Dear Prez.

President Obama,

I was proud to share the ballot with you in 2012 as an elected public school board member from Indianapolis, Indiana. Of course you were at the top of said ballot, and I was at the very bottom, but I digress. 🙂

Here’s my prediction: public education as we both have known and benefited from it will cease to exist. I am a product of the school system that I now serve. Public schooling enabled me to overcome and succeed despite an unstable home life and becoming a parent at the age of fifteen. I owe so much in return for the support and opportunities I’ve received. It pains me to bear witness to what is happening in my local school district currently.

During my four year tenure on the board of Indianapolis Public Schools, I have witnessed the gutting of our public school system, as many other cities have also experienced. It concerns me greatly that a market based approach is being implemented in our great American public school system. Privatizing our prisons was bad enough. Education is a human right. A profit motive diminishes the quality of opportunities we can offer our children in favor of increasing CEO salaries at the top – and it is being accomplished with our tax dollars. The very student populations that are most disenfranchised and vulnerable are the ones being targeted for these experiments in cashing in on our children. In Indianapolis, there are charter school CEO’s that operate one or two schools that make more money than our public school superintendent that oversees 60+ schools. It is our children that suffer.

Mr. President, I have exhausted every avenue and tool at my disposal to raise awareness of this issue. The continued privatization of our public school systems will do nothing but expand the divide between the haves and have nots in this country. Please do what you can to reinforce our American educational system as the great equalizer that it once was. Education can be the key to unlocking opportunity for children regardless of color or creed, if it remains a taxpayer funded, respected public institution. It will not achieve this lofty goal if it is completely transformed to another potentially lucrative opportunity for investors. Educators, children, the future state of public education is dependent upon your intervention.

Thank you for your consideration.

Most respectfully and humbly submitted,

Gayle Cosby

(My thoughts expressed here are entirely my own, and do not reflect those of any other entity or group).

On being silenced


I don’t know Larry Vaughn on a personal level, and I’m not inside his mind, so I don’t intend to speak for him.  What I do intend to do, though, is check some rampant white privilege gone awry on facebook.

First of all, for those that do not know Larry, he is a political activist.  He has probably been to almost as many IPS board meetings as I have in the past four years – and I’m sure his appearances there predate mine.  He usually offers a delegation, a speech to the school board that is capped at three minutes.  Larry typically wears a paper bag hat, a shirt with the word “slave” on it, and a ring of white makeup around his mouth.

Some school board members have begun to circulate pictures of Larry while at IPS, and made the following comments:


So, let me direct you to the definition of blackface:


Larry cannot be engaging in definition #1 above.  Larry is a black man and therefore is not “a nonblack performer playing a black role”.  I have listened to the same delegations that Larry has offered – seen IPS officials make him leave his signs outside the room, get his microphone cut off and kicked out of the board room – I have seen the same things as my fellow commissioners.  What I see and hear though, beyond Larry’s superficial appearances, is a man trying to convey IPS’s role in the SECOND definition of blackface above – that IPS as an institution is insincerely and ineffectively nonracist, and patronizing to the black community – and therefore attempts have been made to silence him.

In my four years on the board, I can recall several instances in which IPS initiatives were viewed as racist.  You can see those articles here – from the late Amos Brown on the move of school 70, the “soft bigotry of low expectations“,  or the ousting of 706 Shortridge students to make way for Gambold students.  Other journalists such as Stephanie Wang have more recently highlighted racial inequities within the district.  My point here is that Larry Vaughn’s underlying message is not off base – nor was Amos’s or Stephanie’s.  IPS needs to open itself up to that kind of critique if it is to progress forward.

What is really bothering me is the repeated attacks on this man’s character.  I’ll be the first to admit that Larry has some unorthodox attention-grabbing theatrics to accompany his public political activist persona.  He has made some equally attention-grabbing statements in the boardroom.  However, it is not okay to impose white-centric views of what is deemed “appropriate” dress, appearance, and behavior onto others – and when they don’t conform to your norms – call them crazy:




Lisa Delpit, a well-known Education scholar defined a “culture of power” that serves to inhibit black people from speaking their truths on the education of Black youth.  In her 1988 article The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children, Delpit explains five mechanisms of the culture of power.  One is particularly poignant in Larry’s case:


So because Larry does not ascribe to the tenets of the white-centric culture of power, elected officials have taken to social media to attempt to further diminish him and call him crazy.

This is not intended to speak for Larry, because I know he is capable of doing that for himself.  This is not an endorsement of Larry as a political candidate.

What this is: a defense of Larry’s personhood.  His right to exist, think, and act OUTSIDE of the dominant ideology and norms inherent in the culture of power – without being ‘diagnosed’ and belittled for his differences.  What this is, is a reminder of the fact that everyone has a democratic right to exercise free speech, even people we might disagree with.  Kudos to Larry for persevering in the pursuit of his rights, and for his bravery in continuing to speak his unique truth in spaces where the culture of power would much rather render him silent.


