central Branch. RSVP and submit questions here.

The most contested school board election in Marion County is in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. Eight candidates are competing for two seats on the governing board. 

The district served over 15,600 students during the 2020-2021 academic year. Nearly 48% were Black, 27% were Hispanic, and roughly 64% identified as low income. 

Located on the northeast side of Indianapolis, the Lawrence Township district has been known for its robust dual-language Spanish immersion program. 

Like other school districts, Lawrence students are still catching up to pre-pandemic achievement levels. This year, 15% of Lawrence Township students passed both the math and English sections of the ILEARN test. That’s compared to the state’s average of 30% of students. 

This election

In the November midterm election, two seats are open — at large and District 2. District 2 Incumbent Richard Freije is not running for reelection. The district covers the far northeast corner of Marion County and is bordered by Hamilton and Hancock counties. 

In 2021, a committee of more than 100 faculty, staff, parents, and students reviewed the district’s equity audit report and developed recommendations for improving social and academic outcomes for all students. The new board will continue to oversee the adoption of these recommendations.  

Who votes and how to vote

Voters within the school district boundary can vote for all of the races on the ballot. 

Voter registration ends Oct. 11. Marion County residents can register to vote at indianavoters.in.gov

Early voting begins Oct. 12 at the Indianapolis City-County Building, 200 E. Market St. Additional early voting sites, including one in Pike Township at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Pike Library Branch, open Oct. 29 and can be found online at vote.indy.gov/early-voting/

On Election Day, Nov. 8, Marion County residents can vote at any of the county’s voting centers, which can be found at vote.indy.gov/

Meet the candidates

Jessica Dunn, at large 

Dunn, the executive director of enrichment programs for Indianapolis Public Schools, is the parent of three Lawrence students. Dunn said her top priorities are hiring and retaining staff, and “critically assessing data” to ensure students get an equitable, “world-class education.”

Dunn also wants a focus on the social and emotional needs of students and families, and access to mental-health supports for students. Her campaign website is here.

Reginald McGregor, at large 

Incumbent McGregor has served on Lawrence Township’s school board for two consecutive terms and is the current board president. Both of his daughters are graduates of Lawrence Central High School. McGregor is the vice president of government relations at Rolls Royce. 

McGregor said he is seeking reelection to help improve student achievement and support to parents by implementing strategies learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, 

He also wants to address the differences in student achievement between groups of students divided by family income. His district bio is here

At-large candidates Morgan Bailey and Jennifer Tursi could not be reached for comment.

Janet Jacobs, District 2 

Jacobs is a former teacher. Three of her children are Lawrence graduates, and two of her grandchildren attend school in the district. 

Jacobs wants to help ensure equity exists in every aspect of the educational process at Lawrence. She said her experience with budgets, writing grants, and in providing interventions for at-risk students gives her insight into many facets of a school system. Her campaign website is here

Patricia Brenamen, District 2 

Brenamen is a Latinx immigrant who has two children in the school district. She is the director of corporate and tax operations with the Indiana Department of Revenue.

Brenamen said she wants to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the district while listening to teachers, students, and the community. 

Marta Lawrence, District 2  

Lawrence is the mother of three children. She leads strategic efforts for the Salesforce marketing department. Lawrence said she wants to improve students’ growth and economic futures, as well as be a transparent voice for the community, students, and district staff.

Lawrence said that public education is the cornerstone of a community. She believes schools should provide the resources needed to help students succeed regardless of their backgrounds. Her campaign website is here

Nichole Sledge, District 2 

Sledge is the parent of a Lawrence Central high schooler and is the director of student services at KIPP Indy Public Schools. She is running for the school board to better support teachers and students. 

As an educator, Sledge said, she can give valuable input to the board. She said her top priority is ensuring each student is served in the best capacity based on their individual needs. She also wants to promote the importance of providing support to school employees as part of building a foundation for student success.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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