Who Is In Charge

Hogsett says he'll rely on school district leaders for education advice

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett convened superintendents from across Marion County for an education summit Wednesday.

Will Indianapolis’ new mayor, Democrat Joe Hogsett, be the same sort of activist when it comes to schools as his predecessors who championed charter schools?

That remains to be seen, but the city’s school district leaders today took the first steps toward finding out.

Hogsett struck a deferential pose at a summit with Marion County superintendents in his office, inviting their insights on the education agenda he laid out during the campaign and praising their work improving graduation rates.

“Today’s conversation was the beginning of what I hope will be continued communication,” Hogsett said.

The summit included superintendents from township districts and Indianapolis Public Schools, following on one of Hogsett’s campaign promises: to expand the discussion about education in the city to include more conversation about township schools and less heavy focus on IPS and charter schools.

The group discussed early childhood education, school discipline, teacher recruitment and retention, poverty and post-graduation transitions to college and careers over two hours. But Hogsett did not push for any specific policy steps.

That’s in line with the approach that Hogsett espoused during the election campaign, when he told Chalkbeat that he saw the mayor’s role in education as a “convener” of education discussions and supporter of city public schools.

But in Indianapolis, the mayor’s office has rarely been on the sidelines for education debates over the 16 year run of mayors Greg Ballard and Bart Peterson. Their advocacy of charter schools as a way to improve education has shifted the landscape so that more than 10,000 students now attend charter schools sponsored by the mayor’s office. Hogsett has said little about how closely he will follow their lead by opening more schools.

In fact, charter schools did not even come up in the conversation with superintendents, Hogsett said. He introduced the superintendents to two leaders responsible for overseeing his office’s education agenda: Ahmed Young, the new deputy mayor for education, and Kristin Hines, a Ballard administration holdover who directs of the mayor’s charter school work.

Hogsett said he is open to discussing an effort by former Indianapolis Public School Board member Caitlin Hannon to build a unified enrollment system for public and charter schools in Indianapolis, but he stopped short of urging more school districts to participate.

“I am mindful that the role of the mayor of the city of Indianapolis is not to tell local public school corporations how to run their business,” he said. “The reason for the meeting today is so I can be aware of the challenges that they face.”

Common enrollment — a single form parents can fill out to request a spot in IPS or charter schools — has strong support from some school and community leaders but has been met by skepticism from others.

When it came to today’s release of ISTEP scores, which plunged for Indianapolis schools and schools across the state in 2015, Hogsett again deferred to superintendents. He said he was focused more on graduation rates and how well prepared students are for jobs or college to judge schools than test scores.

As a former U.S. Attorney, Hogsett instead pushed a theme of using improved education and job training for kids as a way to reduce poverty and crime.

“The challenge is not to rescue kids from the criminal justice system,” he said, “but to try to figure out ways that we can keep our kids out of the criminal justice system altogether.”

Peterson launched an aggressive push to open charter schools after his election in 2000, arguing they would give kids better options for learning and put pressure on the IPS to respond with improvements of its own. By the time he lost his second reelection bid in 2007, Peterson oversaw a fast-growing portfolio of 14 charter schools.

His Republican replacement, Ballard, largely continued Peterson’s pro-charter school policies, nearly doubling the number of mayor-sponsored charter schools during his two terms.

Hogsett said he supports the charter schools that Peterson and Ballard helped launch since 2002, but also called for tough accountability for charter schools that fail.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.