Public Education Has Lost a Champion

NEIFPE co-founder Phyllis Bush passed away on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Phyllis's passion for public education and her sense of humor helped support NEIFPE members through difficult times with the pro-privatization forces in the Indiana legislature and State Board of Education. No matter how many damaging things they did (and continue to do) she would always come up with a “semi-brilliant idea” to energize her "minions." Her leadership, vision, and strength will be missed.

This page will be updated with tributes to Phyllis. Check back...

You can read some Facebook tributes HERE.


From Phyllis's home town newspaper -- the Fort Dodge, Iowa Messenger.

She lived a life of love and learning
Life brings us what we call “teaching moments” — and from the time Phyllis Bush began her teaching career as a 22-year-old until she drew her last breath in March at the age of 75, she provided plenty of such moments to her students, family, friends and fellow educators.

Over her 32-year teaching career, the Fort Dodge native taught English to thousands of students in Illinois and Indiana. But when faced with colon cancer that could not be contained, she taught another, more important lesson: how to die with courage, grace and dignity while maintaining a strong will to live.

Phyllis Daniel Bush was a teacher to the very end.

“When she was in the oncology unit for her second or third chemo treatment,” recalled Donna Roof, her spouse, “there was a lady sitting right behind us who appeared nervous and apprehensive. Phyllis started talking to her. She worked very hard to assuage her fears. This was a person she had never met, a stranger. She was able to get people to face their fears or assuage their fears, to let them know — ‘You can do this’ — whether it’s a student with a 20-page paper to write or a stranger taking chemo.”
Last December, when it was clear that the cancer could not be overcome, Bush began making preparations for the limited time she had left, including writing her own obituary and planning with Roof her memorial services that were to be held Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, her home city. She died March 19 while under hospice care.

In the obituary, Bush wrote, “I am fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends whose love and support made me realize that there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for. When you come to celebrate my life, you will meet people who have influenced my life and/or have been a major part of it. It is then that you will know who I am, and who I’ve been.”

Phyllis A. Daniel was born in Fort Dodge on August 7, 1943, the youngest child of John and Renee Daniel. Phyllis’ father and his father, Ferris Daniel, founded Daniel Tire Co. (now operated by relatives Steve and Jeff Daniel) and in 1963, her father and her brother John opened Daniel Pharmacy, which John has been operating to this day at 1114 Central Ave. Her sister Joan taught in Fort Dodge and Webster City.
“My dad and granddad were strong-willed, and my sister got some of that,” said John, a pharmacist like his son John III, part of a family business that includes a gift shop, home decor and Merle Norman studio operated by John’s daughter Mary Kay Daniel. “Phyllis was smart and she really communicated well. In our neighborhood softball games, she was strong. She could hit the ball better than most of us. I remember when she learned to ride a bike — I was running alongside her, it took her just a half hour to learn. She was pretty determined, strong-willed.”
Sarah Kercheval, who was Bush’s best friend in high school, said it was no surprise she became a teacher.
“She admired her teachers, and they admired her,” Kercheval said. “In high school, one of the English teachers had a son who was about to be married. The teacher asked Phyllis to come to her house for dinner and wanted help in planning a shower for the bride-to-be. Phyllis helped with the menu (I think it was something that included little sausages covered with grape jelly) and concocted some shower games like naming their first baby after a famous author. Think about it. A teacher actually asking a student for help. And later, much later, when Phyllis blogged about what Cancer-Schmantzer was doing to her body, her students would respond with love and sympathy.”
Rosemary Steinmaus Kolacia, a fellow member of the Fort Dodge Senior High Class of 1961, knew Bush from junior high school on.
“She lived at Expo Pool in the summer as did I,” Kolacia said. “We became better friends after she was out of college and teaching. She never missed a class reunion. I would ask her to give our class some sort of speech at the reunion programs. She was so eloquent. She always ended up doing it but it was not her favorite thing to do. Sometimes she agreed to do it but only for me. Once I had to promise her a visit to us in Florida and she would agree. I loved her and will miss her. Oh, how I wish she would have willed me her vocabulary.” more


