State Superintendent Race

Ritz vs. McCormick is the 2016 showdown for Indiana state superintendent

Yorktown superintendent Jennifer McCormick accepts the nomination for Indiana state superintendent at the Indiana GOP Convention.

Yorktown school Superintendent Jennifer McCormick today was named the Republican choice to challenge incumbent Democrat Glenda Ritz in the November election for state superintendent at Indiana’s GOP convention in Indianapolis.

McCormick, who has been backed by supporters of Ritz’s predecessor, Tony Bennett, since she announced her plan to run in January, only faced one challenger at the convention: Dawn Wooten, an English instructor at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne.

Despite a flyer circulated Friday by Wooten’s team highlighting McCormick’s sometimes Democratic voting history in Delaware County, McCormick was the crowd favorite after speeches by both and won easily, taking 1,030 votes to Wooten’s 574.

McCormick said Ritz was a poor leader and manager of the Indiana Department of Education. In her place, McCormick promised to “establish a vision that promises a world class education.”

“Currently, we have a Department of Education that lacks leadership and vision,” McCormick said, “and, when you have that, things become disorganized and disconnected from the local level.”

McCormick was a favorite of party leaders going in because of her background as an educator and school leader. She has been a teacher, principal and superintendent. She will need to capitalize on those strengths in the fall against Ritz, who is popular with educators.

“Indiana students deserve a state superintendent with proven and successful K-12 leadership,” McCormick said. “And I am the only candidate running in either party with that experience.”

McCormick has a doctorate in educational leadership from Indiana State University and has been superintendent in Yorktown, near Muncie, for five years. The district has been rated an A for six straight years, primarily for high test scores.

Ritz is one of fewer than 200 Indiana teachers to earn National Board certified teachers, a challenging credential, and served as both a regular and special education teacher before finishing her classroom experience as an elementary school librarian. She also was president of the teachers union in Washington Township, one of the state’s largest.

McCormick will try to repeat the stunning success Ritz had in 2012, by beating a high profile incumbent seeking re-election. Ritz, a political unknown, was given little chance against Bennett, who had become a national school reform darling for pushing school choice, tougher teacher evaluation and more school accountability in his term in office.

Despite being massively outspent by Bennett, Ritz built a sophisticated word-of-mouth campaign that utilized union contacts, educator networks and skillful social media techniques to build a winning coalition.

Among the issues McCormick is expected to challenge Ritz on big issues from her term, like changes to state academic standards and ISTEP testing. But Ritz’s campaign spokeswoman Annie Mansfield today touted her announcement last week of a plan to expand preschool to make it available to all Indiana children.

“Ritz has maintained a focus on establishing universal pre-K, providing adequate funding for all public schools and investing in high-quality teachers,” Mansfield said

She said Ritz’s team expected McCormick’s nomination.

“Gov. (Mike) Pence has been attacking Superintendent Ritz for the past four years, so it’s no surprise that his handpicked candidate would launch her campaign by doing the same,” Mansfield said.

Ritz, who had no primary challengers, will be formally nominated along with gubernatorial candidate John Gregg at next weekend’s Democratic convention.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.