Ritz says goodbye to students at Crooked Creek, pledges to take reforms in different direction

Outnumbered Democrat says she can make changes

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's new Superintendent of Public Instruction received a big farewell from her students today in preparation for her move to the Statehouse, and Glenda Ritz had more to say about how she plans to move forward on improving Indiana's schools. 

Most of the 600 students at Crooked Creek Elementary School were there Tuesday to say goodbye to Ritz, the woman who has been the media specialist in their library for so long.

Administrators from the school and Washington Township told the kids that Mrs. Ritz would now be the boss of students and teachers throughout the state.

And they all made her a heart-shaped goodbye with their arms.

"Listen and watch very carefully if you can help me send Mrs. Ritz off to her new office with love," said Nikki Woodson, Washington Township Superintendent. "Watch carefully."

Ritz took the kids on a Powerpoint version of the journey she traveled over the last year, showing them where she visited and who she campaigned with.

She even took a modified oath of office, although the real one won't take place until January.

And she showed them where she'll work.

"It's going to be in that really big building called the Indiana State Capitol Building," said Ritz. "Now, don't think that I have the whole building. I just have one office in that really big building."

Therein lies Ritz's biggest challenge coming into her new position -- she's the only statewide Democratic office-holder in a building dominated by Republicans.

She can't repeal some changes, like school vouchers, but she said she'll work within the parameters of current law to implement some things differently, like reading scores.

"I see a different implementation of that law, whereby we're going to have some growth assessments," said Ritz. "We're going to actually have some good practices in the classroom that are going to be discussed with educators. And so I see a different way to implement the law."

Ritz said passing reading should be based on observable growth in a student's ability, not a winner-take-all test.

Although Ritz wants to get rid of the pass-fail reading test, she said she does support requiring all third graders to be able to read.

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