Local superintendents react to IDOE initiative

COLUMBIA CITY — In a continued effort to enhance communication between Indiana teachers and state education officials, the Indiana Department of Education launched The Educator Learning Link (TELL) Ambassadors program last week.The program, introduced Wednesday, is getting mixed reactions from local superintendents.“I think it appears the Department of Education seems to be reaching out to the local level and that’s a positive thing,” said Steve Darnell, superintendent of Smith-Green Community Schools.“We’ve got a good communication link with the department and I know Dr. (Tony) Bennett (State Superintendent of Public Instruction) started sending out e-mails to the individual teachers and I know ours really appreciated that.”The launch of TELL came on the heels of another communication-enhancement program called the Learning Connection, an interactive online learning community that encourages collaboration and professional development.The addition of IDOE’s latest program could be overkill, according to Whitko Superintendent Steve Clason.“I’m a little bit skeptical about it, because it almost seems like a redundant information source,” said Clason.“We have the Learning Connection and get e-mails from that, so I’m not sure of the overall purpose (of TELL), but time will tell how it’s going to be used.”The IDOE website referred to TELL as a “grassroots outreach effort (that) will provide Hoosier educators with unfiltered access to critical information regarding IDOE policies and initiatives.”Bennett touted the advantages of the new initiative.“It is vitally important for Indiana’s educators to have access to the most up-to-date and accurate information when formulating opinions on education reform proposals,” he said.“The landmark proposals which comprise our ‘Putting Students First’ legislative agenda will determine the trajectory of Indiana education for generations to come, and I am hopeful stakeholders from every corner of Indiana will participate in the debate during the coming weeks.”School corporations are asked to select one ambassador from every school building, with the task of sharing “detailed policy documents with other teachers in their school buildings,” according to the IDOE press release.“TELL ambassadors will also be encouraged to share their colleagues’ questions and concerns directly with designated IDOE representatives.”“My initial response was confusion,” said Dr. Patricia O’Connor, superintendent of Whitley County Consolidated Schools. “I’m not sure how effective that avenue would be as opposed to all the e-mail and other avenues of communication we have.“If it were something important, I’d want to be sure the information was given to the superintendents and then, in turn, given to the teachers, depending on what the message was.”O’Connor mirrored Clason’s assessment that the program might be a duplicated effort with other programs.“My sense is that was the intent of the Learning Connection, which was effective communication,” she said.