January 26, 2018

Guilliard Family - An multi-school IPS family

MULTIPLE SCHOOLS, ONE FAMILY — The Gilliard Family, including mom LaShonda (back center) and children Ashantea (back left), A’Shaune (back right), Aaron (front left) and Alexis (front right) are a multi-school IPS family. When looking for the perfect schools for each of her children, LaShonda settled on Herron High School, Purdue Polytechnic  and IPS/Butler University Lab School 60. Below, the Gilliard children often do homework together.

Overwhelmed. Excited. Grateful.

There are a number of words to describe how families feel when looking for and finally finding the right school for their children.

Homework time for the Juilliard Family

IPS is proud to be part of the solution for many. With 71 schools — including a variety of academic programs and teaching methods, along with 45 academic pathways — district families are fortunate to have so many options.

“IPS has developed a diverse portfolio of K-8 schools that allows students to find an ideal fit,” said Patrick Herrel, director of the Office of Enrollment and Options at IPS. “Some students may need a school that integrates movement into learning: SUPER School 19 may be perfect for them. Other students may need an environment that empowers them to take control of their own learning: IPS’ three Montessori schools may be perfect for them. By developing a wide range of programming, IPS has the ability to offer options to suit each student’s needs and interests.”

Herrel said IPS high schools present an even more specialized range of programming, with 12 college- and career-themed academies and three Innovation high school partners.

“Students are empowered to choose a program that connects to their interests, allows for exploration of work after high school, and prepares them for success after IPS and in life,” he said.

LaShonda Gilliard is experiencing this first hand.

When Gilliard moved to Indianapolis from Brownsburg last year, one of the biggest decisions she faced was finding the right schools for her four children. She wasn’t looking for one school for all four, she wanted the right one for each.

“Obviously, location was one of the first things I looked at. But in the end, finding the right fit for each of my children was the most important thing,” said Gilliard. “I did a lot of research.”

Oldest daughter Ashantea helped. “She did her own research and really liked what she read and heard about Herron High School,” said Gilliard. The family attended an open house, and Ashantea shadowed a Herron student for a day.

Ashantea, now a sophomore at Herron, said her biggest surprise when shadowing was learning she would have to take Latin. “I had learned a language before, but Latin was hard to get used to,” she said. “It’s easier in the second year, and now I am also taking French as an elective.”

Gilliard’s son A’Shaune is a freshman at Purdue Polytechnic High School this year. “He showed an interest in mechanical engineering,” she said. “With their focus on STEM, we thought it would be the best fit for him.”

A’Shaune also wanted a school that offered sports and extracurricular activities. “I told him, ‘With this being Purdue Polytech’s first year, you’ll be the ones to start the sports and the clubs and the things you want at this school,’” said Gilliard. “He ended up being a starter on the basketball team.”

A’Shaune enjoys his new school, but the academic approach at Purdue Polytech is very different from a typical high school. Instead of a traditional schedule, teachers and students work together to create time for individual and group instruction. “One thing every student should know is to always ask their teachers for help,” said A’Shaune. “You can’t do it alone. We all need help at some point.”

He also likes that technology is integrated into daily lessons. “We do most of our work on computers – a Chromebook – so my work stays more organized.”

“Purdue had a family night a week or two before school started to welcome families and really explain their approach,” said Gilliard. “It was a great atmosphere, and they spent a lot of time making sure families understood the different instruction methods and that our children would be continually challenged. It’s a big change, but A’Shaune is getting adjusted to it.”

Gilliard’s youngest two children, Alexis and Aaron, are in 6th and 7th grade, respectively, at IPS/Butler University Lab School 60. “Alexis got in after the first lottery, but Aaron did not,” said Gilliard. “I didn’t want to split them up, so I enrolled them at (another school). But then, three weeks into the school year, a spot opened up for Aaron. We visited the school, took a tour, and decided to move the children to Butler (Lab).”

Having children at three different schools isn’t easy and requires careful planning. “It can be hard when they all have things going on,” said Gilliard. “The older three are all in basketball now and the youngest is just getting ready to start. Sometimes they have games on the same day. But we make it work.”

Gilliard said she knew transportation was one of the logistics she would have to work out. Herron High School and Purdue Polytech do not offer transportation via school buses. “Herron provides (city) bus passes, and at Purdue Polytech, the kids’ IDs are their (city) bus passes,” she said. Gilliard drives the youngest two to school.

While multiple schools are working for this family, Gilliard acknowledges that it may not be the best choice for every family.

“Despite the inconveniences, there are real advantages,” said Gilliard. “I feel my children have achieved a greater sense of independence by attending different schools and that their individual needs are being met.”

“Purdue and Herron especially are set up to create independence and get them ready for college,” she added. “Once they get on a college campus, they are on their own, and both schools are setting them up for success in college.”

Asked what advice she would give other parents facing similar decisions, Gilliard said: “Listen to what your child is saying about school and what they are interested in career wise. A lot of them might not know just yet, but just listen and really pay attention.”

IPS Student Services Director Flora Jones suggests parents encourage their children to participate in extracurricular activities to ensure exposure and development in areas such as science, public speaking, math and problem-solving. She recommends parents attend multiple parent meetings with their children to meet the school administration and staff.

“This not only increases the parents’ understanding of programs at their child’s school, but also builds strong communication between all involved,” said Jones. 

Herrel encourages families to utilize IPS’ many enrollment resources, including the annual Showcase of Schools, the IPS website, and Enroll Indy.

“Enroll Indy has created a ‘Finder’ that allows families to explore all of IPS’ Choice options,” said Herrel. “Each school is listed by location and has detailed information about transportation, school-specific programming, extracurricular offerings, hours, before- and after-care, and more.”

Enroll Indy is also one of the ways families can apply to an IPS school, including the district’s coveted Choice programs.

Jones believes IPS is a “game changer for urban youth” in Indianapolis.

“IPS believes that the students it serves deserve the absolute best educational opportunities that can be offered in the 21st century and seeks to provide these opportunities through varied paths,” said Jones.

Added Gilliard: “The school you choose will affect your child’s academic future, so take the time to do the research and then choose the school that feels the best for both of you.”


Round 2 of the Choice Application Lottery for 2018-2019 enrollment began January 16 and ends April 15. Students who applied through Enroll Indy by January 15 (the deadline for Round 1) will receive their results February 15.

If you need help or have enrollment questions, call Enroll Indy at 317.426.3234 or visit them in person at 120 E. Walnut St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.