School House Rocked: A New Charter School Wants Your Kids
Indianapolis charter schools are signing up students as fast as they can find them. Will reform spell the end of traditional public education?
Inside Crooked Creek Elementary School’s cafeteria, Glenda Ritz wielded a scalpel, in-structing about 100 fourth-graders in the art of dissecting a spiny dogfish shark. The smell of the dead specimens, spread out on metal trays on top of blue table covers, filled the air. It was a lesson she had delivered—and a procedure she’d performed—more than a dozen times throughout her 33-year teaching career.
An unlikely but passionate rift has heated up in a Southern Indiana school district over the concept of prom events for opposite- and same-gender student pairs. First, Diana Medley, a special education teacher in the Northeast School Corporation in Sullivan County, made remarks to a WTWO-TV (Terre Haute) reporter that set the Internet and regional and even national media atwitter. Outside of a planning meeting for a strictly opposite-sex-dating prom in the school district, she said, in response to the interviewer’s question about whether she thinks gay people have “some purpose in life”: “I don’t. I personally don’t, I’m sorry. I don’t understand it.” In the same TV news report, Bill Phegley, a pastor at Carlisle Christian Church, makes statements considered incendiary by some and to be treasured by others, saying Christians are always “prepared for a fight” and that Jesus gives them “armor for the front, not the back” so as not to run away from that fight.
Walking around downtown Washington, D.C., on Monday morning amidst the crowds of inauguration-goers, it was difficult to tell who hailed from where—and then there was the man in a Purdue hat who said “Boiler Up!” with a big smile in response to my companion who initiated that exchange. Yet I learned ahead of time that there would be more than a few other Hoosiers in attendance, including performers in the parade after the official swearing in of President Barack Obama:
Florida likes the way Tony Bennett, Indiana’s uprooted Superintendent of Public Instruction, thinks: teacher evaluations based on student performance, schools receiving grades on the same scale used for their charges, and the headline-grabbing push for more charter education and voucher programs. The Sunshine State apparently longed for his leadership and initiative, offering him the reins to clean up its education system in the midst of his term as the Hoosier State’s public schools czar. The Floridian version of the role boasted a salary that tripled his own in Indiana.
To understand the chasm currently separating Indiana’s political parties, all you need to do is picture their election-night celebrations. On November 6, the Democrats chose a sedate ballroom at the Downtown Marriott. The Republicans, who were marching toward supermajorities in the House and the Senate, chose the end zone at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With its wide bookshelves varying from dark aged wood to more modern circular cases, The Indianapolis Public Library—Central Library—writes the book on combining old with new. And now it has been chosen by MentalFloss.com as the fifth most beautiful library in the United States. With contenders among these Top 10 such as the Armstrong–Browning Library at Baylor University in Texas and the Morgan Library in New York, Indy should be flattered. Most of the edifices chosen are on the coasts, and Indy’s downtown main branch is the sole Midwest rep on this list.