Township school board races

Wayne Township school board candidates call for more funding

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Wayne Township's McClelland Elementary School. The district today passed a referendum with bout two-thirds of the vote.

This is one of 10 school board races in Marion County. Check back with Chalkbeat Indiana throughout the week for more information on the other candidates.

 

District snapshot

Wayne Township’s school year started on a high note with the release of 2014 ISTEP scores. The district saw the biggest gain in Marion County with a 5.8 percentage point increase to 64.4 percent of students passing. Superintendent Jeff Butts said test scores were helped by candid teacher convesations about what types of instruction were and were not working, and administrators stepped up observations and feedback to teachers. Wayne Township also redesigned its curriculum and put a greater focus on using student test score data as a guide to what needs to be taught differently. This test score upswing comes as the district has also seen growth in the number of poor families it serves.

Candidates in this race recently discussed the issues on Amos Brown’s radio show.

Key school district data

  • Enrollment: 15,925 students
  • Ethnicity: 39.4 percent white, 30.5 percent black, 22.9 percent Hispanic
  • Eligible for free and reduced-price lunch: 77.4 percent
  • ISTEP math and English passing rate 2014: 64.4 percent
  • 2012-13 graduation rate (most recent available): 87.2 percent

Candidates

  • Scott Edward Cline, 58, retired teacher who taught for 35 years in Wayne Township, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Mike Nance, 60, manager and owner of the UPS Store in Speedway, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Floyd Keith, 66, CEO of Planned Positive Attitude Professional Services, running as at at-large candidate.
  • Rochelle Olaleye, Senior Quality Engineer at Salesforce MarketingCloud, running for election as an at-large candidate.
  • Michael Morrow, 56, director of product costing/market analysis for Aero Industries Inc, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.

The following candidates could not be reached or did not respond to survey questions.

  • Stanley Ellis, running for re-election as an at-large candidate.
  • Brandon Bowman, running for election as an at-large candidate.

Why did you choose to run for the school board?

Cline: After teaching in Wayne Township for 35 years, I applied for the position 18 months ago when school board member Paul Calabro decided to retire early. I had known Mr. Calabro and his family since childhood and wanted to continue the excellent legacy that he has left behind.

Nance: I enjoy being involved in the community, especially the school system. I believe that I have a responsibility to give back to my community and try to help make Wayne Township a better place to live. A sound educational system is important for community growth.

Keith: I am running for the school board for the following reasons: My no. 1 concern and platform is “Keith for kids.” I believe EVERY kid deserves the opportunity to have a quality educational experience. It is my desire to be a voice for all we (the school board of Wayne Township) serve. Our school board must be relevant. We (Dr. Nicole Keith and myself as parents) have three children who are current students and one graduate of the school system. I am current and in real time with the issues facing our students. Our school board needs an experienced leader who is representative of Wayne Township families.

Olaleye: Education is key. I would like to do my part to help my district to continue to develop a world class education system.

Morrow: To help our students (young or old) to become productive citizens while making a positive impact on our community, and to help in that effort any way I can.

What issues will you focus on?

Cline: If elected, I will push for a more transparent means in seeing how our schools are being administered. Questions of how dollars are spent and why there seems to be inequities within buildings are my top concerns. Our teachers work hard, but one teacher in one building, being paid the same amount of money, should not be made to work additional hours or produce excessive, unneeded data. The letter grades of our schools have greatly improved, and we must continue to strive in maintaining those scores.

Nance: Strategic plan implementation, advancement of career and technical education.

Keith: Funding: Maintaining the essential services provided to our students and making the right decisions on the priorities. Maintaining our facilities. Being a champion for public education. Curriculum and assessment of the student: No. 1 is the academic success of the student. The ultimate objective of the system should be to enhance the educational experience of the student once they have arrived in the system.

Olaleye: Technology, building a stronger community.

Morrow: For the next few years, and beyond. The M.S.D. of Wayne Township School Board will have to be focused on items which will create the highest impact of financial cost reductions, while having the least amount of impact on our children’s education.