April 11, 2019

The PFW School of Education has established a new practice to honor educators and education students who have passed away. They will be reading tributes at their department meetings and entering the tribute into the minutes of the meeting. Here is the tribute NEIFPE member Terry Springer read in honor of Phyllis Bush...
Retired FWCS teacher Phyllis Bush passed away on March 19, 2019. Phyllis taught for 32 years, spending 24 years at South Side High School where she taught English and also served as the Chair of the English Department. After she retired, her concern for what was happening to public education led her to become a public education activist. She took the lead in founding the advocacy group Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, and she joined with national education leaders Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody to create the Network for Public Education. For her work, Phyllis received the 2015 ISTA Friend of Education Award. She was recognized as one of Parkview's Women of Grace in 2018, and NPE established the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing in 2018 to honor her public education advocacy.

This overview of her career does not reflect what a remarkable educator Phyllis was. She was a master teacher, a mentor, and an activist. She cared deeply about her students and so built meaningful and long lasting relationships with them. As one former student wrote: “She supported us not only in our academics but in our personal lives and through friendship, even after our school days had passed.”` She was a passionate advocate for public education and put her passion into action. She wrote letters to the editor and to legislators, visited legislators in Indianapolis, and testified in committee hearings. She became a local, regional, and national voice for public education, and she inspired others to get involve and take action as well. Phyllis was motivated by what she had learned as a teacher. She wrote

While my experiences teaching in public schools were not perfect, I learned that not everyone has had the same advantages and opportunities as I have had. Of course, teaching my classes about Hamlet and subordinate clauses was important, but I learned that teaching the whole child was even more important. I learned that children are more than test scores and that the lives and challenges of all children matter. I learned that I cared about who children are more than I cared about the grades that they earned. Because of what I learned while I was teaching, I know that I will continue to advocate for the right of all kids to have the same opportunities to get an education that matters.
With her passing, the community lost a remarkable woman, a fine teacher and a committed champion for education.


March 27, 2019

Letter to the Editor:

Passionate leader receives fitting tribute
Thanks to Karen Francisco for the moving op-ed tribute (“A Lifelong Teacher,” March 21) she wrote in honor of Phyllis Bush, our public schools advocate. Phyllis founded Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and led members with untiring devotion to save public education. We will continue to don our green shirts and “fight the good fight,” but we will miss Phyllis' passionate guidance and encouragement.

Kathy Candioto

NEIFPE member


March 25, 2019

Transcript of remarks made by Anne Duff, NEIFPE member and member of the FWCS Board of Education at the Mar 25, 2019 FWCS Board meeting.
Phyllis was much more than a teacher. She was more than an education advocate. She was more than a mentor and a friend. Phyllis was special. When she retired, she knew there was more to retirement than walking her dogs and going to book club. She continued to be a powerful force by being a mentor, a leader, and a spokesperson for public education. 8 years ago, she attended the Save Our Schools march in Washington DC. Her attendance at the event brought her passion for education to the forefront as an advocate, and it was shortly after this event that Phyllis, Donna Roof, and Terry Springer, all now retired teachers, formed the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public education. Phyllis’s voice rang throughout not only Indiana but the nation. Through social media, phone calls, and in person meetings, she brought groups together in Indiana and beyond to fight for public education. Diane Ravitch noticed her passion and recruited her to be part of a national organization she was forming, the Network for Public Education. Phyllis served as a board member for 6 years and became known and loved nationwide to many public education advocacy groups. At the most recent NPE conference in Indianapolis, Phyllis proudly presented the first annual award named in her honor, the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing, to Save our Schools Arizona. Public education advocates around the nation are mourning the loss of our warrior. But we will continue to fight in her honor as we try to be as courageous as Phyllis. Getting a “shout out” from Diane Ravitch was a big honor for Phyllis…she received several herself and often shared other people’s letters and blogs with Diane so they would get a shout out, too. One of Diane’s most recent shout outs to Phyllis describes what many of us experienced by being her friend. Phyllis touched our lives: Diane wrote: “Phyllis is surrounded by a large group of adoring friends. They call themselves “Phyllis’s Minions.” They assemble periodically to sing and laugh. I regret that I never got to Fort Wayne to see them perform, but I saw a tape, and the love overflowed.

