Pharos-Tribune

State News

December 15, 2012

New school leader making allies, even across party lines

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s new schools superintendent, Glenda Ritz, is making some allies in the Statehouse: Republican legislators who pushed the education-reform laws that triggered a wave of voter discontent that carried the Democrat Ritz into her new job.

Those alliances could lead to some changes in how some of the laws, aimed at boosting teacher accountability and increasing student achievement, are being implemented.

A hint of what those changes may be came last week, at a legislative preview conference where Ritz shared a microphone — and some common ground — with a would-be adversary, Republican state Senate Education Committee chairman Dennis Kruse.

Both said the new A-to-F grading system for schools has been a failure; both are critical of a high-stakes teacher-evaluation tool that ties teacher pay to student test scores; and both want the state to commit to fully funding full-day kindergarten before its starts doling out dollars for pre-kindergarten programs.

And both, despite their significant differences on some major issues – including the private-school vouchers and the expansion of charter schools that Kruse favors – have pledged to work together to get some things done.

“I’ve never, ever asked, in any position that I’ve served in leadership in, anybody’s political party and I don’t intend to pay attention to that now,” said Ritz, the only Democrat elected to statewide office in November.

“I’m going to talk to whomever I need to talk to, to be sure I have what I need to get things done,” she added.

Ritz, 60, is a longtime classroom teacher who likes to say she’s “an educator, not a politician.”

It’s true she’d never run for office before this year, when she switched political parties to take on the current superintendent of public instruction, Republican Tony Bennett. (Bennett, who lost the November race, was appointed head of the Florida schools system last week.)

But Ritz is practicing some good politics in forging relationships with some key Republicans; it’s their party that holds super-majority control of both the state House and Senate.

“She understands that if she takes an adversarial approach, she’ll get nothing,” said Kruse.

Republican state Sen. Luke Kenley, an education-reform advocate and head of the Senate appropriations committee, said his initial skepticism of Ritz changed after spending a couple of hours with her, talking details of education policy.

“She clearly knows what the issues are,” Kenley said. “I suggested there would be a number of things she would probably be in favor of, that we could advance.”

Among them: re-examining how teachers are being evaluated due to a law that ties teacher pay and tenure to student achievement. “We’re both very concerned that we find the right kind of model that helps build good teachers,” Kenley said.

Ritz won her election by getting 1.3 million votes – winning more votes than Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence did.

While some Democrats and teacher-unions leaders claimed her victory was a wholesale rejection by voters of the sweeping changes made in K-12 schools in recent years, she doesn’t see it that way.

“There are many things that are already in law that I don’t have a problem with.” said Ritz. “It’s the implementation of the laws that perhaps has had the negative effects on classrooms and schools and the school systems in our state.”

Kruse, Kenley and other GOP legislators have already promised they’ll take a look at how to reshape the new A to F grading system for schools, which caused significant consternation when they were released in October.

The system, based on a complicated formula that uses test scores and a “growth model” that compares academic peers, came out of a new law that was intended to give parents a clear look at how their child’s school was performing.

But how those grades were configured instead was confusing, Kruse said. “The formula was so complex that even Ph.Ds in education can’t understand it.”

Officially, Ritz doesn’t take office until January. But she’s already working overtime, working with a transition team to craft potential legislation, hire top staff, and, she said, dispel some the misconceptions that legislators may have of her.

“I think there is a perception, perhaps, of me being opposed to everything that was passed and that’s just not true. I mean, it’s just not true,” said Ritz.

“It’s the implementation of those laws that has been my focus,” she said. “I want to see a different pathway to implementing those laws.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • 6 Indiana projects get national humanities grants INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three universities in Indiana have been awarded a total of $1.25 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The endowment announced Monday that Indiana University's Indianapolis branch campus is receiving $1

    July 22, 2014

  • Indiana governor's residence gets honey bee hive INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's Governor's Residence is getting a bee hive to call its own. First lady Karen Pence was scheduled to unveil a honey bee hive Tuesday morning at the Governor's Residence on Indianapolis' north side. The hive and its bees w

    July 22, 2014

  • Indiana man pleads not guilty to courthouse threat HAMMOND (AP) — A man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he threatened to blow up an Indiana courthouse and kill judges and police officers. Twenty-two-year-old Samuel Bradbury of Pine Village entered the plea during a federal court hearin

    July 22, 2014

  • 2 in custody after Greene County man found slain in home SOLSBERRY (AP) — Indiana State Police say two men considered persons of interest have been taken into custody after a Greene County man was found slain in his rural home. Sgt. Curt Durnil says Indianapolis police took 35-year-old Jason Lee Caldwell o

    July 21, 2014

  • Indiana's bills for highway damage face challenge INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A trucking company is asking the state appeals court to limit the Indiana Department of Transportation's authority to sue over damage done to state highways. The challenge is in court as the highway agency is trying to collect mor

    July 21, 2014

  • Downed jet victim was NW Indiana exchange student DEMOTTE (AP) — An Indiana University graduate student's boyfriend who died with her on the downed plane in Ukraine had spent six months in northwestern Indiana as a high school exchange student. Jenny Jonkman says Laurens Van Der Graaff came from the

    July 21, 2014

  • New alcohol charge against John Mellencamp's son BLOOMINGTON (AP) — The 20-year-old son of rock star John Mellencamp faces an underage drinking charge while awaiting resolution of charges that he and his brother seriously injured a man in a fight. Monroe County court records show Hud Mellencamp of

    July 21, 2014

  • Dozens attend vigil for Indiana boy who drowned AVON (AP) — The aunt of a 7-year-old boy who drowned in a neighborhood retention pond in suburban Indianapolis says she is working to establish free swimming lessons for inner-city children. Dozens of people attended a vigil Sunday evening for Javon

    July 21, 2014

  • Security to be tight at Expo event's final weekend INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis officials are taking extra steps to ensure safety at a popular downtown event in a year that has seen a surge in homicides. Police Chief Rick Hite said Friday that officers are increasing patrols and enforcing a curfe

    July 18, 2014

  • Purdue Northwest picked as name of merged campuses WEST LAFAYETTE (AP) — Purdue University Northwest has been picked as the new name for the merger of the school's two regional campuses in northwestern Indiana. The university's board of trustees on Friday approved the name that will cover the current

    July 18, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.