Stand for Children endorses 1 newcomer and 2 incumbents for Indianapolis Public Schools Board

A parent advocacy group is endorsing two incumbents and one newcomer for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board — support that could have significant influence in a race that is just taking shape.

The endorsement of Stand for Children Indiana has defined the terrain in recent school board elections. Candidates the group has backed have not only won seats on the board but also changed the direction of the district — supporting controversial strategies such as handing management of struggling district schools over to charter operators.

The group endorsed three candidates Wednesday:

  • Evan Hawkins for District 3, a seat currently held by Kelly Bentley, who is not running for reelection. Hawkins, who would be new to the board, is a parent at the Center for Inquiry at School 70. He is currently executive director of facilities and procurement at Marian University, and he formerly worked as chief operating officer for the Tindley charter network.
  • Dorene Rodriguez Hoops for District 5, a seat she was appointed to in 2016. A parent at Center for Inquiry at School 2, Hoops was a human resources executive before leaving her job to care for her son with cerebral palsy. A first-generation Mexican American, Hoops is a fluent Spanish speaker.
  • Mary Ann Sullivan for the at-large seat she won in 2014. A former Democratic state lawmaker, Sullivan has been involved with the district for decades as a parent and then as an advocate.

They are among nine candidates vying for three seats on the board. (Ellis Stephen Noto, who filed to run in the District 3 race, will not appear on the ballot because his submission did not have enough signatures from qualified voters.)

Stand is the local chapter of a national parent organizing group that leads parent empowerment classes and brings parents together to push for change at failing schools. It’s also perhaps the most active player in Indianapolis Public Schools Board races.

The group does not disclose its election spending. But in prior races, Stand has sent mailers in support of its slate of candidates and hired campaign workers to knock on doors and promote candidates outside polls on Election Day. This year, Stand also donated $100,000 to the campaign in support of two referendums to raise property taxes to increase funding for schools. The group is also campaigning in support of the tax measures.

In the last two elections, nearly all the candidates Stand has endorsed have won seats on the board but it is unclear whether the group will be decisive in this race. One notable exception is Elizabeth Gore, who defeated Stand-endorsed incumbent Sam Odle to win a seat on the board in 2016. Gore was vastly outspent by her opponent, and she did not receive endorsements from influential groups seeking to sway the direction of the district. But a former school board member who is well known in the community, Gore was still able to win in a clear victory.

Less than two weeks after the deadline for candidates to file, it is not yet clear how competitive the race for school board will be this year.

The IPS Community Coalition, a grassroots group that is critical of the administration, could prove to be a counter balance to Stand in this election. Last month, executive director Dountonia Batts said the group plans to endorse candidates for school board. The group does not plan to donate to campaigns or spend money on the election. But it will offer candidates advice and volunteer help, she said.