At the April 28 Agenda Review Session, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners discussed proposed agreements for two Innovation Network Schools. If approved, these agreements – under Public Law 1321 – would merge the resources and visions of IPS and external educational organizations to better serve the students of our district. IPS has collaborated with these organizations to develop creative ways to strengthen our schools and increase enrollment in the district.

Francis Scott Key/Phalen Leadership Academy

An Innovation Network School at Francis Scott Key School 103 is proposed in an agreement with Phalen Leadership Academy (PLA). This school would serve students already living in Francis Scott Key’s boundary, with enrollment opening to students outside of the designated boundary if additional space is available. PLA would have operational autonomy and be responsible for its own personnel. IPS would provide services including special education, ESL, transportation, food services, and maintenance; IPS would retain all funding received for those services.

With aims of increased achievement, the agreement sets forth several performance metrics. These include 10 percent ISTEP+ growth in English/Language Arts and Math over the first two years and an 80 percent passing rate on IREAD by year three. Though the initial term of the contract is five years, failure to meet these academic goals could result in early termination of the agreement. Based on current per-pupil funding streams, IPS would pay PLA $7,631 per student each year. PLA would also receive a yearly management fee that would decrease each year the contract is in effect. If the operation proves to be an economic burden for either IPS or PLA, the contract could be terminated after year two.

Commissioners discussed the potential of Francis Scott Key serving as the anchor of the Far Eastside Success Initiative. This proposal outlines a community effort to encourage continuous partnership from early years to college to ensure the young people of the Far Eastside have every opportunity to succeed. Inspired by the successful efforts of Harlem Children’s Zone, Tangelo Park Program and East Durham Children’s Initiative, this program would provide parents and children with an abundance of ongoing and intentional community support. Through the efforts of parent advocates, educators, healthcare providers, career readiness groups and other partners, this initiative would ensure long-term community collaboration for the success of our young people in the Far Eastside neighborhood. To ensure students in the Far Eastside attend the school closest to their home, the boundaries for Francis Scott Key and George S. Buck School 94 would be slightly adjusted. This proposed exchange would impact approximately 200 students.

Emma Donnan/Charter Schools USA

Another exciting possibility was presented to Commissioners as IPS and Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) proposed an Innovation Network agreement. This partnership is based on the goals of increasing enrollment in the district and the eventual return of Emma Donnan Middle School to IPS. Emma Donnan is currently operated by CSUSA under a Turnaround Agreement with the State Board of Education; this proposal would create a K-6 onsite feeder school for the middle school. CSUSA and IPS would share responsibility for recruiting at least 300 students to enroll in the new feeder school, boosting the number of students in the district.

CSUSA would have operational autonomy for the Emma Donnan K-6 school, but would have reporting and accountability obligations to IPS. Transportation would be provided by CSUSA, but IPS would share financial responsibility based on funding the district receives for transporting those students. The amount of per-pupil funding provided to CSUSA by IPS will fluctuate based on the state funding formula and the attendance count at the school. Academic achievement is another key point of the proposed agreement; a series of ISTEP+ and accountability grade benchmarks must be met to keep the contract active. Additionally, a series of higher achievement benchmarks could be met by CSUSA, lengthening the life of the contract.

If the Emma Donnan feeder school agreement is still in action after five years and then extended for an additional five years, CSUSA and IPS will petition to return the school back to full IPS control. In the event this collaboration is successful in returning Emma Donnan to IPS, it would likely serve as a model for returning other Turnaround Agreement schools to the district.

Career Technology Center/Simon Youth Foundation

A proposed partnership between IPS and the Simon Youth Foundation was also presented to the board regarding a state-of-the-art school site at Circle Centre Mall. A Memorandum of Understanding outlines the proposal for a Simon Youth Academy at the mall which would be operated and staffed by IPS. This unique learning environment would provide high school students an exciting non-traditional academic experience emphasizing work-based learning and career readiness. 
This is an exciting time in IPS! We are thrilled to consider so many creative proposals for the future and look forward to offering additional desirable and rewarding opportunities for our students!

Arlington Update

In an update on the transition of Arlington High School back to IPS the Board was informed that the current projected enrollment is 607 students in grades 7 through 12. This projection could fluctuate based on rising 7th and 8th grade students at James Whitcomb Riley School 43 and Robert Lee Frost School 106. These 66 students live in Arlington’s boundary, but currently attend K-8 schools. The district’s recommendation to the Board is to allow these families to choose whether to remain at their current school or progress to Arlington.

Financial Report

Continuing our efforts of fiscal transparency, a quarterly finance update demonstrates IPS has refinanced bonds twice within the last nine months with a projected long-term savings of nearly $20 million. IPS continues to seek savings opportunities including an E-Payables system, which authorizes a financial company to submit electronic payments to vendors on behalf of the district and a rebate. We have 45 vendors who participate in this system, resulting in a streamlined payment process and an estimated $52,000 rebate to the district yearly.

Technology Improvements

IPS is introducing baseline standards to assess and address technology gaps within our schools. Initial findings at each school identified areas of improvement to ensure each student has access to new technology. In the Strategic Plan process, the Efficient Operations Committee will work to outline long-term priorities and potential opportunities for funding and implementation options. Baseline technology standards have been established to address immediate needs around functionality in our classrooms.