Township school board races

Wayne Township school board candidates call for more funding

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Wayne Township's McClelland Elementary School. The district today passed a referendum with bout two-thirds of the vote.

This is one of 10 school board races in Marion County. Check back with Chalkbeat Indiana throughout the week for more information on the other candidates.

 

District snapshot

Wayne Township’s school year started on a high note with the release of 2014 ISTEP scores. The district saw the biggest gain in Marion County with a 5.8 percentage point increase to 64.4 percent of students passing. Superintendent Jeff Butts said test scores were helped by candid teacher convesations about what types of instruction were and were not working, and administrators stepped up observations and feedback to teachers. Wayne Township also redesigned its curriculum and put a greater focus on using student test score data as a guide to what needs to be taught differently. This test score upswing comes as the district has also seen growth in the number of poor families it serves.

Candidates in this race recently discussed the issues on Amos Brown’s radio show.

Key school district data

  • Enrollment: 15,925 students
  • Ethnicity: 39.4 percent white, 30.5 percent black, 22.9 percent Hispanic
  • Eligible for free and reduced-price lunch: 77.4 percent
  • ISTEP math and English passing rate 2014: 64.4 percent
  • 2012-13 graduation rate (most recent available): 87.2 percent

Candidates

  • Scott Edward Cline, 58, retired teacher who taught for 35 years in Wayne Township, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Mike Nance, 60, manager and owner of the UPS Store in Speedway, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Floyd Keith, 66, CEO of Planned Positive Attitude Professional Services, running as at at-large candidate.
  • Rochelle Olaleye, Senior Quality Engineer at Salesforce MarketingCloud, running for election as an at-large candidate.
  • Michael Morrow, 56, director of product costing/market analysis for Aero Industries Inc, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.

The following candidates could not be reached or did not respond to survey questions.

  • Stanley Ellis, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Brandon Bowman, running for election as an at-large candidate.

Why did you choose to run for the school board?

Cline: After teaching in Wayne Township for 35 years, I applied for the position 18 months ago when school board member Paul Calabro decided to retire early. I had known Mr. Calabro and his family since childhood and wanted to continue the excellent legacy that he has left behind.

Nance: I enjoy being involved in the community, especially the school system. I believe that I have a responsibility to give back to my community and try to help make Wayne Township a better place to live. A sound educational system is important for community growth.

Keith: I am running for the school board for the following reasons: My no. 1 concern and platform is “Keith for kids.” I believe EVERY kid deserves the opportunity to have a quality educational experience. It is my desire to be a voice for all we (the school board of Wayne Township) serve. Our school board must be relevant. We (Dr. Nicole Keith and myself as parents) have three children who are current students and one graduate of the school system. I am current and in real time with the issues facing our students. Our school board needs an experienced leader who is representative of Wayne Township families.

Olaleye: Education is key. I would like to do my part to help my district to continue to develop a world class education system.

Morrow: To help our students (young or old) to become productive citizens while making a positive impact on our community, and to help in that effort any way I can.

What issues will you focus on?

Cline: If elected, I will push for a more transparent means in seeing how our schools are being administered. Questions of how dollars are spent and why there seems to be inequities within buildings are my top concerns. Our teachers work hard, but one teacher in one building, being paid the same amount of money, should not be made to work additional hours or produce excessive, unneeded data. The letter grades of our schools have greatly improved, and we must continue to strive in maintaining those scores.

Nance: Strategic plan implementation, advancement of career and technical education.

Keith: Funding: Maintaining the essential services provided to our students and making the right decisions on the priorities. Maintaining our facilities. Being a champion for public education. Curriculum and assessment of the student: No. 1 is the academic success of the student. The ultimate objective of the system should be to enhance the educational experience of the student once they have arrived in the system.

Olaleye: Technology, building a stronger community.

Morrow: For the next few years, and beyond. The M.S.D. of Wayne Township School Board will have to be focused on items which will create the highest impact of financial cost reductions, while having the least amount of impact on our children’s education.

What is the most important issue facing your district?

Cline: Like most systems, providing and receiving future revenues is probably the greatest concern. Those legislators in the statehouse and federal government need to step in to today’s classroom for a week at a time. They need to truly understand how much teachers bring to the table with their own funds and what goes unfunded! I am a teacher advocate, yet at the same time an advocate for change! I am a firm believer that veteran teachers know what they are doing. Let them do what they do best and let them mentor newer teachers who are just beginning. 

Nance: Lack of funding by the state of Indiana.

Keith: Funding, funding and funding. Addressing the influences of economy and mobility. Combating the current “drought” of public education in the legislative process. Student academic success. Facilities: what to fix and what not to fix. Representation of the demographic population of Wayne Township.

Olaleye: Increasing overall success.

