Learning Curve: A Range of Hoosiers Weigh In on Glenda Ritz

Says who? Students, teachers, policymakers, and wonks weigh in on the election, her readiness, and the state of Indiana education.

With all the noise surrounding new Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, will her agenda of slowing down reforms advance? Or is her voice—and those of her supporters—bound to get drowned out?

“I’m so much happier [now]. Last year, it was so chaotic.”
—Carolina Bishop, 18, a senior at T.C. Howe Community High, a turnaround academy now run by Fort Lauderdale–based Charter Schools USA



“Clearly, there was widespread disgruntlement among Indiana voters. With education in the media, attention to the changes that were implemented at schools, budget cuts, teacher layoffs … the voice of citizens—not only educators, but their families and others connected with education—was heard loud and clear.”
—Pat Rogan, executive associate dean of the IU School of Education on the IUPUI campus, which turns out 100 or so new teachers each year

“From my perspective, [the election] doesn’t change Manual High at all. We were given the task of turning this school around, and that’s what we’re still doing.”
—Byron Ernest, principal at Emmerich Manual High School, which is also now run by Charter Schools USA

“[The transition] raises some questions, because quite frankly a lot of us have our jobs because of Tony Bennett and because of the reforms that he did in Indiana. So it’s going to be interesting to see Glenda Ritz work with the Senate and the House, and see what she can do … how she works with these five [turnaround] schools in Indiana and what becomes of them.”
—Valerie Rice, visual-arts teacher, Emmerich Manual High

“The vote was not a referendum against reform. It was an anti–Tony Bennett vote. Very few people actually disagree with the sentiment that teachers should be evaluated against how their students are performing.”
—Spencer Lloyd, Emmerich Manual High fine-arts department head

“The teachers [here now] are a little bit younger. That gives them more enthusiasm to help the students.”
—Michael Hendon, 17, junior at T.C. Howe Community High. Hendon switched to Arsenal Technical High for the first nine weeks of the school year, thinking the newly taken-over Howe wouldn’t help him accomplish his academic goals. Hearing reports that the school had completely changed, he and his mother, Andrea Kyles, decided he should return.

“It was a major upset. Many teachers felt disrespected, marginalized [by Bennett]. I understand what he was trying to do [by turning over schools to private companies]. There was a better way to handle that than a takeover. [Ritz is] a very bright lady. She was an outstanding classroom teacher. She’s not going to condone poor teaching.”
—Eugene G. White, outgoing superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools



“The fact of the matter is, [the campaign] was run on personality, demonization, and circulating things that weren’t factually correct.”
—Todd Huston, freshman House Republican state lawmaker from Fishers, member of the House Committee on Careers and Education, and Tony Bennett’s first chief of staff

“They didn’t vote for Glenda because her name is Glenda Ritz. They voted for her because they want to see education treated in a different way than it’s been treated in the last four years. She believes in changing things for the better—that’s all she wants to do.”
—Nate Schnellenberger, president, Indiana State Teachers Association



“I’m hoping that with Glenda’s new post, we will be able to change the dialogue about education in our community, from being divisive and feeling polarized. She comes with that strong teacher voice. I mean, to be a nationally board-certified teacher speaks volumes to her professional credentials.”
—Ena Shelley, dean, Butler University’s College of Education



“At first, I thought it wasn’t going to be a good school, but now, it’s not what I thought it would be. I think they got it under control. I hope [Ritz] doesn’t change anything, because everything is running well.”
—Andrea Kyles, a parent of 9th- and 11th-grade students at T.C. Howe Community High, one of the failing IPS schools taken over by the state last summer

“I know the State Board will continue to be a champion for the [turnaround program], and for results and for accountability. We take a two-pronged approach: provide technical assistance and evaluation. Things that [schools] are not doing well, we feel inextricably responsible for helping them improve. I would hope that the new leadership would continue to take that approach, because that’s what’s in the best interests of students—regardless if they disagree with the policy or reforms.”
—Jim Larson, Indiana Department of Education’s outgoing director of school turnaround and improvement

“We have a network of the best education-reform organizations in the country—of any city our size, nationwide. We are extremely well-positioned to continue to drive change.”
—David Harris, CEO and founder of The Mind Trust, a nonprofit focused on reforming the city’s schools

“I understand that we have a new administrator for the Department of Education, but the superintendent [has] very limited authority to impact legislation or policies enacted by the school board. So it will be incumbent on her to make the case, as the half-dozen or so superintendents that we’ve worked with over the years have.”
—Brian Bosma, Republican Speaker of the House

Photos by Tony Valainis

These quotes appeared as part of the feature story “Glenda Ritz Doesn’t Want to Hear It!” in the February 2013 issue.