Many of us were touched by Phyllis’s advocacy that always included humor. I hope you think of her passion as we continue the fight for our public schools.


March 24, 2019

From Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer at Indiana Coalition for Public Education Monroe County

Phyllis Bush: inspiring us to lead
We lost a champion for public education recently.

We lost a leader and a friend.

When I first met Phyllis Bush, it was actually through Facebook. I was new to the fight for public schools and the "reforms" going on in Indiana. Tony Bennett was our state superintendent then and the golden boy for ALEC and privatization. Mitch Daniels was his right-hand man in those efforts. I had recently become the chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and she was one of the cofounders of a public education advocacy group in Fort Wayne: the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.

Phyllis and I shared information and ideas as we were quickly drawn into the efforts to boot out Supt. Tony Bennett and elect Glenda Ritz--hoping to change direction for public education. While we and other public ed advocates across the state (teachers, parents, community members) were successful in getting Glenda elected in 2012, change did not happen the way we hoped. We are in the fight for public education to this day.

Over the years, people from our groups--along with a host of others--testified at state board meetings, education committee hearings, and rallies at the statehouse. We wrote letters, held forums and bounced ideas off of one another. Through Phyllis' organizing of midwest meetings and, later, her work on the board of Diane Ravitch's Network for Public Education (a national group), I have met the most amazing, most inspiring, public education advocates and people. more


March 22, 2019

From Steve Hinnefeld at School Matters

Phyllis Bush, champion of public schools
"...I was going to write that we can honor Phyllis’ legacy by contributing to the award fund. Or by redoubling our efforts to support public schools and pro-education policies. And it’s true, we can, and should. But Phyllis’ vision of doing good in the world wasn’t limited to causes or issues. Her final posts, written with death drawing near, are filled with faith, love and gratitude.

“As I think about those whom I love,” she wrote, “I want them to know that everything will be okay. I may not be present physically, but I will be nudging you to do better, to be better, to be kind, to be joyful, and to laugh at yourself and the world around you.” more


State Rep. and public school teacher Melanie Wright sent us this picture of House Minority Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta (FW) honoring Phyllis on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives.

And Rep. GiaQuinta posted his own picture...


Dan Greenberg is with Phyllis Bush and Lynn Keen Greenberg.
This afternoon, I got an email saying my friend, Phyllis Bush, passed away. She's been battling cancer, and I've known for a few weeks that I would be getting this news. However, I still wasn't prepared to hear that she actually died.

I met Phyllis six years ago, when I was a little lost; trying to figure out what meaningful work I could do for teachers and public schools. I came to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to a four-state conference Phyllis and the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education were hosting. Phyllis's energy, her sense of humor and leadership inspired me to work to create a grassroots group too. I talked to Phyllis often to get ideas about growing the group and actions we could take. I listened to her advice, and was able to create multiple "Friends of Public Education" groups across the state.

Since then, I have been proud to be one of Phyllis's "minions," especially when we gather at her and Donna's house and at Network for Public Education conferences.

Today, public education lost an amazing advocate, and I lost a good friend. But her legacy is far-reaching, and her work will continue to positively impact public education in Indiana, Ohio and across the country.

Phyllis, you will be missed.


Donny Manco is feeling heartbroken with Phyllis Bush.
Yesterday my teacher, my mentor, my friend lost her battle with cancer. She was an unstoppable force; I'm still kinda shocked it beat her. God rest dear Phyllis Bush. She was a tireless, relentless advocate for goodness in the world. No one will fill her shoes. We will guide ourselves now by the light of her spirit. Long live her name!

Before I ever laid eyes on Mrs. Bush, I knew who she was. Dominick is just a year older than me and the stories he told of her Honors English class were the stuff of legends. I peeked in her classroom to maybe see the legend herself and there visible from the door was a LIFE-SIZE pastel rendering of Mrs. Bush. She had a scepter in her hand, I believe, and a crown on her head - dressed like a queen with her signature spectacles in place. In fancy script it said "Queen of the Universe" -- I shit you not. Life-size. Please someone else remember this with me.

For me, Honors English class my senior year WAS my high school experience. It was for sure the home base for all the kids I ran around with. The home base, and the jumping off point into whatever comes after childhood. It was an important context for us, and Mrs. Bush was so very sensitive to that. We wrote journals, remember. And I poured out my heart too much sometimes about life -- but she was so kind, and patient, and gracious and good with the comments she would write in the margins. I'll never forget that.

Mrs. Bush was somehow a couple of dimensions deeper than most people I knew. You know this if you know her -- but she was extremely intelligent and well-read. I deferred to her thinking on most any decision we ever made collaboratively. But she didn't come across as some kind of snooty intellectual. Her vibrant, colorful energy and wry humor made for a rare charm. She loved her job. She embraced the struggle. She loved her students beyond what man can pay someone to do.

Connecting over the years got easier with Facebook. She found us all, and kept us close. Always encouraging us in our day to day lives. She and I met for coffee regularly over that last several years. We always joked that we were planning world domination. I remember giggling at Panera bread. We took a selfie.

She encouraged me, no matter what, and gave generously to our efforts to build stronger communities through the Framework. Phyllis encouraged me to run for public office. "YOU, Mrs. Bush, should run for public office" I told her on several occasions. She would brush it off. She was a great leader and was known to have politicians by the ear -- but she was reigning "Queen of the Universe" for several decades at that point, soo. I said I'll only do it if you'll be the architect. She said "I will do everything humanly possible to be with you every step of the way." And she did. I'll never forget that either.

She became a mentor to me, and was there all along. But Mrs. Bush is so much more than these things -- these few stories. These are just my interactions with this powerful spirit. There must be ten thousand more stories out there about her kindness, and her passion for education, her love for her family and her beloved pets. How can one person be so many things -- so large, with such a capacity to track with and love so many people?

Who is this we have lost?? Mourn with me world; our loss is great.

Donna Roof, we share in your grief - May God bring you comfort.
We loved her too. O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.


March 20, 2019

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #334 – March 20, 2019
Dear Friends,

Word came yesterday of the passing of legendary public education advocate Phyllis Bush in Fort Wayne after a long battle with cancer.

We mourn her passing, but even as we mourn, we celebrate her amazing legacy as a remarkable leader in standing up for public education in the historic fight for its survival.

Those of us who were privileged to know her admired her dedication, her wisdom, her energy and her unflagging commitment to protecting and advancing public education. Those who didn’t know her benefited from her work with grassroots citizens, school board members, legislators and public officials in advancing the cause of public education... more


March 21, 2019

From Karen Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

A lifelong teacher: Phyllis Bush's lessons will be remembered long after her Tuesday passing
Teaching mattered to Phyllis Bush. The retired South Side High School teacher, who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, taught English and so much more.

Close readers of our opinion pages recognize her name as an ardent supporter of public schools. Area lawmakers knew her as a formidable and persistent critic of vouchers and other education privatization efforts. Her students knew her as a dedicated, caring and creative teacher – the kind whose lessons resonate long after graduation.

Broadcast journalist Kathy Hostetter is among the latter group. She recalled a memorable creative-writing assignment in Bush's senior English class in 1987:

“I decided to write a first-person narrative in the 'voice' of my autistic brother, who was a year behind me,” wrote Hostetter in an email. “My effort threw some serious shade at fellow classmates for bullying him. It may not have been creative, but man it felt good!

“We all had to read our efforts aloud, and I may have – well, fired some shots across the bow with lines directed at some of the offenders, who were in class with me. At the end, there was stunned silence. Mrs. Bush asked who I had written about, and one of the students answered for me. Mrs. Bush remarked, I hope you all listened to that. School can be really hard for some, and here, some of your actions are personified in words. Knock. It. Off.”

Hostetter, now news director for the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, said the experience helped her find her voice in both written and spoken words.

“I wouldn't be where I am without Mrs. Bush's drive and encouragement to work hard, respect literary works, and always, always WRITE.”

After Phyllis retired from her 32-year teaching career – 24 years at South Side – she jumped into a second career as a public school advocate. A letter to the editor she wrote in 1999 is as relevant today:

“Take the millions of dollars being wasted on testing and inject them into ensuring smaller classes for all students, not just those that are academically at the top or at the bottom,” Phyllis wrote. “Require schools to clearly state what their focus is and then stick to it. Is it to create a better workforce? Is it to create higher standardized scores? Is it to help at-risk students or the non-mainstream students to feel more able to function in a world they increasingly view as dysfunctional? Is it to create an atmosphere in which thoughtful, caring human beings can learn and grow?”

Bush took on standardized testing, low teacher pay, block scheduling and more in her letters. But she did much more when lawmakers approved a school voucher program in 2011. Inspired by the first Save Our Schools march in Washington, D.C., she returned to join forces with a handful of long-time friends, other retired teachers and some public school parents to establish Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. They remain a small group of dedicated activists, but a powerful voice for Indiana public schools.

They were there when education historian Diane Ravitch delivered an Omnibus Lecture at IPFW in 2012, and Bush's passion caught the attention of the former assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration. Ravitch and California educator Anthony Cody were in the process of starting the nationwide Network for Public Education at the time, and they invited Bush to become a founding board member... more


March 20, 2019

From the Indiana State Teachers Association

ISTA Statement Remembering Phyllis Bush
“Phyllis was a passionate, dedicated supporter of public schools,” said Meredith. “She was a champion of public schools in Indiana, regionally and nationally. The loss of her leadership will be felt, but her example will continue to inspire those who wish to provide all kids with access to great public schools.”


March 19, 2019

From the Network for Public Education

Phyllis Bush: Our hero of public education remembered
It is with profound sadness that the Network for Public Education announces the passing of one of our founding board members Phyllis Bush after a courageous battle with cancer.

NPE President, Diane Ravitch, remembers how impressed she was when she first met Phyllis. “I will never forget meeting Phyllis. I spoke at a university event in Indiana, and no sooner did I step off the stage, then I was surrounded by Phyllis and her team. She wanted me to know everything about what was happening in Indiana. I realized I was in the presence of a force of nature. When Anthony Cody and I began creating a national board for the new Network for Public Education, I immediately thought of Phyllis. She was loved and respected by everyone with whom she came into contact. We will miss her. I will miss her.”

Phyllis was a warrior for public education. A retired public school teacher, Phyllis taught English Language Arts to students in Illinois and Indiana for 32 years. Upon retirement, she devoted her energies to fighting high-stakes testing and school privatization. She founded the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and devoted her energies to lobbying for sound public education policies in her state and the nation.

“Whenever I spoke with Phyllis, she was preparing for, or coming back from traveling to Indianapolis where she would speak with legislators about the importance of supporting public schools. It did not matter whether they agreed with her or not—she was walking into their office and making her case. When she was not lobbying herself, she was organizing others to do the work. Grassroots groups in Indiana and Ohio looked to Phyllis for leadership. And she led them all with incredible smarts, dedication and a fabulous sense of humor.” said NPE Executive Director, Carol Burris... more


No comments: