Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Tensions Apparent On State Board As Ritz Holds Firm To Posted Agenda

The State Board of Education listens to public testimony during its October meeting.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

The State Board of Education listens to public testimony during its October meeting.

Tensions between Glenda Ritz and other State Board of Education members were apparent Wednesday after the state superintendent shut down a motion to make changes to the meeting agenda.

At issue was at what point in the meeting State Board staff would update board members on various matters. The agenda listed this item as the last the panel would hear.

Ritz turned down a request to move up the agenda item but said she would allow staff to jump in as needed with information relevant to the discussion. That’s when board members Dan Elsener and Tony Walker offered a motion and a second to modify the agenda.

But Ritz would not allow the vote.

“I have the right to decide how this agenda goes forth,” she said, citing rule that the board’s agenda could be modified at the discretion of the chair.

“We have a motion and a second,” Elsener said. “You’re telling us we aren’t going to be able to vote on it?”

Then board member Brad Oliver jumped into the fray, asking for clarification of the statutory rules regarding the chair’s authority. He suggested that it might be time for the State Board to work on building relationships, perhaps by rescheduling a retreat that was cancelled over the summer.

But on the motion to restructure the board’s agenda, Ritz ultimately prevailed — the board moved on to public comment without a vote on the proposed change.

The terse exchange seemed to rattle two of the parents who testified after. One father whose kids go to school in Pike Township said he’d be deviating from his prepared remarks in light of the argument, urging board members to put kids first. And a Noblesville mother offered props to Elsener for his willingness to ask hard questions.

Ritz may have set the tone for the meeting when she called for a modification of the September minutes, when board members voted in favor of a six-month visioning process with Elsener at the helm. At the time, Ritz said she would not support the plan because it was the first she heard of it.

“I would like the notes to reflect, ‘Superintendent Ritz says the motion was not brought forth under procedure, but she would allow the vote,’” she requested.

Indiana’s open door law allows a public body to deviate from a posted agenda, but Ritz says she feels board members owe it to the public to stick to what they’ve said they will discuss.

The September board meeting was the first after Governor Mike Pence announced the creation of a new state agency that would oversee the board’s day-to-day operations.

“I’ve served on the board eight years,” says Elsener. “I’ve never received so many venomous, negative, accusatory-type emails as I did after the last board meeting.”


  • Cindi Pastore

    Thank you Superintendent Ritz!

  • Mike Fox

    Folks, please spread the word to the citizenry about how the Republicans are disrespecting the vote of Hoosiers for Glenda.

  • Vicky Ackerman Males

    It hurts when people tell you the truth, doesn’t Dan?!

  • Reba Boyd Wooden

    Go, Glenda!!!

  • Jo Blacketor

    Stand tall and strong Dan Elsener. Make the board hold a retreat to revisit/read what statute says about the board’s responsibilities. You’ve got it right. Remember, initially many of the changes Glenda attempted didn’t even offer the courtesy of a discussion or motion (i.e. attempt to do away with iRead). This is not about partisan crap. This is about maintaining improvements that have been in place with evidence to back it. Did anyone listen to Dan’s review of the improvements in September or are Glenda’s groupies too invested in her rights over the mission of improving learning for children. Move forward Dan and other IDOE board members who support the ed reforms that are working!!!

    • Citizen for equality

      I’ll assume that you mean ed reforms that are working to privatize public education and profit from the children of Indiana. These reforms are not creating better students and a better score on a corporate test does not make a smarter student. The reformers efforts to usurp the authority of Glenda Ritz and push through further corporate reforms will not be tolerated by the citizens of Indiana. All the reformers have done is create a system that is discriminatory and allows for schools accepting public funds to operate under different sets of rules while choosing which students they want to educate. This so-called reform is not good for democracy or Indiana and simply funnels public funds to religious and corporate profiteers while putting the students last.

    • Marblemania

      The VOTERS spoke and Glenda is their choice. Maybe you and the board and Pence need to go back to government 101 to understand Democracy and how it works. It’s stunning watching how losers in elections cannot understand what that MEANS…it means the voters did not like the direction education was going and voted someone in who shared their interests and would represent THEM, not the corporate reformers who have decided they can make a profit off the backs of children while trashing teachers and schools. It’s time for you and your fellow rude, bought board members to sit down and listen. Rosemarie Jensen

    • Mark in Fort Wayne

      Once again, on yet another public forum, Jo Blacketor, former State Board of Ed member shows the complete and utter lack of respect that she and Elsener, along with other board members have shown toward Ritz from the moment the election results were final. IRead is a 40 question test that is supposed to determine if a student should pass 3rd grade????? And you are going to hold THAT up as a standard????? What is the student passes ISTEP with a pass plus? the fact is there is not one single reform that is in place or that you support that addresses any of the REAL issues that public schools face. Your education reform agenda created more hoops for parents to jump through in the name of school “choice”; when the reality is that it is the schools that get the choices. Who stays, who goes, who gets in, who does not are all choices that the schools have that the parents have no control over (unless they are big time donors to the school), and all with leverage that is not legally allowed in current public schools (making this statement knowing that charters are NOT public schools in any way shape or form for those reasons and the simple fact that only half the staff is required to be licensed).

    • Tom Carver

      Wow, once again, the partisan shill with no thoughts of her own, Miss Jo Blackhead, tries to tell other party to not be partisan. Blackhead, have you no shame? You are the definition of hypocrisy! Your party wants to gut education to add money to the coffers of private institutions. The main goal of a for profit company is to make money, not to help children. Apparently, you think its ok, as you seem to act like a paid Republican lobbyist. Please, don’t post here. Everyone knows youre a dishonest partisan hack who cares nothing about the education of kids. Why don’t you be honest for once in your life and admit you hate kids and love the corporate dollar? That’d probably be the first truth you’ve told in a long time, based on your misinformed republican rants here. In short.shut the hell up!

    • CFR

      Jo: you wrote the same thing on the Monroe County Coalition Public Education page. And you were received in much the same way. Do you ever think that maybe your message is failing? If you were truly about dialogue, you wouldn’t call voters or supporters “groupies” and you wouldn’t call people’s concerns “partisan crap”.

    • Hopeful

      Thank you for your positive comment. I am very, very tired of all the negativity surrounding education and education reform.

      I am a former public school teacher, homeschooled student, and Christian school student now staying home with children of my own. Obviously I have stakes in all areas. Throughout this whole fight of education reform, the true mission seems to have been lost. There is a huge discrepancy on opinions of what is best for kids. Let’s come to a consensus on that, ignore propaganda and focus on truth – whatever that truth may be. Maybe then our extremely broken educational system can begin to heal.

      It deeply saddens me that there is a lack of civility and respect in discussions on education reform. Regardless of opinion and whether or not a person feels slighted, every human being must reach deep inside himself or herself and respond in the best possible way. We cannot change the past, but we can change how we respond to the past.

      I have not perfected this outlook, but I will try to keep this in mind as I live my life. As these conversations continue, I hope that others will keep it in mind as well.

      • Clyde Gaw

        What’s best for kids? “Johnny,” an 8 yr. old 3rd grade boy was in tears today and told me he hates school because he doesn’t fit in. He told me he felt pushed and hurried. He is a reluctant learner. He said the best day at school is Friday because it means he doesn’t have to go to school for the next two days. The worst day? Monday, when he has to go back to school. I asked him why he doesn’t like Mondays and he said because I start to get in trouble.

        So what does that mean? It means kids like Johnny hate school. Why? It is a place where learning is coerced and pushed on children. It is a place where children are stuck doing data driven Pavlovian rewards and punishments selected response learning activities. It is a place where round pegs are hammered into square holes through high stakes testing.

        People like Jo Blacketer who shill for corporate reformers, charter operators and high stakes testing profiteers are responsible for this mess.

        Teachers have been ignored, vilified and degraded throughout the past 30 years. Their calls for lower class sizes and less testing ignored.

        We do have a crisis in the country…an education POLICY crisis where lawmakers who don’t have a clue about education or learning experience, influenced by rich and powerful predatory corporate profiteers, are making policy.

        • indyscott

          Clyde, Who creates the standards? Is it these legislators or random people on the street, or Indiana school teachers? If I recall the tests are based off the standards. Don’t teachers have a say in these standards?

          • Clyde Gaw

            Standards movement goes back to 1910 or so. Even so their is a division among teachers from a philosopical and pedagogical approach. Teachers like Tony Bennett have no problem with a radical behaviorist approach to curriculum. Science should never be taught that way but that is his view of the human mind. Inputs equal outputs. Ritz has a more complex view of the human mind and also of the learning process. My view is that standardized learning experience does not take into account the fact that children are not homogeneously constructed. So what happened when NCLB was passed? Standards rammed down everyone’s throats and teachers leery of the standards and testing movement warned policymakers this was not good for significant percentages of children eventually went along to get along or were ignored by the industrial educational complex.

          • Clyde Gaw

            This is America. Any curricula not developed locally that usurps taxpayer dollars from the communities where public schools exist should receive scrutiny from Everyone.

            There is a hidden agenda to test every child in America based on these standards and Bill Gates and other profiteers are funding this effort.

            Diane Ravitch’s take on the Common Core spells it out:

          • indyscott

            I am not for Common Core or any nationalized standards so I think we have something in common here. It would be great if local communities had control of the curriculum but at the very least it needs to be in the hands of the states so that Indiana educators can create the standards which these test reinforce the student learning. Unfortunately I think there is a misconception that these current standards are created by random people that know nothing about education which isn’t the case. I don’t see any problem in these tests since it should show competency of the student and the only reason these are considered high stakes now is becasue the tests are tied into teacher pay and school grading.

          • Clyde Gaw

            If you believe the best in each and every child can be developed through standardized education then you are assuming all children think and learn homogeneously and you assume learning is a simple matter.

          • indyscott

            I disagree with your statement. Standardized testing is designed to make sure that students pass a basic level of competency at each level. The schools are pushing the idea that you have to teach to the test or as one marion county superintendent stated “teach to the standards” which is what the test is based on. The Indiana educators work on setting the standards that they beleive the students need to be compentant at a given level so if Indiana educators think these standards are critical for student learning then we need to trust them since they are supposed to be the experts in this field. If you think I am against educators, you are wrong. I think teachers need to teach and the administrative fluff that continues to pop up in all schools needs to go away.

          • Clyde Gaw

            Competencies? So this will motivate children to become more receptive learners? Did the children have a hand in developing these “Competencies?”

          • Clyde Gaw

            Ask that superintendent how teaching to the standards releases the emotional drive of the student?

          • Clyde Gaw

            What is sorely lacking from proponents of high stakes testing is a conception of the human mind, an explanation of the learning process and a mission statement on the purpose of education.

          • Clyde Gaw

            Scott, you seem to be a reasonable guy. The issue here is not a simple one. High stakes testing subverts what the experience of what curriculum could be. Experience matters. We are dealing with organic entities called the human mind.

            I had several football coaches when I was growing up. Thank fully, the one I feared the most, retired before I started playing. He had a no-nonsense approach to practice and was a harsh disciplinarian. Water only at the end of practice and lots of salt pills. Feel like you were going to pass out? He would grab players by the collar and chastise them. It wasn’t until the 1980′s this issue became more publicized after kids started dying and hydration became common place. Now there is the issue of brain trauma.

            So what have we learned about the experiences generated by high stakes testing? Learning experience that is required for children to pass these tests is clerical by nature and children are required to sit down, sit still, shut up and listen and it is not good for brain development.

            I kid you not!

            26% mental illness rate in the World’s most advanced nation?

            Highest incarceration rates in the World?

            Highest poverty rates in the industrialized World?

            What’s that all about?

            For a country that supposedly cares about children, it doesn’t wash with me.

        • indyscott

          Clyde, I don’t think your argument about African American’s being incarcerated is a very valid claim when comparing it to ed reform. School choice actually gives the underprivileged an opportunity to be in the best situation for each individual child.

          • Clyde Gaw

            School choice? You mean I can have my kid recieve a standardized learning experience consisting of test prep and some token constructivist learning experience in a charter school or they can recieve standardized test prep in an overcrowded public school with maybe a little more token constructivist learning experience ? Either way children are outside the decision making processes central to the learning experiences they will participate in. What it all boils down to is the high stakes testing events shape the curriculum and the experiences for the vast majority of children.

          • Clyde Gaw

            Of course it’s a valid argument! Have you listened to the angry youth on the street? Have you talked to them? They understand the power structure of schools is vested in the interests of corporate greed. The power structure of schools is not vested in the interests of children, otherwise you would have more teachers, and a richer, varied conception of learning experience than the radical behaviorism that now exists! What you have is a system that separates wheat from chaf. The chaf work the fast food chain jobs and low paying positions that nobody wants after disengaging from a system that promotes radical behaviorism. This is not by accident. We know how human beings learn best. It is not through high stakes test prep.

          • IndianaMom

            You’re assuming the parents take advantage of this…

        • indyscott

          Clyde, do you realize that Ms. Ritz is actually wanting more testing for the schools. If she gets her way then IRead will turn from 1 test in third grade to 2-3 tests per year in grades K-5. Of course she passes this off as “assessment” instead of “test” although they are the same thing.

          • Clyde Gaw

            What evidence do you have she is imposing more high stakes testing? Assessing student growth can take many forms.

          • indyscott

            The state board had a very lengthy discussion a few months back about assessment and Ms. Ritz gave her take on expanding the testing. She wants more of a growth model instead of the pass/fail that IRead has but it is still the same type of testing which you consider high stakes. This will also require 2-3 times the amount of madatory time of testing and that cuts into the teacher actually teaching the students which is the biggest complaint of most teachers. Now on the flip side of that statement I also understand that most schools waste time doing their own testing such as NWEA and Acuity but that is their choice and not mandated by the state. Once again it is unfortunate that most people don’t understand that the school’s are actually driving most of these testing days so that they can test for the test. I do beleive most teachers can teach in their own way and the students will do just fine on the standardized tests and those teachers who can’t need to be weeded out but there does need to be accountablity for both the student and teacher to make sure the students are receiving the education that is expected.

    • Julie Wallyn

      Oh, Jo, with no due respect this is totally about “partisan crap” (and btw you can still turn a phrase). LOL Kudos to Glenda Ritz for knowing the rules AND playing by them. Bullies hate it when that happens.

  • boatkitten

    Pence is the dirtiest politician I’ve ever experienced. From disrespecting the voters to giving inaccurate information about the ACA Insurance Exchanges to Hoosiers. And now disrupting Education by circumventing our democratic election process with his OWN agency; standing up for a former chair who cooked the books on charter schools as well as using state computers for election purposes. Who does Pence work for? It’s clearly not his Hoosier constituents.

    • restoredemocracy

      He works for the Koch brothers.

    • HoosierMommy

      Mike Pence is buttering up the Tea Party’s base so that he can run for President in 2016. He is just like the rest of the TP – doesn’t give xxxx for the democratic process.

      Unfortunately, 4 years of him is plenty of time to marginalize women (Indiana is one of the 10 worst states for women), hurt the poor with cuts to unemployment insurance, confusion over signing up for health care under the ACA, and refusing to expand Medicare. And he’s hurting our state’s children by funneling taxpayer money to religious schools.

    • Mike in NJ

      Just bumped into this issue researching something else. Still coming up to speed but I noticed your comment on your governor’s corruption.
      Seems to be a pattern with these right wing republicans.
      Have you noticed New Jersey and Mr. Christie?
      I contend he will give your guy a run for the money lol
      Birds of a feather flock together. They are worthless lying old style politicians in my view

  • Sharyle Burwell

    If Mr. Elsener had not been so condescending at the previous meeting, maybe he would not have received so many negative email! You reap what you sow, Mr Elsener! We, the voters chose Glenda Ritz. It would be best if you remembered that fact!

    • Sharyle Burwell

      Emails not email

    • Ann Heintzelman

      Yes, he complained today about the flood of negative emails that he received and said that they should not have become “personal.” Hmmm, things got personal for me when veteran teachers were made out to be villains in order to advance the hidden educational deform agenda. Bold move, indeed…..

  • Josh Bowman

    Go Glenda! Glad to see you stand up for what is right!

  • RedTeach6

    Way to go, Glenda! I hope the people in Indiana remember everything that is going on when the next election occurs in 2014.

  • Barb

    The people of Indiana made it very clear that they want Glenda Ritz to be in charge. The disrespect she is being shown by Governor Pence and board members like Mr Elsener is totally unacceptable. Mrs. Ritz is a class act. Stay strong, Glenda. We will continue to support you! If this nonsense continues, we may just have to put her in the Governor’s office!

    • Kent

      I agree. The voters made their wishes clear. Ms. Ritz, stay strong as this governor tries to dilute your impact, going against the voters wishes. This seems to be a trend at the state and federal level.

  • Ann Heintzelman

    The board members were out of order here. Motions may be entertained during old and new business, but not during reports. Moreover, they need to be willing to communicate with the chair to request agenda items BEFORE the agenda is publicly posted. Good form, Glenda Ritz! Good form!

  • susan edmondson

    Teachers are true heroes. Voters chose Ms. Ritz. Let her do the job we elected her for…to protect, promote, n support our heroes.

  • KB

    Talk about dysfunctional! Hang in there Glenda. This article about the “politics & powerplays” makes me sick. Grow up people. You’re acting as badly as the federal government!

  • MaryAnn Schlegel Ruegger

    Elle, I wasn’t at the meeting and the video feed was down, but I was following along with your tweets. (Thanks!). Can you clarify–was the motion to move up the discussion item to before the Public Comments agenda item?

  • IndianaMom

    THANK YOU Superintendent RITZ!!
    Please continue to stand your ground!

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »