Response to the BBS Platform
I've heard from lots of parents who would like an overview of the problems with the BBS platform and how their actions don't align with their claims. This page is for those parents.
That the pillars of the Brake, Brown & Sharp campaign are academic excellence, parents’ rights and full transparency.
The Academic Excellence Response
The BBS campaign has labored long and hard to convince voters that CCS schools have experienced an academic decline.
To be clear, the only demonstrable academic decline for CCS is from 2019 to 2021 and was caused by the pandemic. It was experienced by schools across the state, nation and globe. To the best of my knowledge, the BBS campaign has not put forth claims nor evidence that CCS took any actions that made it more susceptible than other schools to being affected by this global crisis. Nor have they even been able to apply the benefit of hindsight to claim that they would have done anything differently. Instead, they simply point out this one actual drop and insinuate CCS is to blame for not being immune to a global event.
They also point out multiple illusions of drops. The state of Indiana is very clear that the data comparisons BBS has used are not valid due to multiple dramatic changes in the tests being used and the fact that one year’s reporting doesn’t include full student populations. Despite this, the BBS campaign has repeatedly mixed data from pre-2015 iSTEP tests, 2015-2018 iSTEP+ tests and 2019-2022 iLEARN tests. It should be noted that they only added the improvements seen in 2022 after being called out multiple times for excluding it.
When their districtwide claims were subjected to criticism, they shifted to focusing on declines at individual schools within CCS from 2021-2022. In doing so, they completely ignored that redistricting had significantly changed the student populations of the three individual schools that experienced declines, with each of them taking on significantly more students that fell into the English Language Learner, Special Education and Free/Reduced-Cost Lunch subcategories. Subcategories that are tracked by the state specifically because they experience substantially lower proficiency rates.
The BBS campaign has worked hard to convince voters that CCS has declined, but their misunderstanding or misuse of data has simply revealed that they are either unwilling or unable to accurately evaluate academic performance. For a more detailed look at CCS academics, see part 1 and part 2 of my review of BBS claims.
The Parents' Rights Response
To be perfectly clear, if you meet the following three conditions, you should quit reading this and just cast your vote for Brake, Brown & Sharp:
You are very conservative politically.
You believe public schools should embrace your political beliefs.
You are not concerned about the effects of school politization on areas such as academic performance, increased divisiveness in our community, our city’s ability to attract investment, property values, etc.
Whether you’re a parent or just a Carmel citizen, rest assured, the BBS campaign cares deeply about your rights.
If you can’t check all three of those boxes, the BBS campaign has demonstrated again and again that your opinion doesn’t matter to them.
As it says on the home page of this site, I am both a Carmel resident and a parent with kids in CCS schools. I had never heard of Jenny Brake, Greg Brown or Adam Sharp until I started researching the candidates running for school board to decide how to cast my vote in this election. When I reviewed their platform, I was very surprised by the claims of academic decline, so I started digging into the state data they reference.
For several weeks, I engaged with them, their supporters and other citizens on the campaign’s Facebook page. I civilly pushed back first on their claims about academic performance, then also on claims in other areas where I felt they were misrepresenting reality, such as student flight. After posting a version of this analysis on student flight on their page, they blocked me from viewing or posting on their site. Following up with other parents who had been a part of these discussions, I found that many others had the same experience.
One parent shared with me a post from the BBS campaign claiming they had blocked ‘cartoon citizens’ and ‘fictitious individuals,’ and that if any parents or citizens had been incorrectly blocked, they should reach out via the campaign website. So I submitted a polite request to have the issue corrected, including my personal cell phone number and email in case they wanted to contact me to verify I was an actual concerned parent.
Several days later I received an email from someone in their campaign named Jennifer, who I believe is their campaign manager. She thanked me for my interest in the campaign and asked how she could help. I again politely explained that I seemed to have been blocked by mistake, and requested to be unblocked from the page. There was no email response. Instead, the campaign apparently deleted all of the well-researched comments I had made in discussions on their page. Then they apparently deleted many of the posts where I had been a participant. Presumably this was because they then contained one half of discussions I had had with the candidates and their supporters.
This behavior is not limited to me. I have heard from many parents blocked from engaging with BBS. Apparently their new strategy is to make a post, allow a couple of their supporters to comment, then close comments and delete anything that crept in that disagreed with their claims. As I’m blocked, I can’t visit their Facebook page to see if they’re still doing this today, but you can and I encourage you to. Then ask yourself: is this kind of behavior towards parents in the community in any way compatible with the claim of valuing the rights and opinions of all parents.
The Transparency Response
I think the dishonest approach to portraying data and censoring of parents who disagree with them already say a ton about the BBS campaign’s version of transparency. But there’s one more thing I’d like to mention.
I asked a parent who could still access the BBS campaign’s Facebook page to check for events where the public could meet and speak with them. I checked their actual website, as well as the websites and Facebook profiles of the group of candidates I’ve decided to vote for, Kristin Kouka, Jennifer Nelson-Williams and Jake Nichols. Here’s what I found:
Brake, Brown & Sharp past & upcoming events:
1 fundraiser requiring a $50 - $2500 donation to attend
1 fundraiser requiring a $25 donation to attend
1 meet and greet event at Adam Sharp’s home, free to attend
1 meet and greet event at a private citizen’s home, free to attend
Kouka, Nelson-Williams & Nichols past & upcoming events:
1 fundraiser requiring a $100 donation to attend
1 townhall event, free to attend
23 meet and greet events at private citizens’ homes, free to attend
5 meet and greet events in public spaces, free to attend
So if you want to meet and ask questions of these candidates without paying them for the privilege, the KNN campaign has held/scheduled more than 14x as many events as the BBS campaign. Which of those speaks to caring more about transparency? And to the BBS campaign’s other claim, which approach speaks more to valuing the input of all parents?
I was not able to attend either of the BBS campaign’s free events, but I did make it to one for the KNN campaign. I will say this. They demonstrated a clear understanding of where Carmel Schools are at. They came off as viewing the role of board candidates as being qualified administrators who handle the grunt work that enables the schools to continue to thrive. They did not come off as activists or pushing a political agenda of any stripe.
I would also like to point out that they took questions from people at the event, and some of those questions were critical of or questioning specific aspects of our school system. The KKN candidates responded to these civilly and respectfully, explaining their positions and referencing the data that informed them. It would be hard for me to envision a higher level of transparency than what I witnessed at the event I attended. They have more than earned my vote and I believe they will build on the long history of success of our school system.
Some Closing Thoughts
I wrote this page to serve as a starting point for new visitors to this site and a brief overview of my views of the BBS platform and my response to it. Unfortunately, once I start writing, I tend to struggle a bit with being brief.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I encourage you to visit other pages on the site, as well the candidates’ own websites and Facebook pages. We all owe it to our children and our community to make as informed choices as possible when voting on who sits on our school board.