A recently published political cartoon stated that, “school reform will continue with Glenda Ritz as the new driver.” That cartoon inspired me to write this letter to the citizens of Indiana. I am the new driver. Let me tell you about how, together, we will not reform but transform our education system for Indiana’s future economic prosperity.
I have never met an educator, parent, or taxpayer that does not know the importance of education in our society. As a teacher of 34 years, I never aspired to be the Superintendent of Public Instruction, but I felt compelled to run for the position not to turn back the clock on reform but to drive the bus toward real transformation.
The vision of my administration is Imagining the Possibilities. Making them Happen. The Department of Education's mission is "to build an education system of equity and high quality focused on student-centered accountability."
We are embarking on a community approach to educating our children. No matter where a child lives in Indiana, they should enter schools that have equity in resources and the expectation they will receive a high quality education. I have structured the Department of Education to create the division of Outreach for School Improvement. The dedicated educators serving as Outreach coordinators in the nine different regions in Indiana are hired from within the regions they serve and will be responsible for facilitating resources to schools based on school improvement needs. The needs of schools will drive the Department’s legislative agenda, focus our grant-writing efforts, and determine community partnerships and supports.
What about accountability? It has to be student-centered. Accountability is a joint endeavor --- students must receive the supports needed from caring adults, in and outside our school walls.
As we move toward a new vision, I am overwhelmed with the support of the 1.3 million voters who share the vision. The voters of Indiana hired me to do what is right for their children, and every day I take my service just as seriously as I did in the classroom. The most frustrating part of my job is the political pressure (state and national - by both parties) to oppose transformation efforts of our education system because they may reject the notion that there are different and better ways to achieve the same goals. So, in my words, I will offer my thoughts in upcoming letters to the editor on current educational debate topics…not from a politician’s perspective, but from an educator’s perspective.
Stay tuned for my views in future letters to the editor on the topics of standards and assessments, school accountability, college and career pathways for all students, reading and balanced curriculum, school improvement, respectful and positive learning and teaching environments, school choice, and teacher quality. Let the conversation continue.