After winning the District 2 race for the Monroe County Community School Corporation’s Board of Trustees, April Hennessey will be the only new member elected to the board for the upcoming term.
Hennessey beat her opponents, Matthew Smith and incumbent Sue Wanzer, with 57% of the votes from Nov. 3. She plans to promote clearer communication with MCCSC parents and diversity during her time on the board.
Campaign Chair Ashley Pirani said she decided to support Hennessey in part because of her experience as a high school English teacher at MCCSC. Pirani believed while some of the board members had experience in the classroom, Hennessey’s connection was more recent.
“I felt like there was a voice missing on the board that was going to be very important moving forward,” Pirani said. “Not only through COVID-19, but also in selecting a new superintendent.”
Hennessey left MCCSC in 2018 for various reasons, but said a primary factor was her desire to change the conditions she and her peers worked in. She said she often felt constrained by her lack of control as an educator.
“I did not feel as a teacher that I had enough authority to change the system from within,” Hennessey said. “Too often teachers are bound by law and by other kinds of policies from speaking and I felt really stifled by that.”
One of the issues Hennessey said she witnessed while teaching was how certain students were not treated equally through the disciplinary action they received. She said this kind of atmosphere strengthens the school-to-prison pipeline she hopes to dismantle.
“Our disciplinary structures and procedures often do disproportionately affect certain demographics, primarily Black and Brown students,” Hennessey said. “This is something that I was passionate about even as I was teaching because I would see it in the classroom.”
Pirani looks forward to seeing how Hennessey and the existing members on the board will be able to collaborate to improve upon the issues Hennessey saw.
“I’m excited to see how she works within the group structure,” Pirani said. “I think she knows how to also work within the parameters that school board trustees have to work within in order to get those things done.”
Since school board races are nonpartisan, Hennessey’s campaign did not have access to voter lists when reaching out to constituents. Instead, the team mailed out and posted voter information to Bloomington residents and distributed 150 yard signs.
The campaign branched out in virtual ways during the race by organizing virtual house parties and Q&A sessions. Hennessey hopes she can encourage better communication between the board and parents going forward as she believes she did while running for the position.
Cathi Crabtree was the campaign’s volunteer coordinator. She said she was struck by the number of people who wanted to get involved through volunteering, many of whom were Hennessey’s former students at MCCSC.
“One of the things that really stuck with me was the enthusiasm of the volunteers,” Crabtree said. “That was really, really exciting and refreshing for me.”
As a parent herself, Crabtree is most excited about Hennessey’s commitment to promoting equity in students’ experiences at MCCSC. She is concerned about the differences in wealth between schools in the district.
“I just don’t think it’s right that within one school system we have such disparity,” Crabtree said. “Many people don’t have the freedom to move around to the school districts they want.”