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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:57 pm

Local college educator wants to challenge state schools chief

Niki Kelly|The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - A Fort Wayne college educator is the first Republican to declare she will run for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Dawn Wooten, 45, said she filed election paperwork Thursday and launched a website. 

She hopes to take on Democratic Superintendent Glenda Ritz in November 2016 but first must be nominated by Indiana Republicans at next summer's state convention. 

"Talking to Republican leaders there are a few people interested but no one has declared," Wooten said. "Since I'm a relative unknown I thought I should declare now so people can get to know me."

Wooten currently is an adjunct faculty member at Ivy Tech, IPFW and the University of Saint Francis teaching a variety of English courses, including some in person and some online. 

A staunch opponent of Common Core academic standards, she also served as a member of the College and Career Readiness Panel in 2014 and said she is running because she doesn't see much action or accomplishment from Ritz.

"I was kind of stunned by the lack of activity," Wooten said of visiting the Indiana Department of Education. "There were no phones ringing and there were no people looking to make things happen. As an educator and a parent it all felt wrong."

She said she is a lifelong Republican but admits she feels similarly to Ritz about schools focusing too much on standardized tests. She also said the system for giving schools A to F grades is too complicated and she understands criticism that vouchers take money from public schools. 

She plans to visit Republican leaders in all counties and speak with delegates that will be voting on the GOP nominee.

"I'm so driven to make sure kids get the skills they really need," Wooten said. 

The Connersville native has lived in Fort Wayne for decades, and has undergraduate and graduate English degrees from IPFW. She also has a business management degree from Indiana Wesleyan.

She has been teaching college courses for 11 years, and also homeschooled her daughter and nephew. Wooten has been married 18 years and has one teen-aged daughter.

Indiana Democratic  Party spokesman Drew Anderson issued a statement Friday supporting Ritz: "Hoosier voters have confidence in Glenda Ritz because as superintendent of public instruction, Ritz has fought to strengthen Indiana’s public education system, focused on getting results, and has stood up for our students when they needed it the most, We are confident she will be reelected in 2016."