I’m a Teacher in IPS. I Have Questions Our New Superintendent Should Consider.
By Jack Hesser
This June, I am wrapping up my third year of teaching in Indianapolis Public Schools. I entered the classroom with little experience, but an immeasurable enthusiasm to be a part of a community that deeply valued its students and education. My school is a part of the district’s racial equity pilot program, and our staff is deeply committed to providing the best education we can for our students. A big part of our work involves reflecting on our progress and asking tough questions. In the same way, as our school board meets with the final candidates, there are questions I want them to consider.
How will our new superintendent ensure our parents feel confident in our schools? A few months ago, I was talking with some of our 8th graders about their options for high school. Many explained that their parents were concerned about the quality of education they will receive based on which school in the district they attend. Many of their parents are even opting to send them to township schools. IPS is the largest public-school district in the state of Indiana. When a parent sends their child through the doors of any school within IPS, they should feel confident of a quality education.
How will our new superintendent ensure our teachers are valued? The foundation of success is creating a positive culture where people feel valued. We are quick to recognize this with our students, but we often forget about adults. Even a highly effective teacher will struggle to find motivation in a culture where they don’t feel supported. Across IPS, our students and staff experience staggeringly different levels of support and access based on their individual school. We need a leader who will work to unify the district and be committed to support all our teachers so that they, in turn, can empower our students to succeed.
How will our superintendent tackle racial inequity in our district? Because of my school’s focus on racial equity, our staff regularly go through professional development to better serve our students. This is a great start, yet our work with equity in the district must be more than a topic for professional development. It must be financed and supported by district dollars and talent. The resources our schools have access to currently reinforce the inequities that we say we are working to dismantle every day.
As a young and growing educator, I am looking to the future. I want to commit to the profession for the long-term but this means that I, along with other teachers and staff our district, must be treated as professionals, compensated like professionals, and given the resources, and access to quality development like professionals. Our schools can only be as successful as the people inside them.
We need a leader who will seek to elevate IPS through ambition and bold optimism. A leader who understands the rich history of the district but is still ready to learn more about the complex relationships that exist, and the partnerships that needs to be built. It is necessary for the success of IPS that our schools feel unified in our mission of bringing quality public education to all students. Our students’ success is not a load that can be carried by our teachers alone. If we are to truly rise to the challenges our district faces, we need competent, inspiring, empathetic leadership. Our best teachers provide this leadership to IPS students every single day. I hope that our new leader will do the same.
Jack Hesser teaches 7th grade science at H.L. Harshman Middle School in Indianapolis. He is a Teach Plus Indiana Teaching Policy Fellowship alum.