INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An unknown teacher from Indianapolis is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Glenda Ritz has been teaching for 33 years. She is a Media Specialist at Crooked Creek Elementary School on the north side of Indianapolis.
Married for 34 years, she has two sons and four grandchildren. Tuesday night she taught some savvy politicians an important lesson – grassroots politics still works.
A 100 year old house just north of downtown Indianapolis is headquarters for the Glenda Ritz campaign. It fits the kind of campaign she ran to win the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Grassroots at its core.
"We had the campaign in a box. Where if you donated a minimum of $25 you actually got a yard sign, 20 post cards and five bumper stickers delivered to your home," says Ritz sitting in the old house headquarters thinking about the campaign.
With a budget of less than $300,000 compared to more than a million for her opponent, Ritz won the highest percentage of votes of any candidate from either party election night, and she did it without big media.
"We sent out over 100,000 postcards. Educators did. They wrote their own personal messages on the back, put their own stamps, mailed them out to people they knew," Ritz says.
They also used social media. Her Facebook page got supporters fired up. Messages now of congratulations replace those that kept supporters informed and motivated.
"Her win to me is one of the largest political upsets in the state's history," says Nate Schnellenberger, President of ISTA, which represents more than 45,000 educators in Indiana. "I think it was teachers saying you haven't, you say you've listened to us but you haven't really listened. You may have heard us talk, but you didn't really listen to us," he says.
Ritz says her agenda will reflect that she is listening.
"Get away from the high stakes testing, and the A to F grading system. As well as making sure that we are going to have public dollars going to public schools and get some real support from the bottom up," she says.
She also says state takeover of schools is finished.
"Actually, I believe, it's my job as Superintendent of Public instruction to make sure all schools succeed. That's my job," she says.
Glenda Ritz is the lone Democrat in a state government filled with Republicans. Not to worry she says. She's been testifying in front of legislators on education issues for years.
They know her she says and they respect her.
And she says her support cuts across party lines. So she'll have a voice, no matter how big the Republican majority.
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