One of the most rewarding parts of our jobs as StateImpact Indiana journalists is talking to students, parents and teachers. Their stories help bring alive the policies pushed for at the statehouse.
Here’s a look back at the people who helped us tell the stories of education in Indiana this year.
Glenda Ritz — “I am not worried about funding for this campaign,” Superintendent-elect Ritz predicted in August, at the time trailing her opponent by more than a million dollars in campaign contributions. “I have a good grassroots campaign. And at the end of the day, it’s about who shows up at the polls, and I firmly believe that I’ll be the next Superintendent of Public Instruction.” Ritz went on to win the election with 52 percent of the vote.
Tony Bennett— “I’ll be really bold here,” the ousted state superintendent said about a month after the election. “What other state school chief in the history of the country has had the opportunity to serve with a governor in his second term who has an approval rating of almost 70 percent who made education reform a priority and said, ‘Go forth, craft, execute, and implement the most bold education reform agenda in the United States?’ Who gets that chance?”
Ethan Brown — “I started crying and telling myself I was stupid because I didn’t pass that test,” he told StateImpact after he didn’t pass the IREAD-3, Indiana’s third grade reading test. (Ethan passed his retake over the summer.)
- Cindi Pastore — “Face-to-face, I probably had 50 conversations over the course of the last year, at least,” says Pastore, a special education teacher who campaigned for Superintendent-elect Ritz. “I came up with about 15 [people] that I know for certain that I was the factor” in convincing them to vote for Ritz, she says.
- Tammy Laughner — “I think it’s quite simply because he values great teachers, and I appreciate that,” says Laughner, a teacher at Indianapolis’ Arlington Heights Elementary who has been recognized by the Department of Education and voted for Bennett. “I appreciate the teacher evaluation he’s put together that differentiates the levels of competency. Teachers are getting recognized now.”
Kevin Sandorf — “The thing I’ve tried to get across to students this year,” says Sandorf, a teacher at Indianapolis’ T.C. Howe Community High School before the state takeover, “is that even though we’re walking out of here tomorrow at 2:30, please don’t walk out of here with your head held down.” Howe is now run by Florida Company Charter Schools USA. Howe has moved to another school within IPS.
Mitch Daniels — “Not a word of one of those laws is going to be changed unless it’s extended further in the direction of reform,” Indiana’s outgoing governor said after Bennett lost the election. “Every other factor that matters is aligned, in this state, in the direction of progress and change and reform of teacher accountability, of more choices for families, of more ability for school leadership to lead.” Daniels is headed to Purdue next month as university president.
Tori Tackett— “I really wanted to learn more and I thought high school was not for me,” says Tackett, a student who attends a special education program in Angola. “So I figured I’d come here and try to learn some more stuff. Try to learn how live on my own — how to make my own lunch, pack my own lunch, how to cook, how to sweep… How to do everything, you know.”
- Todd Huston — “We know we have to change education,” says Huston, a former chief of staff to Bennett who now represents Fishers in the Indiana House. “We have to be much more aggressive in our thought. The idea that we would pause strikes me as almost inconsistent with what you see at both a national and international level about what it’s going to take for our kids to succeed.”
- P.J. McGrew — “I asked them, ‘Did your education training really prepare you for what you encountered?’ And they were like, ‘No, you learn by the experience,’” says McGrew, a math teacher at Indianapolis’ Herron High School, who comes from a family of educators but pursued an alternative certification.
Jon Willman — “But we just don’t have any fluff,” says the Hamilton Community Schools superintendent, who pushed for a referendum to save one of the state’s smallest districts. “If we were going to cut the people we need to balance our book, we wouldn’t be able to provide the educational opportunities we need for the students at Hamilton. You might as well consolidate.”
- Lori White — “They’re a little afraid,” says White, a third grade teacher in Knox, about state-mandated teacher evaluations. “‘What if I don’t show good enough evidence when they come into my classroom? Am I going to lose my job? Am I not going to get a raise?’”