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IPS school board candidates chat with parents and community members during public forum

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Three candidates for the Indianapolis Public Schools board discussed school funding, student safety and the district’s expansive reorganization plan during a forum Oct. 6 at KIPP Indy Legacy High.

Ahead of school board elections in November, candidates Hope Hampton (District 3), Kristen Phair (District 3) and Angelia Moore (at-large) met with parents and community members in the lunchroom to discuss issues presented by students, parents and staff members. Nicole Carey (District 5) was invited but did not attend the forum, which was hosted by KIPP Indy Public Schools.

IndyStar Public Engagement Editor Oseye Boyd was the moderator. Approximately 115 families and community members decided on the discussion topics through a survey ahead of the forum, Boyd said.

On the topic of the Rebuilding Stronger plan, all three candidates said as it stands now, they would vote no on the plan, which would include grade reconfiguration and some schools closing or merging. The board is expected to vote on the plan this fall.

Moore said there hasn’t been enough research on the programs the plan intends to expand and that it must have positive outcomes for all students able to enroll before she would support it.

Phair said it was disrespectful to not bring the parents in on this discussion in the first place. She said she knows people are anxious about the budget and how expensive the plan would be, and that it didn’t make sense to go forward without enough parent input.

Candidates also discussed recruiting and retaining staff and programming that reflects the school’s growing demographics and meets the needs of schools’ bilingual students.

Hampton said the demographics within IPS schools are changing, and it’s important that IPS reflects that more not only with bilingual teachers but Latino teachers and Native speakers.

“We shouldn’t have to go looking for our language in paperwork,” Hampton said. “It should be dual language material, dual language on the website, dual language on the phone, and it should be easy to access.”

Moore and Phair said engaging students, staff and families in both English and Spanish in and out of schools will make a big difference in how welcomed they feel.

A young student asked candidates what they planned to do about securing students’ academic, mental, emotional and social well-being in schools following the aftermath of the pandemic.

Phair said many of the schools within IPS are disproportionately funded and those that lack funding also lack wrap-around services for students.

Hampton said teachers cannot do everything by themselves. She said accountability for board members and partnering with outside organizations to make sure the needs of the students are met should be a priority.

“Teachers are supposed to be teaching,” Hampton said, “and though we want caring teachers and we want our children to feel safe and secure in schools, that is not the job.”

A staff member and teacher asked about safety in the building and on the way to and from school.

School safety, Phair said, can take two forms: the scary things that could happen to kids at school and students’ personal comfort in schools. Phair said investing in safety technology would help get alerts out sooner and take care of the kids more quickly.

“The other safety that I’m thinking of when it comes to our schools is how safe our children feel being in their own skin and their own bodies as they walk through the halls at school,” Phair said.

With the possibility of schools closing, a parent asked how candidates plan to ensure Black and brown families would have access to high-quality education in their neighborhoods.

“I think one of the most important things we need to understand is that quality education is quite simple to define,” Moore said. “It is a seat in a school that believes in the child that sits in that seat, that encourages that child to be their very best and has the resources they need to do that.”

Quality seats should look the same in all neighborhood schools, Moore said. If the schools are unable to close the achievement gap, Moore said they’re doing something wrong and should come back and reevaluate.

In-person voting will take place on Election Day, Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 12 and the deadline for voting by mail is Oct. 27. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 11.

This story has been updated to clarify that KIPP Indy hosted the forum, not IPS.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-924-5143 or chloegm@indyrecorer.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowan.

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