After nearly four years of planning, big changes are beginning to reshape Indianapolis Public Schools. For the first time, the school board will have an evangelist for new thinking leading the way.
The board unanimously choose former-legislator Mary Ann Sullivan at its new president today. A vocal advocate for transforming IPS — by empowering principals, partnering with outside groups and creating a cheaper, smaller central office staff — Sullivan was enthusiastic that those plans are finally coming to fruition.
“I’m sure we have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” Sullivan said. “But I do think that with … a lot of the different aspects of the strategic plan actually being realized, versus just having conversations about them — we’re putting a lot of things in motion now.”
The board is largely unified in its vision for the district, with six of the seven members strongly supporting the sorts of changes Sullivan endorsed. But until now, all of the board presidents since the first reform-minded newcomers were elected in 2012 had predated that election.
The choice of Sullivan was anticipated because she was the only board member who actively sought the job. The board also re-elected Sam Odle as vice-president and LaNier Echols as secretary.
“I’m really excited,” said Sullivan, a former state representative who was elected to the IPS board in 2014. “I just think that there’s so much positive energy and opportunity right now.”
Sullivan has a long history of political work on education. As a Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives, she was a vocal proponent of school reform measures, such as test-based accountability and charter schools.
The president must work closely with the superintendent and district administration, as well as facilitate meetings and consensus among board members, said board member Diane Arnold, who was president in 2015.
“I think Mary Ann will do a good job of that, of being able to do that kind of background work,” Arnold said. “She’s well connected.”