Maven to Know: Shareyna Chang

The Director of School Quality for Indianapolis Public Schools talks about her philosophy on education, her ever-changing role, and what exactly it means to “wake up and charm.”

Maven to Know: SHAREYNA CHANG, DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL QUALITY, INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Shareyna Chang, 28, calls the “lovely” Chatham Arch neighborhood in Indianapolis home. She describes her living situation as basically a “TRINK” (triple income, no kids) because though she lives alone, her best friend and her partner live two houses down with their Great Dane. 

The Director of School Quality at Indianapolis Public Shools (and Indy Maven editorial board member) talked to us about how her professional world has changed over the past couple months, her philosophy on education, and how she finds some “me” time at the end of each day. 

Maven Superpower: Wake up and charm. I’m sure there’s a better term to describe this trait such as friendly, thoughtful, or welcoming—but this is what my family and friends call it. There’s a running joke about my ability to meet a stranger and immediately find some way to connect with them and begin to develop a relationship. I think it’s a combination of my empathetic soul (I feel very deeply for just about everyone) and my southern charm (I grew up in Virginia). As a result, they’ve affectionately dubbed it the term “wake up and charm” and it’s stuck.

How would you describe what you do for a living to someone you met at a dinner party?

I manage district-level accountability functions that assess the quality of schools on a variety of performance frameworks and metrics. Examples of what this looks like range from school goal setting to measuring school climate and culture to supporting district wide portfolio decisions. If you’re familiar with the education landscape, you might know about the district’s partnerships with our innovation schools and I support those partnerships as well.

I can only imagine how much you’ve had to shift your focus over the past 6-8 weeks. What has that looked like for you?

It’s been an interesting ride! As a result of the pandemic, the state canceled all state assessments (e.g. ILEARN) and since most of my work is grounded in school performance and several of those metrics use state accountability data, it has required us to do some shifting. It has really pushed us to reflect on how we will measure school performance in the interim and how we will adjust these systems moving forward. I’ve also been plugging into other projects that help support the district’s e-learning initiative to ensure that all students have access to the internet and devices to support remote learning. You can learn more about the IPS Education Equity Fund here and how you can support the district’s e-learning equity initiative. 

What do you miss most about what school days/your job used to look like?

I miss being surrounded by my incredibly intelligent and mission-aligned colleagues and friends. There is something truly motivating about engaging with my teammates every day to bounce ideas off of, have them gut check me on decisions, and just hear about how they’re doing on a personal level. I know you can do this all virtually, but it doesn’t feel the same. I also really really miss my whiteboard.

Did you always know you wanted a career in education?

Absolutely not. I majored in environmental management at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Health and thought that I would spend my life working in water resources to support access to safe, clean, and affordable water. I applied to Teach for America on a whim and taught the most amazing class of first graders in my first year, and looped with them to second grade in my second year. They changed my life in the best way possible and while I didn’t feel that staying in the classroom was the right fit for me, I did know that staying in urban education was.

That’s what I’m striving for and consider when I take on any new role or project: ‘Will this directly impact our kids’ access to a high quality education?’ If the answer is yes, then I’m in.”
What’s your philosophy on education? What impact do you hope to leave on schools/students/fellow educators and administrators?

My philosophy on education is very similar to the philosophy of Teach For America, where my education roots began: that one day all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. That’s what I’m striving for and consider when I take on any new role or project: “Will this directly impact our kids’ access to a high quality education?” If the answer is yes, then I’m in. I’m not actually sure if I can properly articulate what impact I hope to leave on students, schools, fellow educators, and administrators—but I do know whatever it is, I hope that it is contributing to strong, positive outcomes and whatever work or role that I’ve been a part of is a little bit better than when I found it.

What do you love about IPS?

I love the current administration’s vision for IPS. I love that I can be a part of a district that is truly putting the interest of our students and families first. We’re more transparent in ways that we’ve never been before (at least in my opinion) and we’re shifting to make sure that we meet the needs of our stakeholders. 

We’ve openly discussed, and continue to push, racial equity as a district initiative and that is a topic that often makes people uncomfortable and is difficult to speak about. It was an incredible experience to be an employee and physically present the day the board of commissioners appointed Superintendent Aleesia Johnson as our district’s leader. To be a part of this historic moment and to witness our first African American female to be appointed the superintendent of the largest district in Indiana was empowering and instilled an immense amount of hope in me for the future we promise and work to deliver to our community.

How do you like to unwind from a long work day?

Pre-COVID, I typically ended my long workdays with a good friend (or two), a glass of wine (or a martini if it was a really long workday), and if I could convince my company, a couple of oysters or charcuterie board. During COVID, I end my workday with a glass of wine (or a walking margarita from La Parada if I head that direction) and walk around my city hitting my favorite neighborhoods along the way.

As the proud daughter of a former public school teacher, executive editor Abby Gardner is so grateful to all the teachers, administrators, aides, and other education employees out there making the best of a tough situation for all the children of Indianapolis. 

Want to be featured as a Maven to Know? Sign up for our Membership Program—we’d love to have you! See all the Maven to Know features we’ve shared so far.