We are so proud of our work here at Indiana Coalition for Public Education in Monroe County. Look at all we have taken part in this year:
In January we hosted our first community conversation: "Legislative Agenda for Education: What to Expect this Session and What You Can Do About It"
State Senator Mark Stoops gave us a preview of some of the expected bills facing public education and what their impact would be. Local education blogger Steve Hinnefeld of School Matters connected the money and the "players" behind the initiatives for these bills. Our chairperson, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, filled in for state-level ICPE founder Vic Smith (absent due to winter weather).
Our letter writing to our legislators, education committee members, state board of education members, and to the newspaper for awareness-raising began with a vengeance. We used social media to continue the letter-writing campaigns. We were concerned with bills concerning the role and power of our state superintendent Glenda Ritz, the expansion of vouchers, union dues deducted from teacher paychecks, and lowering qualifications for educators (REPA3).
In February, a number of our ICPE members attended the premiere of the film "Rise Above the Mark" in Indianapolis and enjoyed the panel discussion afterward on education reform in Indiana. At the end of February and early March, our ICPE chair Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer and board member Wendy Marencik joined public education advocates from all over the country at the first annual Network for Public Education conference in Austin, TX. It was an inspiring event and helped connect ICPE with others who are fighting the same or similar battles!
In March ICPE hosted "Making Sense of ISTEP and Other Standardized Tests: A Discussion Circle with Authors Phil and Joan Harris" which debunked much of the myth surrounding ISTEP and was very informative.
Also in March we spearheaded a letter-writing campaign speaking out against the Green School, a charter school that was seeking approval to open here in Monroe County. Most of the people who spoke out in favor of their public schools and against spreading the funding to more charters were our ICPE members and friends. The comments were so eloquent and the Indiana State Charter Board declined to approve the Green School
On May 1st we hosted another community conversation: "Let's Hear Teacher Voices" It was our most popular and praised forum to date. Local teachers spoke eloquently and passionately about their careers in the current hostile climate surrounding public education.
In June WFHB's Interchange program hosted a conversation about education with ICPE chair Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, the Project School's Cathy Diersing, and Harmony's Steve Bonchek. Also in June
Democracy for Monroe County sponsored a Link-Up conversation in which Cathy and Project School charter school board member Charlotte Zietlow had a debate/friendly discussion on charter schools.
Over the summer our letter writing continued with focus on power grabs from Ritz by SBOE.
During the lovely months of the Farmer's Market, our tireless ICPE volunteers sat at our booth passing out information, signing up new members, and continuing the education conversation.
The fall was a very busy time which really began with a general membership meeting at the end of August followed in September by another forum: "Librarians Lead: Best Practices in MCCSC School Libraries" which was well-attended and inspiring to see the great things our local school librarians do!
Also in September we rallied our "troops" for another letter-writing and public comment campaign to stop the Seven Oaks Charter School from coming to our area and siphoning off more public tax dollars from our public schools. The eloquence and passion with which our friends defend public schools is amazing. Again, the Indiana State Charter Board turned down Seven Oaks.
In September we also co-sponsored with MCCSC the "Rise Above the Mark" documentary. Over 200 people attended this amazing event and stayed for the panel afterward. Out of that event, we had new people join ICPE and help us put together a legislative report card for our local legislators focused on their voting record for public education.
The fall was a crazy busy time trying to get people involved in the local races for school board and state legislature. ICPE hosted two forums in October, one for MCCSC school board and one for state legislative races.
Although the pro-public education candidates lost in the contested races for state representative, we made more connections with public education advocates and are consoled by the fact that the incumbents suddenly felt moved to position themselves as public education candidates. We were and we are being heard.
It would not be a review of the year without mention of our co-founder, Carl Zager's passing this past January. Carl was a tireless advocate for public education, he loved the conversations he had with people (particularly at our Farmer's Market booth) and always lent a valuable perspective. We miss him and yet his memory inspires us to keep up the fight.
Thank you so much for all you do. Please encourage your friends to join us. Rest your fingers up for the new year because we will need your letter-writing in the upcoming legislative session.
Happy New Year!