(Chalkbeat talked with the 10 candidates running for a spot on the Indianapolis Public Schools board about their backgrounds, educational philosophies, and why and how they want to influence the school district if they are elected Nov. 4. To compare their positions against other candidates, visit our interactive election tracker.)
Samantha Adair-White realizes she is in a fight for her political life.
Two challengers are seeking to take her District 3 seat on the Indianapolis Public School Board on Nov. 4. She was a surprise winner in the 2010 school board election, taking the seat with fewer than 40 votes more than her opponents. Kelly Bentley, who held the District 3 seat for 12 years before deciding not to run again last time, wants the seat back now. Also running is James Turner, a former IPS employee now working as a charter school athletic director and dean.
Adair-White is married to a former IPS principal and her children attended IPS School 84. Here is what she told Chalkbeat about her background, goals for the district and thoughts on education issues.
She ran for the school board four years ago to have a greater influence on students.
“That’s when everything exploded,” she said. “I’ve been on this journey for 14 years. I ran because I felt that the adults were taking care of adults and not taking care of children. I felt like it was my time. I’m not a politician. I’m a parent.”
She doesn’t get the hype around “reform” candidates.
“Everybody wants to say they’re running on reform,” she said. “I’ve been on the board for four years. Reform has happened. There’s still a long way to go, but we have done a wonderful job. What I think reform is us all working together trying to make a difference.”
She believes incremental improvements matter.
“It might not look like we’re moving fast enough, but no one wants to take into account the type of students we service,” Adair-White said. “Each kid is different. If we have a kid that was an F student and a year from now he becomes a D student, I feel like that is success. That is growing. Is it where we want to be? Absolutely not, but it’s better than where we were.”
She votes with her gut.
“Some people might not like it: I’m outspoken,” she said. “I say what I feel. I don’t bite my tongue on any issue I have a problem with.”
She’s not against charter schools, but she thinks their successes are overblown.
“I don’t want any other school district to fail,” she said. ” I want everyone to succeed. When they succeed, my babies succeed. I believe in competition — good competition. But when you cherry pick the best of the best students, why wouldn’t you have a 100 percent graduation rate? You’ve got a low-special education population, fewer (children in special education). I’m glad you graduated 100 percent of the kids, but don’t compare yourself to IPS because it’s nothing like it. There’s not a school around here, except Gary, that can pretty much be about equal to what we deal with.”
She is an advocate for higher pay for teachers and IPS staff members.
“I don’t know why we always put our teachers last,” Adair-White said. “I feel that our teachers are not given what I think they deserve, and it’s a lot more than money. It comes down to support. It comes down to making sure they’ve got the things they need to succeed. It’s making sure they’ve got smaller class sizes. But it’s not just teachers. When our kids get up in the morning and go to the bus stop, the first person they see is the bus driver. That’s important. Then they get to school, and they might see the secretary … and custodians. We forget about them.”
Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat and WFYI’s Oct. 23 education conversation event at the Indianapolis Public Library