IPS board meeting erupts into shouting match Wednesday night

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By Jill Glavan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 29, 2014) -- A special meeting of the Indianapolis Public School Board erupted into shouting and ended with a teacher program being put on hold Wednesday.

The meeting, called by Board President Annie Roof, was to talk about a contract with Teach Plus. The national group, with an Indianapolis office, has been running a new program called T3 in three of the district's schools. It focuses on targeted instruction and gives teacher leaders an extra $6,000 per year stipend.

Board members voted to approve the contract at a meeting last week, but said Wednesday that they later learned the program had been running without their approval in schools since August.

"I think when something of this magnitude falls through the cracks, it’s our responsibility to address it," Roof said.

The only vote against putting a halt to the program for now was Diane Arnold, who publicly accused members of voting against it because of another board member, Caitlin Hannon's conflict of interest. Hannon works for Teach Plus and had previously filed paperwork and abstained from voting.

That's when things got heated.

"That's a personal vendetta that will hurt our children," Arnold said.

"But Diane, you always (talk) about somebody you heard. ... Who said it? Since you (have) heard so much, who said it?" board member Samantha Adair-White said.

The two began to go back and forth, with Adair-White ultimately shouting across the table.

"You always get on the mic and you've got to make some big (deal) about, 'Oh, it's because of Caitlin, it's a conflict.' No it's not. It's what's right by all teachers. We service all teachers, that's what's right," Adair-White said.

The scene, along with the meeting itself, caused several in attendance to accuse the board of playing politics.

On Election Day Tuesday, Adair-White, Roof and board member Dr. Michael Brown all face challengers to their seats. Ten candidates are running, with a few of them touting funds in the tens of thousands of dollars from outside groups. That amount of money is highly unusual in a school board race.

Still, teachers remain in the middle of this showdown. Many showed  up at the meeting to call for the program to continue, including the IPS Teacher of the Year Tina Ahlgren.

"These (programs) have helped keep me committed to IPS on the dark days when the love of the kids is just not enough," Ahlgren said.

"I have seen growth within my students, within my grade level and with our school collaborating and working together as a team," T3 teacher Melissa Scherle said.

Board members ultimately voted 4-1 to rescind their previous vote. Roof, Adair-White, Brown and Gayle Cosby were the "yes" votes.

An IPS spokesperson told FOX59 that the district believed this to be a misunderstanding and that they planned to get board members more information to try to reinstate the program as soon as possible.

For more information about Tuesday's election and the ten school board candidates, click here.

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