News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

May 13, 2013

Ritz on fast learning curve

Schools chief immersed in job after 4 months

INDIANAPOLIS — For many occupants of the Indiana Statehouse, the week after the General Assembly wraps up its final frenzy of work is a quiet one. But not for Glenda Ritz.

Less than 48 hours after legislators passed the last bill of the 2013 session, the state’s public schools chief was standing in front of a bank of computer monitors watching in real time as thousands of test-taking children across Indiana were repeatedly kicked off line.

It was cause for concern: The lost computer connections of 30,000 students taking Indiana’s high-stakes, high-stress assessment test known as ISTEP+ marked the third straight year of problems with the private company, CTB/McGraw Hill, that has a $95 million, four-year contract with the state to administer the test.

But Ritz kept her cool, even as service interruptions continued into the next day, triggering delays, upping anxiety, and prompting some members of the Indiana Board of Education to deem the situation “disastrous.”

“There was no panic on my end,” said Ritz. The longtime teacher, versed in computer technology in her training as a school media specialist, focused her sights on finding a fix to get through the testing window.

Then she turned to tougher questions — yet to be resolved — on whether the test results, once they come in, will be rendered invalid.

Ritz may be a novice on the job, but after four months in office she’s fully immersed in the duties of the state’s top school administrator, overseeing the state’s Department of Education and the 1,900-plus public schools that serve more than one million Indiana children.

“It’s a good fit,” is how she describes her new roll, after a career spent both as a classroom teacher and a devoted student of education policy.

Ritz’s surprise victory last November in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction was the big political story in the Statehouse. A longtime Republican voter, she’d never sought public office before deciding to run as a Democrat to unseat the Republican incumbent, Tony Bennett.

Though unknown and underfunded — her campaign war chest was one-tenth the size of Bennett’s — she won the votes of 1.3 million Hoosiers, more than Republican Gov. Mike Pence garnered.

But she walked into a Statehouse controlled by Republicans who helped Bennett and his allies on the State Board of Education engineer a controversial overhaul of education policy.

Ritz still seems undaunted, convinced she can remove partisanship from the conversation about how to best educate Indiana’s children.

 “I may have to deal with politics and political points of view, but in the long run, I don’t let that dissuade me,” Ritz said. “I am always going to be talking with people about the best way for things to happen in the classroom. And how on an upper level, a policy level, we really do affect that.”

Democrat Sen. Tim Skinner, a Ritz supporter from Terre Haute, said Ritz opponents have been waiting for her to stumble. “Everything she does in under a microscope,” Skinner said. “She has to feel like there is a 10,000-pound truck hanging over her head, ready to drop.”

Ritz acknowledges the pressure, but keeps it out her sight line. “I’m a very tenacious person,” she said.

Ritz saw her election as a “referendum” on the course of education set by Republicans who tied high-stakes testing like ISTEP to teacher pay, school funding, and student evaluation.

But her victory appears to have only slowed down the course, not reverse it.

The A-to-F grading system for schools, which Ritz says unfairly gives every school in the state a grade based on student test scores, is still in place. So is a make-or-break assessment test she opposes called IREAD-3, which third-graders must pass to go on to fourth grade.

So too is the state’s school voucher program, which Ritz fought as a plaintiff in a failed lawsuit before she was elected. In the session that ended in April, lawmakers voted to expand the voucher program to include more children.

Still, Ritz sees progress: Some Republicans leaders, especially those in the Senate, seemed willing to engage with her. Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, a key architect of the education overhaul she opposes, killed talk of making her post an appointed rather than elected office. He also turned an effort to gut her authority as chair of the State Board of Education.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley of Noblesville worked to change the A-to-F metrics, after hearing Ritz’s concerns. The changes didn’t get made but he helped clear the way for those metrics to be reviewed this summer.

“She was elected to a very important position. It’s important for us to work with her,” said Kenley, adding that he appreciates her efforts. “There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to improving education. We all need to grab a shovel and dig in.”

Much of the education overhaul under Bennett is locked into law, so can’t be undone by Ritz. But she can advocate for changes that fall within law. For example, she’s started a series of “study sessions” with the State Board of Education to see if there is a better way to assess the reading abilities of early grade students so they don’t end up failing the critical IREAD-3 test.

She’s also not ready to concede that the laws are that tightly locked into place.

“Laws are always meant to be changed,” Ritz said. “They get changed every session. Just because something is in law, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
  • MET073114griffin markers.jpg Trail blazers

    Blake Griffin remembers when he and his brother, Dale, would ride their bikes along wooded trails in the wilderness area of Fowler Park.

    July 31, 2014 7 Photos

  • Officials say city ‘overspent’

    Two Terre Haute councilmen told the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County Thursday they think the city is overspending, but they gave no solutions to reduce expenses.

    July 31, 2014

  • MET073114sinkhole korenski.jpg Block downtown to close for repairs

    A sinkhole is forcing the temporary closure of a major downtown street beginning Monday.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 012312 MICK NEWPORT.jpg Wave of retirees at Vigo schools

    Valarie Bailey has worked for the Vigo County School Corp. for 26 years in roles that included at-risk counselor, school social worker, assistant student services director and curriculum coordinator.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire house to fire dept.

    A legal battle has been resolved to restore ownership of the community fire station in Fayette Township.

    July 31, 2014

  • Road Closings

    14th Street, from Oak to Poplar streets, will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 9 for Friends and Family Weekend.

    July 31, 2014

  • August Fire Safety Tip

    Monthly safety hint — Barbeque/grilling safety

    July 31, 2014

  • Difference makers, a nickel at a time

    Joining a youth sports team, getting a new pair of shoes or taking music lessons are among the things that will be happening for more Vigo County children in the CASA Kids program thanks to a new financial supporter.

    July 31, 2014

  • MET 073014 WESTMINISTER DIG.jpg Expanding independence

    Westminster Village, a Terre Haute retirement community, is investing $1.8 million to construct 12 new villa homes, officials announced Wednesday.

    July 30, 2014 5 Photos

  • Decades later, dry cleaners leave blemish

    Fifty years ago, about 30 dry cleaners did business in the city of Terre Haute. City officials are now cleaning up the mess some left behind.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • MARK BENNETT: Year of River sets example for state

    Terre Haute pays more attention to the Wabash River these days.

    July 30, 2014

  • Climate of less regulation, more chemical spills leaves ‘historical pollution,’ NCA director says

    Former dry cleaning sites are an environmental problem all over the state, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • MET073014parks bbushee.jpg Camping turnout low for first half of summer

    Camping revenue for the past two months has dropped in Vigo County parks, a downturn park officials say is difficult to attribute to a new park policy limiting campers’ stays to 14 days in the three county parks.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 073014 DESTROYED.jpg Devastating fire takes out mobile home

    A Seelyville mobile home sustained heavy damage in a fire early Wednesday morning.
    Lost Creek Township firefighters were called to the scene in the 2200 block of Tabortown Road south of U.S. 40 at about 2 a.m.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Man posts bond after fatal wreck

    An Oct. 7 trial date has been set for a Terre Haute man accused of driving while intoxicated causing death.

    July 30, 2014 3 Stories

  • Driver injured, airlifted, cited for failure to yield

    An elderly woman was injured in a crash Wednesday afternoon in Sullivan County, according to Indiana State Police.

    July 30, 2014

  • MET072914leo screen.jpg Slick’s debut

    Bobby “Slick” Leonard was the main attraction but his hometown, Terre Haute, was constantly in the background as friends, fans and family gathered in Indianapolis Tuesday night to honor the man famous for the words “Boom Baby.”

    July 29, 2014 8 Photos

  • MET 072914 TAJIMI YANASE.jpg Sister-city students get a dose of ‘new culture’

    One of Juri Sawada’s dreams has been to visit America.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Motion delays trial for 2012 homicide

    A man who has been jailed about 20 months in connection with the homicide of his wife will not go on trial next week as scheduled.

    July 29, 2014

  • Sheriff charged in prostitution case

    Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement working to protect the public from criminals, but on Tuesday he was treated as one.

    July 29, 2014 1 Story

  • maple candy closeup.jpg Vigo Parks dishing out the sweetness

    Vigo County Parks and Recreation has made a “sweet” addition to its maple syrup production at Prairie Creek Park.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Danny Rodden indicted on federal charges

    Instead of overseeing the operations of the Clark County jail and police force Tuesday, Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden found himself being transported by the FBI to Indianapolis to answer federal charges.

    July 29, 2014 1 Story

  • Woman’s condition ‘fair’ after grocery store wreck

    A Terre Haute woman was listed in fair condition Tuesday at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis as the result of injuries sustained in Monday’s accident on the Baesler’s Market parking lot.

    July 29, 2014

  • Semi driver cited for alcohol use

    A commercial vehicle driver has been placed out of service after he tested positive for alcohol consumption during a Tuesday morning traffic stop in Sullivan County.

    July 29, 2014

  • Church to give out school backpacks

    United Methodist Temple will stage its first-ever Back-2-School Bash from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9.
    The church is located at 5301 S. U.S. 41.

    July 29, 2014

  • MET 072814 BUS MEYERROSE.jpg Bus safety features

    New safety features on South Vermillion School Corp. buses have led to fewer disciplinary problems and fewer incidents of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses, officials say.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Pendergast.jpg Humvee driver says foot caused fatal accident

    Kyle Pendergast, 22, the Terre Haute driver of a black Humvee charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing the death of a teenager, has told police he could not turn the wheel before the vehicle flipped in a field in an early Saturday morning accident.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • MET 072814 CONTAMINATED Cleaner may have contaminated water

    Groundwater and soil testing is set to begin within a week to learn whether toxic chemicals might have seeped into the wells of a small southside neighborhood and even beyond.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Housing Authority’s Warren Village nearing completion

    Construction on the newest Terre Haute Housing Authority property – Warren Village – should wrap up next month, a housing authority official said Monday.

    July 29, 2014

  • rush-hr.jpg Observers predict ‘wide open’ process of picking next chief

    State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson surprised observers in June when he decided to step down after a brief tenure as the state’s top judge.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Today in History for August 1st Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help
NDN Video
Under Armour Launches Biggest Women's Campaign with Inspiring Ad NYPD chokehold death of Eric Garner was homicide: medical examiner Christina Aguilera Pulls a Demi Moore! Man with no arms throws first pitch Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Is Justin Bieber Dating a Model? Guardians of the Galaxy (Trailer) 'Sharknado 2:' Hottest Memes Surfing The Net Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Recapping a Blockbuster MLB Trade Deadline Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2"
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News