David Hampton: IPS at-large race should go to a true reformer

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
David Hampton is running for a seat on the IPS school board.

(Chalkbeat talked with the 10 candidates running for a spot on the Indianapolis Public Schools board about their backgrounds, educational philosophies, and why and how they want to influence the school district if they are elected Nov. 4. To compare their positions against other candidates, visit our interactive election tracker.)

As the son of a 32-year Indianapolis Public Schools teacher, Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton always had an interest in education.

But when Hampton got involved with a church in New York City in 2006 after seminary study, he started working with the education reform community to improve outcomes for poor students.

Hampton is bringing reform ideals — such as increased principal autonomy, an openness to partnerships with charter schools and a goal of restructuring and increasing teacher pay — to his campaign this fall for an at-large seat on the Indianapolis Public School Board. He’s running against incumbent Annie Roof and three other challengers: former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, Butler University instructor Josh Owens and IPS athletic coach Ramon Batts.

Here is what Hampton told Chalkbeat about his background, goals for the district and thoughts on education issues:

(Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat and WFYI’s Oct. 23 education conversation event at the Indianapolis Public Library)

Hampton’s passion for education was shaped at a young age when he saw some of his close friends go down the wrong path.

“It was dangerous in some neighborhoods to be too smart,” Hampton said. “That’s the sad part about the African American experience. You’re perceived as being white, or talking white, or you’re better than them. When you grow up in a gang-infested neighborhood, you either join the gang or you don’t have the protections that come with that. I had friends that were extremely smart and they chose not to highlight that. Some of them went on to prison, some were killed. I grew up seeing so much potential being wasted, senselessly. It’s OK to grow up tough but to still be articulate. You have to be something in life.”

He wants to address disparities in educational outcomes for African American, Latino and Asian students.

“I want to make sure I’m a clear advocate for all students,” Hampton said. “Any disparities or inequities just need to be looked at. I think there needs to be better representation among teachers. Seventy percent are white. If prisons are built based on third-grade reading levels of African-American boys, then are we saying that we’re willing to invest more into prison than education? If not, let’s invest in early childhood education.”

He learned about the politics of education and change in Indianapolis when he sat on an IPS advisory board led by former Superintendent Eugene White, shortly after returning to Indianapolis to lead Light of the World church.

“I was just doing what I do, being the new pastor,” Hampton said. “I also met (The Mind Trust founder) David Harris. I liked some of the things that The Mind Trust was doing, but I understood the politics and the push back and I understood some of the dynamics around where that would be a threat to IPS. I was very honest in those meetings as someone who has worked with both sides to try to depoliticize the issues. I became impassioned in really helping IPS improve, to turn around failing schools and improve graduation rates.”

He thinks IPS needs to offer more vocational programs for students.

“Every student may not go to college, but they can graduate from high school,” Hampton said. “We’re going to have to offer different types of pedagogical models. We can’t expect every student to excel in a one-size-fits-all model. It could be that students aren’t failing. It could be that the system is failing students. We’re going to have to be honest in that evaluation.”

He’s a little nervous about the outcome of the Nov. 4 election.

“I like that the field is saturated with five good candidates because it shows that others have a passion for children and education,” Hampton said. “It’s difficult because a few of us are reform-friendly and I would hate if the vote were to be split in such a way that neither one of us wins. I would hate that someone who’s not innovative would be voted in. I don’t call myself a through-and-through reformer. I would call myself a progressive. My track record shows I’ve been willing to work the reform side and the traditional side.”

(Read more: Six critical questions the IPS school board race will answer)

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.