Opinion and Forefront

DAVIS: Crack down on employees who ruin IPS

January 7, 2012

Kathy DavisThere is no shortage of opinions about IPS. Fortunately, there are more and more ideas. As a parent, business owner and resident of this community, I’m very interested in the outcomes and the ideas. And right now, I am most happy to see passion shown by lots of people who want to help students in IPS.

As we make long-term decisions about how schools are administered, who appoints the school board, or how to have equitable funding, let’s do what we can in the meantime.

Separate the teachers and administrators who aren’t serving our students. Fire them now.

I don’t take this tack lightly. There are complex issues to deal with and hard problems to solve. But the people who interact with our students every moment—teachers and administrators—should do the same job no matter how the school board is appointed or what rules come out of the Legislature.

We can make a difference tomorrow. A good attitude about children and a commitment to supporting them is a job prerequisite. Do teachers and administrators greet children wanting to know how they are doing that day and how they can help, or do they see themselves as enforcers and disciplinarians on the lookout for trouble?

We need discipline in schools and no students should make it harder for another student to learn. But if you don’t want to help kids, you need to find another career. Don’t poison IPS schools.

IPS has amazing, talented teachers and administrators who wake up every day with students as priority No. 1. But those who don’t need an attitude adjustment or they need to be shown the door. Students, parents and fellow teachers know who they are, if principals and superintendents can’t see it.

No verbal abuse. Keep no staff who aren’t there to be positive for kids. Take action on a few; continue with regularity, and everyone will notice. The ship will turn.

IPS Superintendent Eugene White has made great strides. Graduation rates in IPS are up 20 points in two years—much more improvement than any other district in the state.

White leads his community to have high expectations for kids, and backs them up. He insists on good behavior in school and has reduced distractions and insecurity in the classroom. His accomplishments are sometimes overlooked in the education debate.

But he has to take on the bad influences. And we have to support him.

Our students are models for us to follow. Like many districts where students come from low-income families, students at IPS watch out for one another. They cooperate and support one another. We should expect the best from them and they should expect even more from us.

Recently, a group of parents, arts supporters, businesses, well-wishers and Jim Irsay donated $218,000 so a group of IPS band students could march in the parade honoring the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Glowing reports came back about our students—the band ramped up its performance and found a sound that surpassed how members had played before; a bus driver taking them to events said he had never seen a better behaved and more engaged group. The students fell into lines and salutes to honor passing Pearl Harbor survivors. They shared the magic of being a true team.

Kids step up. So must the adults. Whom would you want on the trip to Pearl Harbor from IPS—an administrator who found joy in the students’ success and now wonders how to expand it, or someone who spied on them from around corners, taking pictures and loudly scolding them, in advance of their doing anything wrong? We had one of each.

Our schools are moving forward. Help them. Speak up when you see people on the job who don’t belong. Ask White to listen. Expect that every teacher and administrator be able to explain how their actions support the purpose of IPS—successful kids.•

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Davis is a former Indiana lieutenant governor who owns and operates the Indianapolis technology firm Davis Design Group LLC. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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