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
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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, 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.
“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.
“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:
- 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
- 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
- Incumbent Michael Brown, school board member
- LaNier Echols, dean of students at Carpe Diem charter school