Indiana

Education on back burner as Indianapolis mayor's race sprints to the finish

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
WTLC's Amos Brown (left) moderates a debate between Republican Chuck Brewer (center) and Democrat Joe Hogsett (right).

The race to replace Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is nearly to the finish line, but the city’s education issues remain a secondary focus.

Case in point: Today’s final mayoral debate moderated by radio host Amos Brown at WTLC’s downtown studios.

Brown asked the candidates questions for about 45 minutes, but most of the conversation focused on public safety and crime.

It’s perhaps no surprise, given the bleak summer of shootings and even more recent incidents that included an armed robbery of a north side restaurant during business hours and a shooting in front of an east side mall.

The candidates made occasional reference to the relationship between the need for better educational and other opportunities for children and the possibility that it could lead them away from involvement with gangs, drugs and violence.

But there was just once question that explicitly focused on Indianapolis Public Schools and education across the city’s 11 school districts and more than 25 charter schools. Brown asked if the candidates would support an education summit.

They both said yes.

Democrat Joe Hogsett, the former U.S. Attorney General, said education and public safety together should be the the city’s top two priorities.

He said part of the problem at IPS is poor communication, seemingly referencing a heated debate over the last couple of weeks over a district plan to close Key Learning Community, shift arts programs from School 70 to the Key building and drop middle school grades from Broad Ripple High School.

The board voted to close Key on Thursday before a meeting was even held at the school to give parents more information. That meeting is on Monday.

Board members did hold off voting on the other parts of the plan to allow for public meetings at those schools on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Part of the challenge we face with IPS currently, and some of the decision being made — they have a communications problem,” Hogsett said.

He said an education summit could help come up with strategies for the district to “better communicate to parents and other people in the community what decisions are being made, and how they are being made, before the decisions are made.”

Republican Chuck Brewer, a former U.S. Marine and businessowner, touted his plan to advocate giving the mayor two school board appointments.

“We have to create a school system that delivers great quality education for all of our kids. Period,” he said.

Brewer said only half of kids who attend public schools across the city go to a quality school.

“That means there are a number of school districts that are not doing their jobs well,” he said. “We can help them at the city.”

The election could have a major impact on education as it is unclear how committed both candidates are to continuing using the mayor’s office to push for change in IPS and opening new charter schools.

Indianapolis is the only city in the country with a mayor who has the power to sponsor charter schools. Through two administrations, one Democratic and one Republican, over 15 years the city’s mayors have sponsored a growing collection of charter schools while calling for reform in IPS.

Neither Hogsett or Brewer has said they would change course dramatically on education from their predecessors. But Hogsett has said he thinks the mayor should have a broader focus that includes township schools and charter school quality over quantity.

Brewer said he was “rooting” for traditional public schools to outcompete charter schools. The purpose of charter schools, he said, was to help “fill the gap” in the meantime.

The election is Tuesday.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.