A parent at School 27 who speaks Spanish fluently will be the newest member of the Indianapolis Public Schools board — and the only member with a child enrolled in the district.
The current board chose Dorene Rodriguez Hoops by a 4-2 vote to fill the vacancy created by LaNier Echols’ surprise resignation last month. The other candidates, Michael Brown and Eugene Hawkins, each received one vote.
A native of California, Hoops has lived in Indianapolis since 2011. She is a first-generation Mexican American who has a background running human resources for a large nonprofit.
Hoops will represent District 5, which includes the northwest side of the school district, and she will serve some heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. That is one reason why board member Kelly Bentley said she voted for Hoops.
“We heard loud and clear the last time we filled a position that we needed some Hispanic representation,” Bentley said. “She’s got a big background in human resources that I think will benefit the board and the district, and she’s a parent in the district of a special needs student, which I think is going to be really important as well.”
Although several board members have relatives who attend IPS, Hoops will be the only board member with a child enrolled in the district when she starts in January. Her son attends School 27, a Center for Inquiry magnet on the near north side.
A parent organizer from the group Stand for Children, which trains parents to advocate for their children and endorses board candidates, also highlighted Hoops Latina background.
“Like so many students in IPS, Dorene has had to overcome the challenges of learning in a non-native language,” Cesar Roman said in a statement. “She’s faced the struggles that go along with being from an immigrant family and having to assimilate into a culture, all while trying to take full advantage of her educational opportunities.”
Hoops could not immediately be reached for comment. When she interviewed for the seat last week, Hoops said her work advocating for her son, who has special needs, has increased her commitment in ensuring that every child has access to a good school.
“I really am passionate about ensuring that all children of all backgrounds and abilities have the educational experience that they need in order to make the choices that they want to make in the future,” she told the board.
One of the other candidates vying for the seat was Michael Brown, a 16-year veteran of the board who lost his seat to Echols in 2014. Board member Gayle Cosby, who did not run for reelection, said she voted for Brown because of his experience on the board.
Echols, who was not up for reelection until 2018, told Chalkbeat just hours ahead of the November election that she planned to resign. Cosby said that Echols should have resigned earlier in the year so the position could appear on the ballot.
“I believe that had that seat been elected in an election that Mike Brown would’ve been a clear choice,” she said. “He, in my opinion, was a clear choice based on his many years of experience to the board.”
Michael O’Connor, who was chosen last year to fill a school board seat midterm, said there is a steep learning curve for board members who are appointed rather than elected.
“If you are running for a full term, you are getting up to speed on issues that the board is facing because you are going to forums and other stuff,” O’Connor said. “This is drinking from a fire hose.”