The district has also touted great gains in ISTEP+ standardized test scores.
It also announced, for the first time since No Child Left Behind has been in place, the district's achievement of adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals.
Board President Mark GiaQuinta said he is proud of the establishment of a strong relationship with Superintendent Wendy Robinson and that, for the most part, members have given up their personal agendas in pursuit of the board's overall goals of educating all students to high standards.
“I'm very comfortable with the changes, but I didn't make them on my own,” he said. “The board collectively has done that.”
In November, voters will decide whether they agree with the board's changes. Four members – a board majority – are up for re-election, including GiaQuinta and Sheppard. At-large member and Vice President Pamela Martin-Diaz and 4th District representative Kevin Brown also are up for re-election.
GiaQuinta said he is proud the board has managed to operate a district facing a significant decrease in funds while staying true to and reaching interim goals. He believes in the importance of board continuity, regardless of the people elected to serve.
“Districts that fail have a lack of continuity in governance and administrative leadership,” he said. “(The board's) course has been based on its three goals, and I see no reason to deviate from those goals.”
Both Martin-Diaz and Brown also believe the district should continue moving forward in its chosen direction. “Going back would be catastrophic,” Martin-Diaz said.Brown said his term on the board has “been a wild ride.” In September, Brown was arrested in the early- morning hours after a Monday night school board meeting. Brown was charged with two Class C misdemeanors for drinking and driving. He also was cited for driving while suspended and operating a vehicle without proper registration.
An editorial published in the Journal Gazette days after Brown's arrest called for his resignation, saying his claims to holding a master's degree from Marion College, now Indiana Wesleyan University, were false.
The article said university officials confirmed that Brown was enrolled in graduate classes, but never earned a degree.
At a recent board meeting, Brown presented a letter from the university confirming his degree.
“The media has presented me in a certain light. They've probably given me about $80,000 worth of free publicity,” he said. “If you didn't know about me before, you know about me now.”
Brown said that after his release, he couldn't even get down his street because so many people came to offer their support.
He also said his cell phone battery was dead after receiving so many calls and messages.
Brown said his constituents still believe in him.
“I sit up there and represent the 4th district, and they will vote according to how I've done my job.”
Brown said the district must continue moving forward, increasing ISTEP+ test scores and achieving AYP. He said if re-elected, he would continue focusing on increasing the graduation rates of minorities, particularly black and Hispanic males, he said.Some of the competition from incumbents includes familiar names and faces. Lisa Olinger is the wife of former board member Jon Olinger, but she said she can offer a different perspective than her husband. “I have a unique perspective,” she said in a previous News-Sentinel article. “I have a lot of personal relationships within the district and understand it needs better services for less money.”
Former FWCS custodian Michelle Tribolet believes she can also offer a perspective that differs from other board members.
“Being at the bottom of the totem pole, I know more about the inner workings of the schools,” Tribolet said. Both Olinger and Tribolet are seeking at-large seats.
Kurt Walborn, who served as a board member from 2003 to 2006, is seeking the District 1 spot. If elected, Walborn said his main focus would be improving literacy in general-education classrooms as well as special- education classes. He said despite the district's gains, “We still have a lot to do and a long way to go.” He said he would seek to offer more support to teachers, ensure prevention of state takeover of underperforming schools and improve the student to teacher ratio.
Office at a glanceTerm: four years
Duties: Set policies; approve and authorize spending and budgets; vote on recommendations from the administration regarding curriculum, staff, facilities and finances.
Current members (not up for re-election): District 2 – Secretary John Pierce; District 3 – Becky Hill; District 5 – Steve Corona