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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Children from the Boys and Girls Clubs and other participants stretch Wednesday at Foster Park before joining Gov. Mike Pence in “Walk a Mile With Mike,” an event meant to promote healthy lifestyles.

Pence backs school grades

Open to new safeguards in light of Bennett allegation

Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he remains committed to the state’s system for assigning letter grades to schools based on their academic performance, despite news reports that the former Indiana education chief changed a charter school’s grade from a C to an A.

Pence indicated he is open to considering proposals for ensuring that grades are determined in “an accurate and fair and impartial way.”

“It’s extremely important that our A-to-F system be preserved and also that the people of Indiana have confidence in that system,” the first-year governor said in an interview during a visit to Fort Wayne. “I don’t want to prejudge it. We’ll look forward to providing any appropriate support to the Department of Education to make sure we examine the issues that have been raised.

“I want to give the Department of Education and Superintendent (Glenda) Ritz the opportunity to review the A-to-F system initially, and then we’ll consider other proposals,” he said.

Pence made the comments after taking part in a morning fitness walk near Foster Park that attracted 200 people.

He made similar remarks later at a town-hall meeting attended by 100 people at the downtown Allen County Public Library.

The Associated Press has reported that it obtained emails showing that former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and his staff last year changed the grade of Christel House Academy from its original C to an A.

The Indianapolis charter school was founded by Christel DeHaan, who has donated $2.7 million to Republican political candidates, including $130,000 to Bennett’s campaign.

“I think the A-to-F system is extremely important,” Pence said in the interview. “We worked in the last session of the Indiana General Assembly to preserve the system. I think it is an essential part of the public accountability that is so important in improving education in Indiana. Parents have a right to know how their schools are performing overall. But that system needs to really reflect the performance of those schools in an accurate and fair and impartial way.”

Pence and his wife, Karen, participated in a mile-long walk on the city’s south side sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

Others taking part included Mayor Tom Henry and members of the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Fort Wayne Urban League and the Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP.

“A healthy Hoosier is a more prosperous Hoosier,” Pence told the crowd before their walk.