Do your homework on superintendent candidates

Fifty years ago on Nov. 8, I was the reason my mom couldn’t vote. It was and still is the only election she hasn’t voted in as long as she has been an eligible voter.

This Nov. 8 is not only my 50th birthday, but also the day Americans will have the opportunity to voice their opinions at the ballot box in what has become a very contentious election season.

In terms of education, however, Hoosiers will have an interesting choice for superintendent of public instruction, as well as in choosing a president who will more than likely bring new ideas and laws to the national educational scene.

In the four years since Glenda Ritz has taken office, Indiana’s Department of Education has been embroiled in political controversy. She has taken on the governor’s office and Republican legislators. New to the political world, she was not afraid to present her ideas and attempt to make the changes she told teachers she would make.

At times, however, her efforts came at the expense of working collaboratively with other decision-makers. She became an instant hero, though, to many who were upset with the educational overhaul Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett started during their terms.

Four years later, Ritz is the incumbent and is being challenged by Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools. Like Ritz, McCormick is hoping to change our current system of student assessment, ISTEP+. She also hopes to remove politics from this particular state office. In terms of experience, she has been in charge of a school corporation for six years and has had at least one Four Star school in her district during her entire tenure.

Like every political race, both candidates for superintendent have strengths and weaknesses, and I am not here today to tell you how to vote. Depending on the outcome of Indiana’s governor’s race, however, we could once again have a governor and superintendent of public instruction from different parties. Unless both winners, regardless of party, agree to put the children of Indiana first, Hoosier students and teachers could once again be losers this election year.

Both candidates are campaigning on the platform that the current ISTEP+ assessment should be revised to lessen testing time. While most Hoosiers can see the obvious benefits to that proposal, our elected officials will struggle to make it happen unless we put politics to the side.

Superintendent Ritz has been waiting months for a legislated proposal to come before the State Board of Education, which would determine ISTEP+’s future. With the deadline quickly approaching and no foreseeable plan of action in place, she has publicly submitted her own vision for Indiana’s student assessment.

One has to wonder if the committee charged with this task is simply waiting for the outcome of November’s election before publicly discussing its proposal. It is this type of political gaming that puts Hoosier children behind states that “get it,” those states that value classroom instruction time over state accountability testing.

This year, I encourage you to study the candidates and to understand their positions. Know how your choice on Nov. 8 will affect the thousands of educators and students in the classroom statewide. Demand that those who are elected put aside their partisan beliefs if having them simply to have them will deter Indiana’s educational growth.

Our citizens, but especially our students, deserve more than two parties who refuse to work together merely because they sit across the aisle from one another in the Statehouse. Be an educated voter this Nov. 8 for the sake of Indiana’s future.

Kim Kile is the director of school counseling at Greenfield-Central High School. She can be reached at