When the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners convened for its Agenda Review Session on Tuesday, August 28, and its’ Board Action Session on Thursday, August 30, topics included a quarterly finance update and project updates on recent real-estate developments.

What follows is a deeper look at those agenda items.

Quarterly Finance Update

Chief Financial Manager Weston Young presented a finance update for the fourth quarter and all of the 2017-18 school year. The update highlighted the current status of district funds, financial management projects and priorities, and other initiatives currently in progress. 

In the existing federal, state and local education funding climate, revenues are not keeping up with the expenditures currently allocated for staffing and other resources. The district must be even more diligent in seeking additional funding in order to sustain and continue attracting, acquiring and maintaining adequate staff and resources that support students’ needs.

Over the past four years, amidst these fiscal pressures, IPS has exhibited a desire to be a leader, both locally and nationally, by intentionally leveraging its resources to better serve its school communities above and beyond what is required to be in compliance.

Key Messages:

  • The district is aggressively pursuing revenue through increased interest income, textbook collections, Medicaid reimbursement, grant contributions, and the release of restricted funds.
  • IPS has also made progress by controlling transportation costs — purchasing new fuel-efficient buses, which require less maintenance, optimizing routing, and revising tier structures to reduce operational costs.
  • IPS continues to monitor its cash balances to adhere to the Board’s cash management policy, which governs the minimum balances to be retained for cash-flow needs and bond-rating monitoring requirements.
  • For the 2018-19 school year, property-tax revenues have been adjusted upward due to an increase in recently released certified net-assessed value by DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance). The Board-appropriated fund deficit continues to be addressed, with budget cuts related to a reduction in service levels at both the school and central office operations.

Overall, the district continues to maintain financial and operational transparency, provide timely financial updates to stakeholders, and communicate progress on new initiatives while continuing to invest in strategic priorities.

Opportunity Culture

This month, Brynn Kardash, IPS Executive Director of Schools – Transformation Zone and Bryan Hassel, Co-President of Public Impact, presented Commissioners with an update on the Opportunity Culture (OC) initiative within IPS.

Key Messages:

  • Opportunity Culture extends the reach of excellent teachers to more students across the district.
  • It provides advancement opportunities for excellent teachers by creating leadership roles and offering additional compensation in exchange for increased responsibility.
  • There are 45 Opportunity Culture roles available within IPS, an increase of five positions from last year.
  • 100 percent of participating teachers agree that they would like the program to continue at their schools next year.
  • 91 percent of participating teachers agree that compensation in Opportunity Culture schools is better than it would be without the program.

IPS High School Real-Estate Process Briefing

On September 18, 2017, the Board of School Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that outlined the reuse or disposition of six properties affected by the consolidation of IPS high schools. This month, Commissioners reviewed recommendations to select consultants for additional market analysis and stakeholder engagement.

Key Messages:

  • The IPS Board of School Commissioners reviewed a public process for determining the reuse and redevelopment of John Marshall and Broad Ripple high schools during its’ July meeting.
  • IPS has issued a Request for Lease Proposals from eligible non-profit organizations with a civic or public purpose, including educational uses such as a charter school or early learning provider. The deadline for proposals is October 11, 2018.
  • The Board will review recommendations to select consultants for additional market analysis, for private uses, and stakeholder engagement during its’ August meeting. The market analysis would seek to ensure that the highest and best uses for the site will be uncovered.

Some key aspects of the approach include:

  • Detailed assessment of site attributes in terms of access, visibility and unique local market context.
  • Tracking of evolving market trends, including: changing demographics, the rise of e-commerce, increasing preferences for more experiential retail and services,
  • Data-driven assessment of both the supply and demand sides of the market for residential, retail, commercial and professional office uses.
  • Key stakeholder interviews with public officials, developers, brokers, economic development staff and real estate professionals active in the local market.
  • Identifying the appropriate mix of uses and strategy for redeveloping the site over time.
  • The Board has directed the Administration to find a reuse for John Marshall High School by working with Glick Philanthropies, the City of Indianapolis and community partners like the Far Eastside Collective Impact Council.
  • The Board has directed the Administration to sell or lease the Broad Ripple High School property.
  • IPS will not be a landlord of a multi-tenant building or undertake the redevelopment of either high school itself.
  • The following principles will guide the process of disposing of the properties:
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Transparency
  • Reliance on experts
  • Community perspectives
  • Consistent approach
  • Value Maximization (which does not necessarily mean the highest price)
  • IPS will seek a balance between community wishes and market possibilities by gathering community perspectives, conducting demographic analyses, completing facility and market assessments, determining financial feasibility of various options and relying stakeholder feedback.
  • The district will use the following general process for each property:
  • Market Assessment & Stakeholder Engagement
  • Requests for Information
  • Real estate advisory review
  • Bid Sale Process or Lease Negotiations
  • Advisory group recommendation for Commissioners
  • Board acts on recommendation
  • Key considerations in the transition of the John Marshall and Broad Ripple properties include the temporary needs for more operational space as IPS drastically reduces its footprint and works to relocate key operations – possibly including the Central Services staff if the Ed Center is sold.
  • The legal landscape and possible legislation amending the $1 charter law could also alter the timeline and options regarding the high school properties.


IPS Announces New Director of Secondary Learning

Lela Simmons named new Director of Secondary Learning

            Lela Simmons

Lela Simmons will join IPS as the new Director of Secondary Learning. She will work under Deputy Superintendent for Academics Aleesia Johnson leading student instruction and learning in our secondary schools.

Lela Simmons fell in love with urban education, leadership, and helping students and their families, when she began her teaching career as a seventh grade reading teacher with the School City of East Chicago in 2003.   She then transitioned to the School City of Hammond as a Master Teacher in the TAP program.  Since 2014 she has lead Edison Elementary School, Hammond’s largest elementary school, through shared leadership, embedded professional development, professional learning communities, data driven instruction, student ownership of data and goal setting and most importantly, relationships.  Together, the Edison family not only improved student achievement but became a district model school for many different initiatives and shifted the schools culture to partner with, and welcome, families.

Lela earned her Education Specialist degree from Indiana State University, her master’s degree in leadership from Calumet College of St. Joseph and her bachelor’s degrees in education and psychology from Valparaiso University.