Glenda Ritz touts grassroots approach

2013-09-29T19:07:00Z 2013-09-29T19:38:45Z Glenda Ritz touts grassroots approachBy Carmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

HOBART | Glenda Ritz told dozens of teachers, administrators and other supporters in Northwest Indiana she never wrote a concession speech.

Ritz, a former school librarian and teacher, launched a grassroots campaign to beat former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett last November. She is the first Democratic superintendent of public instruction since the 1970s. She works with a Republican-controlled legislature and Department of Education.

Ritz was the featured speaker at a fundraising event at the Carpenters Union Hall in Hobart. The event was sponsored by American Federation of Teachers Indiana and hosted by AFT President Rick Muir.

The teachers union presented Ritz with a check for $5,000 and said it raised another $3,500, which will be presented to her. Union members said they also sold more than 900 tickets to the event.

Ritz said a poll done a couple of weeks before the November election said she was down about four points.

"Statistically, there was no way I could lose," she said. Ritz said her husband is a statistician and they reviewed the numbers regularly. She said there were approximately 60,000 members of the two largest teachers' unions in the state, and if each member encouraged at least 25 people to vote for her, she would win.

She said at the heart of her campaign was social media, another way to conduct a grassroots campaign.

"My husband would look at the different comments on social media and he told me, 'Glenda, they're praying for you to win,'" she said.

Ritz said some people didn't realize she was qualified for the job because she has been a teacher, librarian, union leader and has dealt with legislators by testifying before the Indiana State Board of Education on a variety of issues.

"I was compelled to be in this position," she said. "I feel like it's a great fit."

Ritz said her mission is to build an education system, and she isn't afraid to ask for community support in terms of cash and assistance.

She said she has put together an outreach department, with 13 coordinators who will work on improving schools. She talked about the A-F grade system, which is law but labels schools, children and communities.

"But now that law will allow us to report out two factors ... achievement and growth," Ritz said.

In response to a question from a retired school administrator, Ritz said she believes she spends too much time on the "politics" of things.

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