Stand for Children Indiana (Stand Indiana) announced it has endorsed four candidates for the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Board of Commissioners ahead of the November election. The candidates were selected for endorsement by a committee comprised entirely of parents, grandparents and stakeholders in IPS.
The endorsed candidates are:
- Michael O’Connor, IPS District One: O’Connor, the director of state government affairs at Eli Lilly and Company, was appointed to the board in September 2015 to serve out the term of former commissioner Caitlin Hannon. In supporting O’Connor’s endorsement, Canielle Winch, who has two children in IPS schools, cited his work in helping the Mayor and City-County Council establish a public pre-K pilot program.
“I like that he supported preschool; preschool is very, very important for all students for getting off to a great start,” Winch said. Winch and other members of the committee also cited O’Connor’s consistent support for improving struggling IPS schools through the Innovation Network Schools law.
- Venita Moore, IPS District Two: Moore, who is a business owner and IPS Hall of Fame inductee, is seeking the seat being vacated by current district two Commissioner Gayle Cosby, who chose not to run for re-election. In her application, Moore boasted her family has three generations of IPS graduates. Moore’s emphasis on the importance of ending the school-to-prison pipeline in IPS resonated with the committee.
“I fully support her, because she understands a lot of kids need more hope than prison to get them thinking about being college bound for a brighter future,” said IPS School 14 parent, Jason Johnson. “And she comes from IPS; her family went to IPS. She is just like us.”
IPS School 14 staff member and parent of a school-aged child, Charisse McGill, said she appreciated Moore’s openness toward finding solutions for struggling schools.
“She’s a supporter of whatever works for reaching the child,” McGill commented. “We need that. We need people who will consider everything for improving our schools.”
- Diane Arnold, IPS District Four: As incumbent district four commissioner, the committee cited Arnold’s record of supporting Innovation Schools and efforts in turning around chronically low-performing schools. They also appreciated the resolve she showed in supporting positions that best serve parents and students.
“Before the current board members were there, she (Arnold) often took the opposite position of others to support what the parents wanted,” McGill commented, “I’ve seen her stand alone, and I’ve seen her stand her ground. That’s why I support her.”
Other committee members recalled times Arnold sought out parents at the conclusion of IPS board meetings to speak with them about their concerns, or just to see how the school year is going.
“She seems like she really cares about the students and the parents, and that’s why I’ll support her,” said IPS grandmother Debra Pasha.
- Sam Odle, IPS At-Large: Odle, a former leader at IU Health and current consultant with Bose Public Affairs, is seeking re-election for the at-large seat he won in 2012. The committee cited Odle’s consistent leadership in the board’s work to transform struggling schools as a top reason for awarding him the at-large endorsement. “He’s supported autonomy and innovation in his voting and work with the board,” said LaToya Tahirou, parent of two students at Phalen Leadership Academy at Francis Scott Key School 103. “Innovation has turned around our school, but there’s more work to be done for other schools. I support keeping Sam so that he can help other kids have great schools.”
All ten IPS school board candidates were provided Stand Indiana’s candidate survey through certified mail and/or email, and were asked to return the surveys by August 30 at noon. These surveys, as well as other publicly available information about the candidates, were considered by the committee during its deliberations last week.
The endorsements will result in Stand Indiana members participating in a campaign over the next several weeks to help elect the IPS board candidates recommended by the parent committee.