New charter board director heading to Northwest Indiana

2011-10-16T00:00:00Z New charter board director heading to Northwest IndianaBy Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

The executive director of the newly formed Indiana Charter School Board will visit Northwest Indiana on Tuesday.

Claire Fiddian-Green, who began her duties in June, is responsible for establishing and carrying out the board's vision and mission.

Like the Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University, the board will authorize charter schools in Indiana. Fifteen applications to open charter schools have been filed with the board, none from Northwest Indiana. Ball State's program director Bob Marra said his agency has had 14 applications, with three from Northwest Indiana.

Although there is not a member from Northwest Indiana on the Indiana Charter School Board, Fiddian-Green said the region will not be forgotten. She said she is interested in learning about Gary, which is home to seven of the region's 12 charter schools.

"I don't think this area is oversaturated," she said. "As long as there is demand, there will be more charter schools. Who can say what new models are still out there that may appeal to students?"

Added Alex Damron, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, the key is that families have options. "We believe that competition and flexibility and parents having options will drive school improvement long term. There is nothing wrong with people having choices."

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said he doesn't think Indiana needed another charter school-authorizing organization.

"Some people felt that charter schools would be the cure-all for public education, and it's not even close," he said. "The question is not whether you are charter or traditional public school, but what are you doing that's different. The majority have not proven to be any different. I felt we needed to move in a slow, deliberate manner to make sure that they are more successful before we began flooding the state with them."

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