IPS school board candidates already are pulling in big bucks

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
Five of the 10 candidates seeking election to the Indianapolis Public School Board sit at a candidate forum hosted by the Greater Indianapolis NAACP chapter.

Three candidates for IPS school board have already raised at least $15,000, suggesting this year’s race could rival 2012 as one of the most expensive in the district’s history.

For the crowded race this fall, with 10 candidates seeking three seats, the Greater Indianapolis NAACP, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and a union for state and city workers jointly hosted a candidate forum today at Martin University. Nine of the 10 candidates attended the forum, moderated by WTLC radio host Amos Brown, including the three incumbent candidates: Annie Roof, Michael Brown and Samantha Adair-White.

Roof is opposed by former State Rep Mary Ann Sullivan, Light of the World Church Pastor David Hampton, Butler University professor Josh Owens, and former IPS employee Ramon Batts. Adair-White is being challenged by former school board member Kelly Bentley and another former IPS worker, James Turner.

LaNier Echols, a charter school administrator who is running against Brown in District 5, could not attend.

On some of the key issues discussed at the NAACP’s forum, here is where the candidates said they stand:

Money floods in for some candidates

Moderator Amos Brown asked all the candidates to reveal how much money they had raised. Here’s what they said:

  • At-large race: Sullivan has a large fundraising lead of the five at-large candidates with about $30,000. Hampton said he’s raised $15,000, Roof has $3,500, Owens has raised $2,500 and Batts said he has $525.
  • District 3: Bentley said she has about $30,000, Adair-White said she has about $1,500 and Turner said he hasn’t raised any money yet.
  • District 5: Michael Brown said he has $260 raised so far. His opponent, Echols, was not in attendance.

In 2012, three successful candidates all raised at least $50,000 running for the board, sums that were unheard of in past races.

Should IPS partner with charter schools?

Roof said a new law encouraging IPS to partner with charter schools “scares me a bit.” Passed earlier this year, it allows the district to hire charter school groups to run district schools or turn its buildings over to become charter schools.

While Roof is wary, she said she wants to partner with groups to help schools that have long struggled if such a deal works for both sides.

“I don’t want to give away our schools,” she said.

Sullivan was one of the few Democrats who supported the bill in the legislature. She said charters can be effective partners for IPS rather than the profiteers they are sometimes depicted to be.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what this legislation does,” she said. “There’s a lot of paranoia. The vast majority of (charter groups) are non-for-profit.”

Owens said he was “probably the strongest supporter (of the charter school law) of everyone here.” The partnerships will create solutions for neighborhood schools by giving them more flexibility, he said.

Adair-White said she is adamantly opposed to the law.

“You would not believe how many companies have contacted our superintendent to get one of those schools started,” she said. “Our kids are not for sale. It is a disgraceful attack. I don’t like it and I’m not with it.”

Bentley said she would favor any partnership to help kids improve, including charter school partnerships.

“If we care about kids, we need to get beyond the name-calling and beyond the conspiracy theories,” she said.

Top priorities: Graduation, parents and building on success

Hampton said raising graduation rates without awarding waivers, which exempt graduates from the requirement to pass state tests, was his top priority. Students can’t be prepared for college and life if they can’t pass state tests, he said.

“Are our children failing in a system or is the system failing our children?” Hampton said.

Brown said other schools can repeat the success of top-rated neighborhood schools, like School 90 and 109.

“There’s no new thing in education,” Brown said. “If you really want to improve, you have to replicate programs that are successful.”

Turner said the district needs to focus inward to improve rather than look for external partners.

“We’re going to strengthen other schools on the backs of IPS,” Turner said.

Ramon Batts, said parent engagement is missing from many schools.

“In elementary schools, you see parents everywhere,” Batts said. “By high school, it’s over. We need to build those relationships so they’re not angry. The only time we reach out is when we kick their child out of school.”

See More: Here are the six critical questions the IPS school board race will answer.

CORRECTION: Ramon Batts was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”