State education board works to settle ongoing battle, discuss Arlington HS fate

(WTHR file photo)
Published: .
Updated: .
Indiana's State Board of Education met Wednesday to settle issues between Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Gov. Mike Pence and board members.

Ritz said Tuesday that Pence's staff are looking to "undermine" her efforts to maintain the state's No Child Left Behind waiver and that the process is really a power play to take resources and authority from the Department of Education and give it to the governor's Center for Education and Career Development.

"That's just grandiose rhetoric," Board member Gordon Hendry responded Wednesday. "We're really here to try to work with the Board and make it most efficient-- most efficient as possible."

A spokesperson for Pence's education agency said it is Ritz has jeopardized the state's chances at keeping the waiver.

The latest fighting follows the battles that took place at the board last fall. Ritz, a Democrat, walked out of a meeting and sued other board members - all appointed by Republican governors - after they circumvented her on a key decision about the state's "A-F" school grading system.

During Wednesday's meeting, Board of Education Member BJ Watts accused the teacher's union of "creating excitement for political purposes."

The board also heard an expert presentation on new guidelines for the new student assessments - also known as ISTEP exams - being developed, and discussed approving millions of dollars for the companies running IPS schools the state has taken over.

Ed Power, the organization running Arlington High School, one of the IPS schools taken over by the state, said they could no longer afford to do so. They proposed partnering with IPS this coming school year and then having IPS take over completely for the 2015-16 school year, and asked for more money to help pay for running the school this year.

"We are already preparing to staff the building. That's isn't the issue," clarified Ed Power CEO Marcus Robinson. "The issue ultimately is can we maintain the operation over the course of the year. It is a really big building."

The Board said they were surprised by Ed Power's announcement they couldn't afford to continue running the school. The Board denied Ed Power's request for more money and asked for a plan to have Arlington open and ready for kids next month, but authorized Ed Power, IPS, Mayor Greg Ballard and the Department of Education to begin immediately working on a transition plan to keep Arlington open.