A small town school official announced plans to challenge Democrat Glenda Ritz in her reelection bid for state superintendent in the 2016 general election.
Yorktown Community Schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has entered the superintendent’s race on the Republican side. If elected at the Republican party’s state convention in April, she would take on the incumbent Ritz, whose tenure thus far has been marked by political fights with Statehouse Republicans, including Governor Pence.
McCormick has been superintendent for six years in Yorktown — part of the Muncie Metropolitan area. Before that she was assistant superintendent and an elementary school principal in the district, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Speaking at the Statehouse, McCormick said she wouldn’t run a negative or politically motivated campaign, but says Ritz’s department has negatively impacted schools across the state.
“Indiana was once a leader in the nation — today we are not. Today we have a department of education that is disorganized and disconnected from schools,” McCormick says.
McCormick vowed to make the the state department of education a–quote–“great partner” and says she’d fix problems with the ISTEP while improving its credibility.
Indiana’s next superintendent will face a complex and ever-changing education policy landscape.
Lawmakers and educators are calling for the end to the annual standardized ISTEP exam; some would like to see a different type of student assessment used.
The recent reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act scales back the No Child Left Behind Act. The next state superintendent will oversee how Indiana adapts to a reduced federal role in its public schools.
It’s yet to be seen how McCormick will challenge Ritz.
Ritz, a former Indiana State Teachers Association board member, rode a grassroots campaign in 2012 to oust former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a Republican, with 52 percent of the vote. The same year Republican Mike Pence was elected governor.
Bennett championed the adoption of the Common Core academic standards and other reforms such as teacher evaluations and state-takeover of chronically failing schools. Ritz said her win was a referendum on Bennett’s policies.
Political fighting and accusations between Ritz and Pence has become a hallmark of both their first terms.
In November 2013 Ritz accused Pence of “not seeking a power-grab, but rather a complete takeover” of state education policy. The reason? Pence formed a new education agency to support his appointees on the State Board of Education by executive order.
The two sparred over the length of the 2015 ISTEP. Pence criticized Ritz’s leadership during a press conference before the two found common ground on shortening a new version of the statewide math and English exam.
Then during last year’s legislative session, Republican lawmakers attempted to reduce Ritz’s education oversight through various bills.
Last June Ritz began a challenge against Pence in the 2016 gubernatorial election but bowed out two months later to focus on re-election as the state superintendent.
McCormick has an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and advance degrees from Ball State and Indiana State universities, according to Yorktown Schools. She is married to a teacher in the district and they have one child who attends school there.
About Yorktown Community Schools
The district is rated A on the state’s A-F accountability scale. Last year 96.9 students graduated — the lowest rate in the district of the past four years.
Like most other schools across the state, Yorktown saw a major drop in the pass rate of the 2015 ISTEP — a decline of 22.4 percentage points to 62.3 percent.
District enrollment is majority white at 87.6 percent and 34 percent of student receive free or reduced price meals.
Teachers in the district were rated: effective, 64.4 percent; highly effective, 31.9 percent or not evaluated, 3.7 percent.. No teachers were rated ineffective or required improvement, according to the most recently available state data.
This report will be updated.