What is the most important issue facing your district?

Cline: Like most systems, providing and receiving future revenues is probably the greatest concern. Those legislators in the statehouse and federal government need to step in to today’s classroom for a week at a time. They need to truly understand how much teachers bring to the table with their own funds and what goes unfunded! I am a teacher advocate, yet at the same time an advocate for change! I am a firm believer that veteran teachers know what they are doing. Let them do what they do best and let them mentor newer teachers who are just beginning. 

Nance: Lack of funding by the state of Indiana.

Keith: Funding, funding and funding. Addressing the influences of economy and mobility. Combating the current “drought” of public education in the legislative process. Student academic success. Facilities: what to fix and what not to fix. Representation of the demographic population of Wayne Township.

Olaleye: Increasing overall success.

Morrow: Without a doubt it is the yearly loss of tax revenue. We have seen a significant decrease each of the past four years.

Anything else about yourself you’d like to share.

Cline: The new slogan, “Once A Giant, Always A Giant,” rings true for me! I am a product of Wayne Township Schools from grade 1 to grade 12, a 1974 graduate from Ben Davis High School. We also use the term, We Are Wayne! I can say that I Am Wayne. My family has been involved in Wayne Township schools for over 70 years. It is my dream to keep this school system alive and running well. We, as a community and township, can only make this area a better place to live and grow up in! Purple and White…..Keep The Spirit Alive!

Nance: I am proud of Wayne Township schools and very proud and honored to serve the residents of Wayne Township.

Keith: Floyd Keith has 44 years of professional expertise. Presently, he consults for the National Consortium for Academics and Sports of the University of Central Florida College of Business Administration, Indiana University-Purdue University and is CEO of PPA (Planned Positive Attitude) Professional Services. Previously, he served as the executive director for the Black Coaches and Administrators from 2001- 2013. Floyd graduated from Ohio Northern University in 1970 with a degree in education. With wife, Dr. Nicole R. Keith, an associate professor at IUPUI and current vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine, they have four children, all of whom attend or attended Wayne Township schools.

Olaleye: We are Wayne.

Morrow: I am a graduate of Ben Davis High School (Class of 1976), and in 1980 I graduated from Indiana State University with a BS degree in Industrial Technology Education. I have serve at many levels of management in industry for the past 30 years. In 2004 I founded the Ben Davis Dads’ Organization within Ben Davis High School and Wayne Township. The BD Dads’ Organization helps mentor students at both seventh grade and eighth grade centers, the freshman Center, Ben Davis University, and Ben Davis High School.

Answers have been edited for length.

choosing leaders

Meet one possible successor to departing Denver superintendent Tom Boasberg

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar
Denver Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova addresses teachers at an early literacy training session.

As Denver officials wrestle with how to pick a replacement for longtime superintendent Tom Boasberg, one insider stands out as a likely candidate.

Susana Cordova, the district’s deputy superintendent, already held her boss’s job once before, when Boasberg took an extended leave in 2016. She has a long history with the district, including as a student, graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School, and as a bilingual teacher starting her career more than 20 years ago.

When she was selected to sit in for Boasberg for six months, board members at the time cited her hard work and the many good relationships they saw she had with people. This time around, several community members are saying they want a leader who will listen to teachers and the community.

Cordova, 52, told Chalkbeat she’s waiting to see what the board decides about the selection process, but said she wants to be ready, when they are, to talk about her interest in the position.

“DPS has played an incredibly important role in every aspect of my life. I’m very committed to making sure that we continue to make progress as an organization,” Cordova said. “I believe I have both the passion and the track record to help move us forward.”

During her career, she has held positions as a teacher, principal, and first became an administrator, starting in 2002, as the district’s literacy director.

Just before taking on the role of acting superintendent in 2016, Cordova talked to Chalkbeat about how her education, at a time of desegregation, shaped her experience and about her long path to connecting with her culture.

