Lawmakers Announce New State Board Appointments
Five new people will join Indiana’s State Board of Education after Gov. Mike Pence, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced appointments Wednesday.
The new roster comes as a result of legislation the General Assembly passed this session permitting the governor and two legislative leaders to appoint or reappoint INSBOE members by June 1. The governor previously had authority to appoint all members of the board as spots became vacant, never all at once.
But after months of disagreements and arguments on the board that led to a walkout by Ritz, stalemate on important policy decisions and a lawsuit, the legislature decided it was time to reboot the board.
“Today marks a fresh start for the State Board of Education,” Pence said in a statement. “Ensuring a quality education for every Hoosier student remains of the utmost importance to our administration, and I commend the tireless efforts of the men and women who have devoted their time and expertise by serving on the Board.”
“Hoosiers can be assured that the individuals appointed today to the State Board of Education bring to the table a wealth of unique educational experiences and remain wholeheartedly committed to serving our kids, our families, our teachers, and our schools,” Pence said.
Over the last two years, the INSBOE adopted new academic standards, revamped the state’s standardized assessment and created a new A-F accountability system – but that doesn’t mean this new board will not have plenty to do.
Board spokesman Marc Lotter says his staff will immediately begin reaching out to the new members to help prepare them for their first meeting June 3. Lotter says the biggest agenda items facing the new group will be addressing components of the new state budget, including new funding and loan options for charter schools, as well as the board’s role in state testing contracts.
“We also have to establish the testing windows for next year,” Lotter explains. “I know that there are a lot of superintendents and principals that are really looking to get those dates so they can map out the academic year next year.”
Below, check out a visual representation of the political parties (blue for Democratic, red for Republican & neutral for Independent), professional backgrounds & district memberships of former, returning & new State Board of Education members.
Click on a district to see its board representative. To switch between the former and current board makeup maps, click on the main menu in the top left corner of the map and select “Former INSBOE” or “New INSBOE.”
The New State Board of Education
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz: The original aim of Senate Bill 1, the legislation allowing all of these new appointments, sought to remove Ritz as chair of the INSBOE and let the board choose their own chair. But following pushback from voters and Democrats in the statehouse, lawmakers amended the law to let board members choose their own chair after the end of Ritz’s current term.
Pence appointed three new people to serve on the board:
- Eddie Melton: Representing congressional district 1, Melton will serve on the board until June 30, 2016. Melton lives in Merrillville and works as a manager of Federal Governmental Relations and Community Relations at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company.
- Vince Bertram: Currently the President of Project Lead the Way, an engineering and technology program adopted by schools across the state, Bertram will represent the fifth congressional district until June 30, 2017. He has also served as a district superintendent and a national ambassador for STEM education.
- Lee Ann Kwiatkowski: An assistant superintendent for M.S.D. of Warren Township schools, Kwiatkowski will represent the ninth congressional district until June 30, 2016. She has also previously worked at the Indiana Department of Education.
The governor reappointed the following members who currently serve on the board:
- David Freitas: Freitas, a current education professor at Indiana University South Bend, has been an INSBOE member since Pence appointed him two years ago. He will continue to serve on the board until June 30, 2018, representing the second congressional district.
- Cari Whicker: One of three classroom teachers serving on the board, the middle school teacher in Huntington will serve through June 30, 2019. Whicker was the only current board member the Indiana State Teachers Association recommended stay on the board.
- Sarah O’Brien: Another classroom teacher from Avon, O’Brien will remain on the board through June 30, 2019, representing the fourth congressional district.
- Gordon Hendry: Previously the board’s only at-large member, Hendry will now represent the seventh congressional district. Hendry works at CBRE Inc., an Indianapolis real estate firm. He released a statement last month requested to remain on the board, along with Freitas and Brad Oliver,
- B.J. Watts: Representing the eighth congressional district, the elementary school teacher in Evansville will serve through June 30, 2018.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, appointed Steve Yager. Yager recently retired after working as a superintendent at both the Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools.
“Iʼm thankful for the chance to serve in this new role,” Yager said in a statement. “While Iʼve recently retired from my position with our local schools, Iʼve never lost my passion for helping students succeed. I know my fellow Board members share this passion, and I look forward to working with all of them in the days ahead.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, appointed Byron Ernest, the head of Hoosier Academies, a network of charter schools in the state. Ernest will not represent a specific district on the board. He previously served as principal at Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis, a failing school that moved out of the ‘F’ category under Ernest’s leadership. One of his charter schools, the Hoosier Virtual Academy, which is also considered failing under the state’s accountability system, recently approached the SBOE to ask the group to differently calculate A-F grades for schools that serve unique populations of students.
- Brad Oliver: A former educator and current administrator at Indiana Wesleyan University, Oliver was a vocal opponent of Ritz since her election.
- Dan Elsener: Elsener and Ritz also butted heads publicly during INSBOE meetings. He works as the president of Marian University in Indianapolis.
- Troy Albert: Albert previously represented the ninth congressional district for the board and works as a principal at Henryville Jr. Sr. High School.
- Andrea Neal: Neal joined the board in June 2013 and is best known for her anti-Common Core views, which dominated meetings until Pence pulled out of the standards in March 2014. She works as an English and history teacher at St. Richard’s Episcopal School in Indianapolis.
- Tony Walker: Walker, a Gary-based attorney, served on the board since his appointment by former governor Mitch Daniels in 2011.