The Indianapolis Public School Board unanimously elected longtime board member Diane Arnold tonight as its president.
Arnold will reprise a role she played in 2013, serving as the voice of a board with three new members that seems eager to make big changes in the way the district’s schools are managed.
Arnold, who has been on the board since 2004, replaces Annie Roof, who was not reelected in November after an expensive, contentious school board race.
In 2013, Arnold wanted the job, but so did Sam Odle, a newcomer to the board that year. This time, Arnold said she didn’t seek the role. But the rest of the board ultimately felt she was the right choice. Before the vote, board members were tight-lipped about who they were voting for.
“Diane has the closest relationship with the new board members,” board member Caitlin Hannon said. “We all kind of recognize we want to get going quickly, and she’s done this before.”
Odle was unanimously voted in as vice president. Echols was unanimously chosen as board secretary.
Arnold was president in 2013 during a difficult year for the district. That year the board voted to buy out former Superintendent Eugene White’s contract and the district grappled with a budget crisis.
“I certainly hope and anticipate that this year will be less filled with challenges and more filled with opportunities for real changes,” Arnold said. “We can only accomplish our goals if we work as a team and prioritize our work. Our district has made progress in the past year but we must work harder and smarter to make sustained transitional change to transform education from what has been accepted in the past.”
Three new board members also were sworn in tonight: Former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, returning school board member Kelly Bentley and Carpe Diem Meridian charter school dean LaNier Echols were elected last November.
The election was contentious at times, and became a showdown over money and whether the district should partner with charter schools and introduce other reforms. The three winning candidates together raised about 20 times more than the three incumbents.
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he was eager to get to work with the new school board.
“They’re passionate and committed and this is an opportunity for us to continue on the direction we’ve been going,” Ferebee said. “I look forward to serving with the team.”