My thoughts are my own, and do not represent those of any other entity, corporation, or group…and I stand with Larry in exercising my right to free speech!  Questions or comments:

Community Food Box Project

This isn’t on my usual topic of education, but this is a blog post from my daughter who has started the Community Food Box Project in Indianapolis. If you are interested in this project, you can find out more about it on the Community Food Box Project Facebook page.

Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows

The Desmond Tutu Youth Fellows trip to South Africa inspired me to start working on my social justice project immediately after I returned to Indianapolis. I have developed the “Community Food Box Project,” and my constant work on the project is the reason for my absence in blog writing (sorry!).

After meeting Desmond Tutu and hearing his kind and wise words, “Reach for the stars, you can dream,” my life changed. Something sparked in me, it was passion and a new sense of self-confidence I had never experienced before. I started to think about what I can do instead of everything I can’t do. So I brought this new attitude back to Indianapolis in order to start my social justice project. The Community Food Box Project was born soon after my mom showed me a Huffington Post article about a “little free pantry” movement in Arkansas. A woman built small structures similar to…

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This just in from Chicago- Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school

Dear Mayor Emanuel: In 2010 Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school.  After being hired to lead Bla…

Source: Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school in Chicago


Dear Reader,

Did you know that Marian University now owns a lot more land than it used to?

That’s right.  Indianapolis Public Schools transferred several acres of land surrounding Cold Spring School last week to Marian University.  This acreage included lots of natural habitat along the river as well as three buildings, one of which is the beautiful Sommers Mansion:

Marian Property

I bet you’re wondering why a struggling public school district would do such a thing, especially when the potential revenue that could have been generated from selling the property sure would come in handy right about now.

Apparently most folks at IPS are satisfied with Marian University simply assuming all maintenance costs associated with the property.  In fact, the amount of money that Marian spends each year to maintain the property will ultimately purchase the Cold Spring School building itself, after 13 years of upkeep costs.  (I think aggressively marketing and renting the Mansion could probably cover most/all of that, but I digress.)  Essentially, if IPS decides to no longer operate a school at this location after 13 years, Marian assumes ownership of that property also.  You can read the term sheet for yourself here.

It really comes as no surprise.  Marian University essentially gained control of the school back in April 2016 when Cold Spring converted to Innovation School status.  This was unprecedented because, under IPS’s operation, Cold Spring School was rated an A.

I certainly hope that the A rating remains, although Marian has announched plans to make Cold Spring School a lab school for its School of Education, which may or may not shift its curricular focus away from the current Environmental Studies curriculum that has been so successful.   I’ve heard rumors that Tony Bennett has been contracted to evaluate and revamp Marian’s teacher education programs, which, if it’s true, will likely result in the strengthening of the already prominent Teach For America (TFA) and The New Teacher Project (TNTP) transition-to-teaching programs…just a little prediction for ya.


My thoughts are my own, and do not reflect any other entity.

Comments?  Email me:


Breaking News: @NAACP calls for national moratorium on charters

Cloaking Inequity

I don’t believe that this has been reported anywhere else. Last week at the NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati, the delegates voted in a new resolution on charter schools. It’s approval as policy will not be official until the National Board meeting in the Fall of 2016. However, this is a big news story that (I suspect because of the political conventions) has not yet entered the traditional media.

Yesterday in the post How will history remember the @NAACP on charters? I discussed the 2010 and 2014 NAACP charter school resolutions. The 2016 NAACP convention voted and approved the following resolution. I am honored it originated from the California Hawaii NAACP, where I serve as Education Chair.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.30.50 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.33.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.31.04 PM

The 2016 NAACP delegates at the national convention called for a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charters.

So for those of you who emailed me yesterday saying that NAACP chapters in various places have gone rogue…

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1961 decisions shaped Indy school districts

A neat historical perspective on IPS and the 11 surrounding township school districts through school integration.

School Matters

Nearly a decade before Indianapolis adopted Unigov, local officials put forward a proposal for a single school district incorporating all of Marion County. It didn’t go very far.

Public opposition from “suburban” residents strangled the plan in its cradle. Instead of a single school district, Indianapolis got what it has today: 11 separate districts that arguably compete for reputation and students – and often lose on both counts to exurban districts beyond the county line.

Indianapolis World War Memorial, where 3,000 people showed up to oppose a school merger plan in 1961. Indianapolis World War Memorial, where 3,000 people showed up to oppose a school merger plan in 1961.

According to news accounts from 1961, the year of the countywide school district proposal, thousands of opponents packed two raucous public hearings and made their displeasure known.

“Two women spoke in favor of the one-unit plan,” the Indianapolis Star reported, “but were repeatedly interrupted by hecklers among the suburban opponents as the reorganization committee wound up six hours…

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