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No union takeover at Dept. of Ed

Supporters of Superintendent Tony Bennett have wavered between blaming his loss on opponents of the Common Core curriculum and the state's teacher unions. They've offered no credit to Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz's very effective grassroots campaign or any acknowledgement that Bennett's agenda was highly unpopular with public school educators and parents.

While it's true that Ritz was president of her school district's ISTA affiliate and a plaintiff in the school-voucher lawsuit, any argument that she's a puppet of the union loses steam with news of her top administrative appointments.

Craig Hartzer, who will serve as chief of staff, is an experienced state government official, heading up the Department of Workforce Development and Public Employees Retirement Fund under Democratic administrations. He's also a former deputy mayor of South Bend. Hartzer is now director of the Executive Education Program at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Trish Whitcomb Sipes will be special adviser to the new state superintendent. She was Ritz's campaign manager and director of the transition team. She has an education background as a former special education teacher and former director of Adult Basic Education at Central State Hospital. She also has an interesting political pedigree – not as a labor activist but as the daughter of former Republican Gov. Edgar Whitcomb, who served 1969-73.

For Indiana history buffs, he was the last Indiana governor constitutionally restricted to a single term.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at