Deadline passes: 10 candidates seek 3 IPS school board seats

A former state legislator, a church leader, a professor, a charter school dean and an ex-school board member are among 10 candidates who want a shot at leading Indianapolis Public Schools.

Those challengers for IPS school board will face three incumbents seeking re-election: Annie Roof, Michael Brown and Samantha Adair-White.

The race officially kicked off today at noon, the deadline for candidates to file petitions to run set by the Marion County Election Board.

The candidates include several who are friendly to school-reform ideas that as recently as 2012 were uniformly rejected by district leadership like charter schools, school autonomy and test-based accountability.

“Look, we have to get this right. If more people running can elevate the conversation, all the better,” said school

Mary Ann Sullivan
Mary Ann Sullivan

board candidate and Democratic former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, who is running against the incumbent school board president, and parent of three IPS students, Annie Roof.

At-large candidates

Roof, who represents the at-large district, may have the toughest road ahead. She will face off against four other candidates to try to keep her seat after the Nov. 4 election. Incumbent board members Michael Brown and Samantha Adair-White, each representing neighborhood districts in Indianapolis, also are being challenged.

“I absolutely think you need a parent’s voice on the board,” Roof said in an interview in July. “I would be very sad if IPS lost that. A parent really knows what goes on day to day inside our schools.”

Annie Roof

Her opponents — including Sullivan, Butler University professor Josh Owens, Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton and former IPS employee Ramon Batts — have other ideas about what sort of perspective is most needed on the board.

“I’m not naive to the challenges the district faces, but the potential IPS can have for every single person in our city is too great for me to sit on the sideline and not try to help,” said Owens, the Butler professor.

Owens, an economics professor, gained experience in marketing and investor relations at Angie’s List before earning a graduate degree from the London School of Economics. He is a former student mentor at School 14 and Arsenal Tech High School.

Josh Owens
Josh Owens

“The board is full of smart, passionate people,” he said. “What I’m hoping to do is really bring some of that experience in the business world to help bring another perceptive to the board that I think would be useful for parents and students.”

Hampton, the senior pastor of a predominately African-American church, was inspired to run for school board because of the difference he believes education can make in the lives of the city’s youth. He said he is an outspoken advocate for preschool, and also friendly to ideas like school choice, vouchers and increased school autonomy.

David Hampton
David Hampton

“I believe that the primary key to overcoming violence is education,” Hampton said. “How do we justify not putting the money in education, but we can spend the money after an individual can commits a crime and goes to prison when we could prevent it?”

Batts did not return phone calls seeking comment, but said on Twitter that he wants to stop corporate influence in the district.

“Bright minds, community trust and a community united for school improvement — that’s what we need in IPS,” Batts wrote Aug. 15 on the social media site.

Neighborhood voting districts

Incumbent school board members Michael Brown, the longest-serving board member representing the Northwest side, and Samantha Adair-White, who serves the North side, also each face at least one challenger.

LaNier Echols

LaNier Echols, the Teach for America alumnus and charter school leader, will face off against Brown for the District 5 seat. She said she is running with the hope of expanding school autonomy and improving student performance, such as through higher graduation rates.

“What’s key is getting the right people on the bus,” she said in an interview in July. “What I’m rooting for in our community is making sure we have quality schools in every neighborhood.”

Brown said if he was reelected to the school board he would vote for policies and actions that were in the best interest of kids, not corporations.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

“Any decision I make is personal,” Brown said in a separate July interview. “When I talk about our children, I’m talking about the children of Indianapolis. Those the ones we have to wrap our arms around.”

Two candidates are running in the race to defeat incumbent board member Adair-White, who could not be reached for comment. Adair-White did not file to run again until hours before the deadline, according to Marion County Election Board records. She declined comment all summer about whether she would run again.

James Turner, a former graduation coach and behavior interventionist for IPS, has filed to run. Turner, a former IPS student, now is the Dean of Students at Fall Creek Academy Charter School and his children go to IPS.

Kelly Bentley
Kelly Bentley

“The crime going on in my city is almost directly related to how children are handled in school,” Turner said. “Education is the way out. I would be just one vote on the board, but maybe I could make a difference.”

Former school board member Kelly Bentley, a past critic of White’s leadership who wants to partner with outside organizations to help IPS, has been through several school board races and said she isn’t surprised about the number of candidates running.

“It ebbs and flows,” Bentley said. “That’s a lot of candidates to be on the ballot, but that’s how the process works. The season has begun.”

The IPS School Board Candidates are below:

At-Large District

  • Incumbent Annie Roof, school board president, IPS parent
  • Mary Ann Sullivan, former Democratic State Representative serving Indianapolis
  • David Hampton, senior pastor at Light of the World Christian Church
  • Josh Owens, Butler University economics professor
  • Ramon Batts, former IPS employee

District 3

  • Incumbent Samantha Adair-White, school board member representing North Side
  • Kelly Bentley, former school board member
  • James Turner, IPS parent and former district graduation coach

District 5

  • Incumbent Michael Brown, school board member
  • LaNier Echols, dean of students at Carpe Diem charter school

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”