Morrow: Without a doubt it is the yearly loss of tax revenue. We have seen a significant decrease each of the past four years.

Anything else about yourself you’d like to share.

Cline: The new slogan, “Once A Giant, Always A Giant,” rings true for me! I am a product of Wayne Township Schools from grade 1 to grade 12, a 1974 graduate from Ben Davis High School. We also use the term, We Are Wayne! I can say that I Am Wayne. My family has been involved in Wayne Township schools for over 70 years. It is my dream to keep this school system alive and running well. We, as a community and township, can only make this area a better place to live and grow up in! Purple and White…..Keep The Spirit Alive!

Nance: I am proud of Wayne Township schools and very proud and honored to serve the residents of Wayne Township.

Keith: Floyd Keith has 44 years of professional expertise. Presently, he consults for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports of the University of Central Florida College of Business Administration, Indiana University-Purdue University and is CEO of PPA (Planned Positive Attitude) Professional Services. Previously, he served as the executive director for the Black Coaches and Administrators from 2001- 2013. Floyd graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1970 with a degree in education. With wife, Dr. Nicole R. Keith, an associate professor at IUPUI and current vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine, they have four children, all of whom attend or attended Wayne Township schools.

Olaleye: We are Wayne.

Morrow: I am a graduate of Ben Davis High School (Class of 1976), and in 1980 I graduated from Indiana State University with a BS degree in Industrial Technology Education. I have serve at many levels of management in industry for the past 30 years. In 2004 I founded the Ben Davis Dads’ Organization within Ben Davis High School and Wayne Township. The BD Dads’ Organization helps mentor students at both seventh grade and eighth grade centers, the freshman Center, Ben Davis University, and Ben Davis High School.

Answers have been edited for length.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.

Asking the candidates

How to win over Northwest Side voters: Chicago aldermen candidates hone in on high school plans

PHOTO: Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat Chicago
An audience member holds up a green sign showing support at a forum for Northwest side aldermanic candidates. The forum was sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The residents filing into the auditorium of Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School Friday wanted to know a few key things from the eager aldermanic candidates who were trying to win their vote.

People wanted to know which candidates would build up their shrinking open-enrollment high schools and attract more students to them.

They also wanted specifics on how the aldermen, if elected, would coax developers to build affordable housing units big enough for families, since in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Hermosa, single young adults have moved in, rents have gone up, and some families have been pushed out.

As a result, some school enrollments have dropped.

Organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Friday’s event brought together candidates from six of the city’s most competitive aldermanic races. Thirteen candidates filled the stage, including some incumbents, such as Aldermen Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st  Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), and Milly Santiago (31st Ward).

They faced tough questions — drafted by community members and drawn at random from a hat — about bolstering high school enrollment, recruiting more small businesses, and paving the way for more affordable housing.

When the audience members agreed with their positions, they waved green cards, with pictures of meaty tacos. When they heard something they didn’t like, they held up red cards, with pictures of fake tacos.

Red cards weren’t raised much. But the green cards filled the air when candidates shared ideas for increasing the pull of area open-enrollment high schools by expanding dual-language programs and the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Related: Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago schools? 

“We want our schools to be dual language so people of color can keep their roots alive and keep their connections with their families,” said Rossana Rodriguez, a mother of a Chicago Public Schools’ preschooler and one of challengers to incumbent Deb Mell in the city’s 33rd Ward.  

Mell didn’t appear at the forum, but another candidate vying for that seat did: Katie Sieracki, who helps run a small business. Sieracki said she’d improve schools by building a stronger feeder system between the area’s elementary schools, which are mostly K-8, and the high schools.

“We need to build bridges between our local elementary schools and our high schools, getting buy-in from new parents in kindergarten to third grade, when parents are most engaged in their children’s education,” she said.

Sieracki said she’d also work to design an apprenticeship program that connects area high schools with small businesses.

Green cards also filled the air when candidates pledged to reroute tax dollars that are typically used for developer incentives for school improvement instead.

At the end of the forum, organizers asked the 13 candidates to pledge to vote against new tax increment financing plans unless that money went to schools. All 13 candidates verbally agreed.

Aldermen have limited authority over schools, but each of Chicago’s 50 ward representatives receives a $1.32 million annual slush fund that be used for ward improvements, such as playgrounds, and also can be directed to education needs. And “aldermanic privilege,” a longtime concept in Chicago, lets representatives give the thumbs up or down to developments like new charters or affordable housing units, which can affect school enrollment.

Related: 7 questions to ask your aldermanic candidates about schools

Aldermen can use their position to forge partnerships with organizations and companies that can provide extra support and investment to local schools.

A January poll showed that education was among the top three concerns of voters in Chicago’s municipal election. Several candidates for mayor have recently tried to position themselves as the best candidate for schools in TV ads.