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ISTA-Retired member Patricia Payne honored with national award

Patricia Payne has spent her career working toward educational justice for Black students and students of color in the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). After decades in the classroom, Payne transitioned to leading diversity efforts at IPS, where she heads the Racial Equity Initiative. Last night she was honored at the National Education Association’s Human and Civil Rights Awards for this work.

Payne was awarded the H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award. This award recognizes educators who go beyond the call of duty to free the education profession from racial or ethnic inequities.

The Indianapolis Education Association (IEA) President and ISTA Minority Affairs Committee Co-Chair Ronald Swann nominated Payne. She was surprised at receiving the honor and referenced other deserving educators who have dedicated years to this work.

“I never thought I’d be recognized, as I know all the amazing people the award could go to,” said Payne. “I give all the homage to NEA, ISTA and IEA. I never could have done all I have without the support.”

Despite her modesty, Payne has been a leader on this issue in Indianapolis and the state, and her impact continues. In June, the IPS school board passed the Racial Equity Mindset Policy and a resolution supporting Black Lives Matter. This came full circle as the first effort she was involved with – in the 1970s – included school board action to recognize and incorporate Black history into the curriculum.

“Our district is miles ahead of many other districts,” said Payne. “Of course, we know, it’s just words on the page, so we have to lift that into action.

She acknowledged the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement accelerated awareness of systemic racism and a willingness to address it. She wants to see equity embraced in education and society.

Payne encourages other ISTA members to lead on racial equity in their districts.

“This requires major shifts in knowledge, attitudes, mindsets, belief systems and practices to make change,” said Payne.

NEA and ISTA provide a variety of resources for members to learn more about racial inequities to make changes in their classrooms, schools and districts.