Friday, December 7, 2012

Reflections on REPA 2

Guest blogger Julian Smith writes...
Some reflections on the State Board of Education meeting today.

First, it was encouraging to have a packed Riley room and so many advocates for public education in attendance and speaking up. There will be a day of reckoning.

I'm really not sure, after reflecting on the proceedings exactly what I witnessed today. The agenda was revised then revised again. Public comments were going to be at the end, then they decided at the beginning, but speakers were admonished to keep their remarks to 3 minutes as they had already heard all this before.

Dr. Bennett did introduce Glenda Ritz and allowed her to address the board. She did an excellent job summarizing and illuminating major concerns and made a logical case for tabling REPA 2, and urged the board to do so as the public had had little time to digest the proposed changes and there is no current crisis that would suggest a need to rush.

Then moved on to public comments, and I originally thought this was going to be different than usual. For A-F grading all public comments were against, and they did it anyway. For REPA 2 all former public comments had been against, but this time they did recruit two people to speak in favor. One was a charter school teacher and I don't recall the other. Then the balance of the comments were in opposition. I was surprised and maybe missed it, but expected someone to make the case that one would not go to a surgeon with no training just because they could pass an anatomy test. One would not hire a lawyer or policeman just because they know the law. I did hear the word pedagogy today more in 3 hours than in all the rest of my life. The problem was those tossing the term around either didn't know the definition or had no appreciation for it.

I know if I use names I will miss someone and for that I apologize, but I particularly remember the comments of Phyllis Bush from Fort Wayne who gave views from the perspective of a retired teacher against demeaning the profession by allowing an adjunct license to anyone with a bachelors. And took note specifically of Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, who spoke eloquently about her concerns from the perspective of a mother of school age children and the practice of hiring teachers with no training would be damaging and dangerous for kids. Thanks to Cathy and Phyllis for making the trip and the work they are undertaking to advocate for students by standing up for public schools.

Following public comment, I was never aware that a motion had been made to accept REPA 2 or the summarized changes presented by the DOE as discussion began. I was stunned that board member Neil Pickett, after complaining that he had heard all the objections before, had a few questions and asked for clarification on a few items. It was amazing that anyone showing such contempt for the concerns of others, because he is so well informed and knows better than the public, could then need clarification or more information.

Board member Tony Walker, suggested that the concern over an adjunct license was not a valid concern because local boards are not required to hire teachers with an adjunct license. But it left me thinking what would happen should local boards continue to feel the financial squeeze and qualified trained teachers such as Math and Science become even more difficult to locate and lure. Wouldn't it be tempting to just hire a few as starting teachers rather then paying what's required to get an experienced highly qualified teacher to relocate? Additionally, I wonder how long it will be before a few children, nieces, nephews, friends of friends etc. who have lost a job or can't find one fresh out of college are invited take a job teaching because anybody can do it!

Board member Mike Pettibone shared concerns and admonished the board that they had not two, but three options. They could vote yes, no, or table the matter. He suggested that they should recognize that morale over public education was at an all time low, and to push further may not be a good idea. He suggested waiting, studying further, and said he would like to have full final version rather than just a DOE summary on the table before he voted yes or no. He then made a motion to table REPA 2, and it died for lack of second.

Jo Blacketor made a crazy comment that we lose a child every 26 seconds, so in her eyes REPA 2 needed to be passed because there is a crisis. I still don't know what she was talking about. Along with Neil Pickett, she was the other board member that continually demonstrated by her exasperation and body language that she had nothing but contempt for anyone that didn't agree with her and she suggested that any opposition was purely political and had nothing to do with what was best for students. Made me wonder what is best for her? Make no mistake what this is really about is equipping takeover and charter schools with the authority to hire non educators to teach at the lowest possible salary so the operators of those schools have more dollars to stick in their pocket. Additionally, by exponentially increasing the hiring pool, they no longer have the challenge of staffing their classrooms with quality qualified people. They truly believe that anyone can teach, so now they can hire, anyone!

I'm still scratching my head over the next thing that happened. Neil Pickett, after getting his foggy notions illuminated and clarified then had an epiphany and decided he could fix the whole thing by offering a few amendments. So he asked to amend REPA 2 by adding a stipulation to the adjunct license requirement, decided that ESL teachers should demonstrate some qualification other than a bachelors and maybe some other minor change or two. I still think what happened next was that someone seconded his amendment, and they voted. I'm thinking they voted on the amendment. Then Dr. Bennett shares that REPA 2 is now passed by a vote of 9-2.

I haven't had parlimentary procedure since high school, but I'm pretty sure the moderator is supposed to have a main motion on the floor before an amendment can be offered, and when an amendment is offered it is to be debated and voted on, then you go back to the main motion and vote on it. It was all very fuzzy too me, but that's the way it got done.

Ok, if you've read this far you can't get away without a task. So click on and thank Mike Pettibone for his support in speaking up for teachers and offering a motion to table REPA 2, and for voting no when whatever it was that was voted on came up for a vote. Then click on and thank board member Cari Whicker who also said she had concerns and voted no as well.

The only other two noteworthy takeaways came after REPA 2 had passed and one came from Dan Clark, chairman of the Education Roundtable who mentioned that Indiana's math standards are superior to common core, and that registered a return on my radar. Senator Kruse who chairs the Senate Education Committee has already said he is in favor of revisiting adoption of common core because he has reconsidered, and it is noteworthy because it's not Ms. Ritz making waves and trying to upset the apple cart, but someone inside the DOE is pointing out an issue as well as a high ranking Republican. Maybe there will be more to come on this in the future after Tony takes off to work on his tan?

Additionally there was testimony from some takeover operators and I found it significant that in general terms they shared that all was going well. However they then went on to share that to this point they have only accomplished about 5 percent of what they'd like to accomplish (I don't really know what they are measuring with this percentage) because "these things take time". I wanted to stand up and shout out, DUH! Just left me wondering how much time they will need to achieve the other 95%? I hope it is not in excess of the latitude afforded traditional public schools? These people are supposed to have all the answers and be the miracle workers. It doesn't become them to start bellyaching and complaining about time. We all live by the same Good Ole Mitch's Daylight Savings Time.

That's it. If your still reading, thanks for sticking with it and please share with those interested in the shenanigans on Ohio Street.


1 comment:

Jo Blacketor said...

The REPA action was taken per legislative directive four years ago. The Indiana Professional Licensing board was shut down and ordered to go under the IDOE. There has been four years of open public discussion on this. Attached are some documents that may help you. We never (once) said that we did not value teachers. In fact, the teacher evaluation process came out of many teacher complaints of NCLB. IDOE sought a waiver and was told by USDOE- waiver granted but teacher evaluations are/were required. All local corporations had the right to develop their own evaluations. IDOE only provided a sample evaluation (not mandated) for those corporations who didn't want to do this work. As a result of the evaluations the USDOE has provided $60 million to reward highly qualified teachers.

There was no "slap in the face" - this has been a long process with a timeline that has been outlined for years and everyone had a chance to speak all along. The slap in the face is that they waited until the 11th hour (contrary to who was sitting in the Superintendent's seat) to complain. Rick, you of all people, should know how inappropriate it is to turn these issues into political hogwash. It is (and will remain) about improving education for kids.

As a side not - Local corporations still make the hiring decisions.

Please find attached the total comments of speech that I made or watch it on the IDOE web site video stream at

I have total respect for teachers - I just believe we should embrace others who are coming out of professions bringing their expertise and passion to children without having to return to college for training. My decision was not made based on who was sitting at the head of the table but the statutory responsibility to act on this which we were directed by legislators along with many years of discussion, hearings and public input (which is reflected in the final form of REPA 2).

I have provided you the documentation provided to the public on REPA 2 along with a review of the original REPA 1 presentation from February 2011. I hope you find this information helpful.

I appreciate your interest and welcome a phone call should you like to discuss this further,

Jo Blacketor
IDOE Board Member, Congressional District 21
South Bend, IN

Those interested in my complete statement and/or other background materials email me directly at