Carmel school board member: Candidates with ‘vendetta’ or ‘agenda’ should reconsider run


Correction: The original version of this story misstated the timeline for social studies materials adoption. The school board approved social studies materials on June 27. 

Carmel Clay Schools is embracing a more inquiry-based approach in its social studies curriculum, meaning students will be encouraged to engage with multiple sources and ask questions rather than focus on memorizing dates and facts from textbooks.

It’s an approach CCS school board member Louise Jackson wholeheartedly supports in the classroom – and on the board. After hearing a report on the social studies program evaluation at the Sept. 12 school board workshop from Anne Arroyo, CCS director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, Jackson shared her support for changes to the program and addressed Nov. 8 school board candidates, several of whom were in attendance.

“We have a team that has an inquiry-based mindset, so I have to step on my soapbox and say that if you’re running for school board with a vendetta or some kind of agenda that does not lend yourself to having an inquiry-based mindset, the same one we require of our students, I would ask you to think again about whether or not this is the place for you,” Jackson said.

During the public comment portion of the Sept. 27 school board meeting, Greg Brown, a school board candidate in District 3, said he felt Jackson’s comments violated the district’s recently implemented civility and decorum policy.

“At least two of us that were in attendance that were board candidates were surprised by the comment,” Brown said. “I found it to be rather intimidating.”

In an email to Current, Jackson explained her comment at the Sept. 12 meeting, stating that the school board operates in a similar way to the inquiry-based learning model proposed for social studies classes, asking questions and using guiding principles to navigate decisions and conversation.

“During the elections right now we are all experiencing a very polarizing climate and people are trying to get anyone considering (a) run for any elected office to pick a side, pick a cause,” Jackson stated. “I am cautioning all (candidates running for a position) to pause and think about their intentions at all times because they will be running to represent the entire community they serve. We as public servants should always be asking, ‘How can I learn more? ‘What perspective do I not have?’ ‘What might it be like for others not in my shoes?’ That is what I believe is at the heart of an inquiry-based mindset and how I navigate leading on behalf of others.”

At the Sept. 12 meeting, Jackson said she has heard from one of her children who attends CCS that some elements of history were being taught in a one-sided fashion. Jackson believes an inquiry-based model and curriculum updates will help address that issue.

Arroyo said textbooks will be supplemented with stories “we really want to emphasize” to help students better engage with and understand nuanced concepts.

“A textbook is designed to be efficient,” Arroyo said. “In their efficiency, often textbooks oversimplify complex things that happen in our world.”

For the social studies program evaluation, educators worked with committees and focus groups consisting of teachers, students and parents to gather feedback and ideas on improving the curriculum. They also looked at test scores and reviewed literature being used at all levels.

The evaluation led to four recommendations:

  • Emphasize depth of learning over broad content coverage
  • Prioritize historical thinking and disciplinary literacy skills
  • Inclusion of diverse narratives and perspectives through primary and secondary source document analysis
  • Teach with and for inquiry

The board approved social studies materials on June 27. Changes also include the addition of a civics course for sixth graders, a new state requirement.