“I didn’t grow up bilingual. I learned Spanish after I graduated from college,” Cordova, said at the time. “I grew up at a point in time where I found it more difficult to embrace my Latino culture, academically. There were, I would say, probably some negative messages around what it meant to be Latino at that point of time.”

She said she went through introspection during her senior year of college and realized that many students in her neighborhood bought into the negative messages and had not been successful.

“I didn’t want our schools to be places like that,” she said.

In her time as acting superintendent, she oversaw teacher contract negotiations and preparations for asking voters for a bond that they ultimately approved that fall. Cordova’s deputy superintendent position was created for her after Boasberg returned.

But it’s much of Cordova’s work with students of color that has earned her national recognition.

In December, Education Week, an education publication, named her a “Leader to Learn From,” pointing to her role in the district’s work on equity, specifically with English language learners, and in her advocacy to protect students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

Cordova was also named a Latino Educator Champion of Change by President Barack Obama in 2014. Locally, in 2016, the University of Denver’s Latino Leadership Institute inducted Cordova into its hall of fame.

The Denver school board met Tuesday morning, and again on Wednesday to discuss the superintendent position.

Take a look back at a Q & A Chalkbeat did with Cordova in 2016, and one in 2014.

saying goodbye

Here’s how the local and national education communities are responding to Boasberg’s exit

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar
Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg addresses teachers at an early literacy training session.

As the news of Tom Boasberg’s departure ricocheted through the local and national education community, critics and champions of the Denver schools superintendent sounded off.

Here’s a roundup of comments from teachers, parents, school board members past and present, elected officials, and some of Boasberg’s colleagues.

Alicia Ventura, teacher

“I am shocked! I understand his decision as I have one (child) grown and out of the house and one in middle school. Time with our children is short and precious! I will always remember how fun and open-minded Tom was. He would do anything for children and truly lived the students first vision! We will miss you!”

Michael Hancock, Denver mayor and Denver Public Schools graduate

“I am saddened that DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg will be stepping down but full of gratitude for his close partnership with the city on behalf of Denver’s kids and families. As a DPS graduate and a DPS parent, I know firsthand that Tom has led DPS with integrity and commitment. His focus on success for all kids has greatly improved our schools and provided better opportunities for all students to live their dreams.

“We have much work still to do in DPS, but we have an incredible foundation for moving forward and we are committed to continuing in partnership with the next DPS leader.”

Corey Kern, deputy executive director, Denver Classroom Teachers Association

“We were a little surprised by it ourselves. For us, we obviously wish Tom the best. The big focus for us is making sure the selection process for the next superintendent is something that is fair and transparent and open to the public; that it’s not a political appointment but talking to all stakeholders about who is the best person for the job for the students in Denver.”

Anne Rowe, president, Denver school board

“He has given … 10 years to this district as superintendent, and it is an enormous role, and he has given everything he has. … My reaction was, ‘I understand,’ gratitude, a little surprised but not shocked, certainly, and understand all the good reasons why he has made this decision.

“With change, there is always some uncertainty, and yet I look at the people here and their dedication to the kids in DPS and I have full confidence in these folks to continue driving forward while the board takes on the responsibility to select the next superintendent. We won’t miss a beat, and we have a lot of work to do for kids.”

Jeannie Kaplan, former school board member critical of the district’s direction

“I was very surprised. … I wish Tom well. I still do believe that working together is the way to get things done. I’m sorry we weren’t able to do that.

“My one hope would be that one of the primary criteria for the next leader of the district would be a belief in listening to the community – not just making the checkmark, but really listening to what communities want.”

John Hickenlooper, Colorado governor and former Denver mayor

“Tom Boasberg has invested a significant part of his life into transforming Denver Public Schools into one of the fastest-improving school districts in America. As a DPS parent, former mayor, and now governor, I am deeply grateful for the progress made under Tom’s leadership. I applaud Tom and Team DPS for driving the innovations that are creating a brighter future for tens of thousands of young people in every corner of the city.”

