By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART — Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz visited Concord High School Thursday after receiving an invitation by seniors Alexa Ross and Sammy Oberholtzer.
“We wanted to learn her new vision of education and sent a letter asking if she was available to visit our school. Rtiz is the relief from the corruption of our education system,” Oberholtzer said.
Ross added they were surprised when she responded with an affirmative answer.
“We were thrilled,” Ross said, smiling.
Ritz spoke to students in a government class taught by Matt Furfaro.
She addressed the transportation funding issues that many school corporations are facing due to property tax caps.
“I’m seeing it in more and more areas...transportation funding issues. I know that it is an item that needs to be addressed in the general assembly,” Ritz said. “I will also add that this is the second year of the biennium of the general assembly coming up. The budgets have already been made, so the chances of getting any funding in this session is very small. I doubt that the budget will be opened but going forward to the next biennium, I know it’s a concern and I know that there are more schools having those concerns.”
She briefly told the students why she ran for the position.
“I felt I know how to do this job and how the legislative process works. I know how to get language changed and how to make policy decisions, so it’s a good fit for me,” Ritz said. “I feel very comfortable making policy decisions. Just about every day I make decisions about something that has to do with education policy.”
One student asked about compensation for teachers in Indiana.
“Changes in law actually affect the payment that may go to teachers. There are only two categories, effective and highly effective, in which teachers may be paid extra money beyond their regular salary,” she said. “I know there is a lot of controversy. I can propose changes as the Superintendent of Public Instruction but it will take the actual members of the House and Senate to actually change language.”
Standardized testing was brought up by another student.
“The states in our nation are required to give tests. The federal law allowed us a waiver here in Indiana to really look at our own kinds of assessments and accountabilities in some flexibility ways,” she said. “I hope we can move away from or transform from a pass-fail remediation to a growth assessment, so that when you (students) take an assessment, we know where you really performed no matter what grade you are in.”
What is a typical day for the superintendent?
Ritz said she travels two to three days a week around Indiana, visiting as many different groups as she can except when the general assembly meets between January and March.
“I don’t travel as much,” Ritz said. “My favorite part is talking to kids (in classrooms). I love to talk to kids.”
And it’s the most rewarding aspect of her job, as well.
“I take every opportunity I can get to talk to kids. I’ve talked with kids in high school in a conversation like this. I enjoy it immensely. I’ve had opportunities to work with little ones, read books and do those types of things. I need to stay in tune with kids. It’s important that I do,” Ritz said. “It’s important that I hear your questions and have some dialogue with you. I do deem that the most fun part of my job. Probably the most important piece of my job is making education policy in a way that I think works for you. It’s always about the students and what you are able to get from your education. It’s the most important thing and anything I can put in place to help with that, that’s what I’m all about.”
She told the students that government and civics are very important and added one bit of advice before she finished her talk — stay informed and vote.
“It’s always important to make sure your voice is heard by your vote and not enough people exercise that right, but a lot of people complain when they don’t like how things happen and so you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Ritz said. “It’s your civic duty, really, to vote and be involved. Read about issues that are important to you and find out about things. There all kinds of ways of doing that now. You need to be involved.”