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Leadership requires courage to not play politics. Leadership requires courage to reach across the aisle with genuine intent. Leadership requires courage to ask, to listen, and to take action. I am proud to work with State Sen. Eddie Melton to display this type of leadership.

Washington’s partisan posturing and reluctance to collaborate and cooperate exhausts many Hoosiers. I, too, have become disenchanted and find this type of representation less than desirable. However, I am newly optimistic and encouraged.

Eddie Melton, a Democrat from Gary, asked me to join his statewide summer Hoosier Community Conversations, starting in Indianapolis on July 11. As a mother, educator and Indiana’s top education official, I understand the importance and responsibility associated with these opportunities to hear directly from Hoosiers. The chance to engage with community voices is critical to better serve Indiana students, families, schools, and communities. Sen. Melton understands the value in these conversations, and I commend his approach.

Although our backgrounds are different, we share the same commitment to serving Indiana’s students. Our students deserve a quality education and courageous leaders who will provide them with just that. When the Hoosier Community Conversations were announced, many people met the idea of a Democrat from Northern Indiana and a Republican from East Central Indiana working together to better serve students with great excitement, intrigue and optimism.

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Overwhelmingly, we have received supportive statements which expressed welcome, congratulations, appreciation and long-overdue themes. This bipartisan approach positions Indiana to become a national leader in opposition to an unflattering hyperpartisan environment. The Hoosier Community Conversations model is a purposeful and positive collaboration in the spirit of student success.

Sen. Melton understands our state’s educational landscape and the inefficient, expensive governance structure. Thus, he is eager to build on successes and find solutions to the concerns of Hoosiers. He appreciates the Indiana Department of Education’s aggressive strategic plan, which explains much of the state’s impressive results and national attention. Yet, Sen. Melton is also aware of the challenges our students, educators, schools and employers continue to face.

I am eager to join Sen. Melton at his Hoosier Community Conversations to hear directly from Indiana communities. After all, leadership requires courage to lead with a moral compass believing a quality education is not about political parties. It is about kids.

Jennifer McCormick is the Indiana state superintendent of public instruction. The opinions are the writer's.

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