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who preceded Boasberg as Denver superintendent from 2005 to 2009 and has known him since childhood

“As a DPS parent, I thank him for his commitment, his compassion, and his extraordinary tenure. As Tom always says himself, we have a long way to go, but his transformational leadership has resulted in extraordinary progress over the past 10 years. Our student achievement has substantially increased, the number of teachers and other school personnel serving our children has grown tremendously, and the school choices available to children and their families have never been greater.”

Bennet also penned an op-ed in The Denver Post with this headline:

Ariel Taylor Smith, former Denver Public Schools teacher and co-founder of Transform Education Now, a nonprofit that focuses on improving schools through parent advocacy

“I was a teacher during Tom’s first half of his tenure at DPS and was amazed at how often he would walk the halls of North High School during our turnaround. Tom has dedicated 10 years to this work and for that I am grateful. I also believe that we have a long way to go to getting where we need to be. I believe that we are ready for new leadership who operates with the sense of urgency that we need to see in our city. There are 35,000 students who are attending ‘red’ and ‘orange’ (low-rated) schools in our city right now. One out of every three third-graders is reading on grade level. We need a new leader with a clear vision for the future and an evident sense of urgency to ensure that all our kids are receiving the education that they deserve.”

Brandon Pryor, parent and member Our Voice Our Schools, a group critical of the district

“You have a number of people he works with that are reformers. They think he’s leaving an awesome legacy and he did a lot to change and meet needs of the reformist community. You ask them and I’m sure his legacy will be great. But if you come to my community and ask some black folks what Tom Boasberg’s legacy will be, they’ll tell you something totally different.

“I think he has time with this last three months in office to follow through with some of the promises he’s made us (such as upgrades to the Montbello campus) to improve his situation.”

Jules Kelty, Denver parent

“He personally responded to an email that I sent him about my school. I appreciated that.”

Van Schoales, CEO of the pro-reform advocacy group A Plus Colorado

“On the one hand, I’m not surprised. And on the other hand, I’m surprised.

“I’m not surprised because he’s had a track record of pretty remarkable service for a decade, which is amazing. Nobody else has done that. The district has improved pretty dramatically. He deserves a great deal of credit for that. …The surprise is that we’ve all become so used to him being the superintendent, it’s just a little weird (to think of him leaving).”

Lisa Escárcega, executive director, Colorado Association of School Executives

“Tom’s longstanding commitment and service to DPS have made a significant impact on the district. He is strongly focused on ensuring student equity, and the district has seen improvement in several areas over the last 10 years under his superintendency. Tom is a strong and innovative leader, and I know he will be missed by the DPS community and his colleagues.”

John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education

“Under Tom Boasberg’s leadership for the past decade, Denver Public Schools has made remarkable academic progress and has become one of the most innovative school districts in the country. Tom has brought tremendous urgency and a deep commitment to closing both opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. For many school districts throughout the country, Denver’s innovative and collaborative approaches serve as a valuable model.”

Katy Anthes, state education commissioner

“I’ve appreciated working with Tom over the years and know that his personal commitment to students is incredibly strong. I thank Tom for his service to the students of DPS and Colorado.”

Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change, a national group of district and state superintendents 

“Tom Boasberg is an extraordinary leader who has dedicated his life to expanding opportunities for all of Denver’s children. During his tenure, the district has made remarkable gains on virtually every measure of progress. Denver Public Schools is a national model for innovation, district-charter collaboration, and teacher and school leader support. Every decision Tom has made over the course of his career has been focused on helping students succeed. No one is more respected by their peers. As a member of the Chiefs for Change board and in countless other ways Tom has supported education leaders across the nation. He leaves not just an impressive legacy but an organization of talented people committed to equity and excellence.”

David Osborne, author of the book “Reinventing America’s Schools,” which included chapters on Denver’s efforts

Share your thoughts on Boasberg’s exit here: