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2011 NEWSMAKER: Eugene White in crosshairs as reformers target IPS

IBJ Staff
December 24, 2011
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Newsmakers
Simon
                              takes on Amazon.com Melangton Daniels White in crosshairs as reformers target IPS

There’s a pitched battle under way in K-12 education as reform advocates and charter schools challenge traditional institutions such as teachers’ unions and education schools.

In the middle of these clashing armies stands Eugene White, superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, the state’s largest school district. The 64-year-old, who has twice been named Indiana’s superintendent of the year, has both embraced and bristled at changes rumbling through Indiana’s public schools.

IPS is the eye of the storm for the expanding school-choice initiatives in Indiana. It has lost more than 5,000 students to charter schools, roughly 25 of which lie within its boundaries. IPS also saw 350 of its students sign up for new vouchers, which are scholarships to private schools paid for by taxpayers.

But in his six years at IPS’ helm, White has tried to fight choice with choice, launching a dizzying array of magnet schools that draw students from the entire district—or even beyond it—instead of a limited geographic area.

White also has worked with education reform groups, such as Indianapolis-based The Mind Trust, to bring programs such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project to Indianapolis. Both offer ways for non-education majors to get into the teaching profession.

He even praised the Legislature for curtailing the rights of teachers’ unions, which forced IPS to pay, promote and dismiss educators based solely on seniority and college credits earned. He said that and other changes would “allow me to get creative.”

White White

But White bitterly opposed the decision by Indiana’s reform-minded state schools chief Tony Bennett to take over control of four poor-performing IPS schools in August—even filing a lawsuit to challenge the decision on two of them.

And at the end of the year, White accused The Mind Trust and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard of trying to “flood” IPS with charter schools. He also dismissed The Mind Trust’s efforts to put Ballard in charge of the IPS school board and to gut what it called the “bloated bureaucracy” of the district’s central office.

But White, a former basketball star from Alabama, said he’s spoiling for the fight.

“What they’re going to do is create a situation where they’re going to force more competition and more choice. I don’t think we’re going to lose that battle,” White said.•
 

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  1. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

  2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

  3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

  4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

  5. Oh wait. Never mind.

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