February 23, 2018

When the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners convened for its Agenda Review Session on Tuesday, Feb. 20, and Board Action Session on Thursday, Feb. 22, topics included several Innovation School agreements and proposals; the community outreach plan for the proposed 2018-19 Transportation Model and the upcoming Community Input Meetings; and an update on the Operating Referendum Request.

What follows is a deeper look at the agenda items.

PilotED Innovation Partner Briefing

Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson presented a proposal for a new Innovation Network charter school.

PilotED Schools proposed a groundbreaking, social-identity focused elementary school.

Their model offers:

  • Identity Development — including family structures, historical narratives and gender norms.
  • Civic Engagement — including neighborhood development and community service.
  • Academic Excellence — including culturally relevant reading lists and personalized learning.

PilotED leaders have engaged in more than 1,500 partnership-building hours with local churches, preschools, and community and health centers. They’ve also attended numerous events around the community to learn more about the area and the families they want to serve.

ACTION: For Information Only

Innovation Restart Partner Recommendation for Washington Irving School 14

In November 2017, the Board approved a proposal to match an innovation partner with Washington Irving School 14 for Innovation Restart. Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson presented a proposal from URBAN ACT Academy as a potential partner.

URBAN ACT Academy boasts researched-based educational practices that include:

  • Place-Based Focus — incorporates project-based learning to boost student engagement.
  • Ownership of Learning — includes student-managed portfolios and self-pacing.
  • Targeted Instruction — in the form of small groups based on assessments.

URBAN ACT Academy uses an extended school day to allow for additional classroom learning. The academy pushes for community support for tutoring and mentoring and offers a variety of extracurricular activities.

The academy has engaged with the Washington Irving community through formal presentations and satellite meetings with community members and neighborhood centers.

ACTION: For Information Only

Innovation School Proposal for Thrival Academy: Indy

Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson presented a proposed agreement to convert the IPS Thrival Academy pilot program to Innovation School status.

  • Thrival Academies offers a study-abroad experience for underserved high school students in the 11th grade. 
  • Thrival would operate the school starting in the 2018-19 school year for an initial term of five years.
  • The school’s program would consist of a combination of experiential learning, virtual learning and extended travel-abroad experience.
  • The school would serve up to 60 students in the first year and 100 students each year after that.
  • The school would be located within four classrooms and one office at Arsenal Technical High School.
  • IPS would pay Thrival based on Student-Based Allocation and continue to receive all state and federal funding for students attending the school.
  • The Board will vote on an innovation agreement and determine whether or not to expand the pilot program into an innovation partnership. 

Per-pupil state funding for the program would include:

Base Weight = $239,100 (projected 60 students at $3,985/ per pupil)

Poverty Weight = $15,500 (projected 52 percent students at $500/per pupil)

Baseline Supplement = $20,836

Total = $275,436 ($4,590/per pupil)

ACTION: Passed 4-2

Innovation Restart Partner Recommendation for Wendell Phillips School 63

Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson shared a contract proposal for Matchbook Learning, the recommended Innovation Restart partner for Wendell Phillips School 63.

Timeline of Events

  • In August 2017, IPS issued a Call for Quality Applicants interested in partnering with a new innovation school in the 2018-19 school year.
  • Letters of Intent were due in September and the district started the screening process in October.
  • In November 2017, Wendell Phillips was recommended for Innovation Restart after receiving a fifth consecutive “F” grade from the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Applicants specifically interested in working with restart schools were asked to submit a full application last November.
  • In December 2017, Matchbook Learning — a prospective partner for Wendell Phillips — and district representatives met with families, teachers, staff and community leaders.
  • In January 2018, Matchbook representatives presented additional information on the organization and the proposed academic model for Wendell Phillips School 63.
  • This month, the Board will review the terms that have been agreed on so far.
  • The Board will vote next month on the full agreement.

ACTION: Passed 5-1

Sale of FMD Building to TWG Development, LLC

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Scott Martin recommended the surplus FMD property be sold to TWG Development, LLC for a purchase price of $2,750,000. This approval gives the administrative staff and its counsel authorization to proceed with all steps and documentation necessary to complete and close the sale.

ACTION: Passed 5-0

AFSCME Contract Approval

The Board approved the AFSCME Collective Bargaining Agreement for public service workers, which means a marked increase in compensation. This investment in talented and loyal staff is factored into the General Fund deficit to attract and retain talented employees in these positions.

Highlights of the agreement include the following:

  • Bus drivers, bus attendants and special education instructional assistants will get a 9 to 13 percent raise. These increases are conditional based on conduct, performance and completion of Safe Schools training.
  • All other classifications (excluding bus drivers, bus attendants and special education instructional assistants) are eligible for a one-time loyalty bonus of $1,750. The stipend is conditional on conduct and performance requirements.
  • Employees will have a choice of new healthcare plan options that could decrease employee premiums by more than 50 percent.

“We are excited about what this means for this group of hardworking employees,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “Despite budget constraints, the district is committed to our strategic priority to increase employee compensation. This investment in talented and loyal staff is factored into the General Fund deficit and remains necessary to attract and retain talented people in these positions.”

This contract will positively impact our Special Education Department by increasing the opportunity to provide more services internally while reducing the need for high-cost outside services.

Finally, the raise for bus drivers dramatically increases the district’s ability to recruit and retain qualified applicants with a wage, benefits and retirement plan that more directly competes with surrounding school districts.

ACTION: Passed 6-0

Revised Operating Referendum Request

IPS has lost $24.2 million in state and federal funding since 2010. It has also lost an average of $16.8 million annually since 2011 due to property-tax cuts. The district has significantly cut overhead and operating costs but cannot continue to operate at a structural deficit.

In December 2017, the district sought the Board of School Commissioners’ approval to seek capital and operating referenda to continue providing the highest quality of education for all students and to competitively retain and recruit exceptional teachers (through compensation and benefits).

IPS has not sought a referendum since 2008, while six school districts in Marion County have successfully completed operating referenda and four have completed capital referenda within the same timeframe.

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, IPS superintendent, and Ahmed Young, IPS chief of staff and general counsel, presented financial and legal information pertaining to the district’s revised pursuit of an approximate $66 million operating referendum.

Review: Why Does IPS Need Additional Funding?

  • Since the 2010-11 school year, IPS has received $10 million less in state funding. That’s about $300 less per student.
  • Since the 2010-11 school year, IPS has received $14.2 million less in federal funding. That’s about $450 less per student.
  • IPS has lost an average of $16.8 million annually since 2011 due to property tax caps.
  • Despite the losses, the district has invested more than $8.8 million annually from 2015-16 to 2017-18 to provide teacher raises and maintain cost-neutral benefits (despite significant increases in healthcare costs).

Revised Operating Referendum

The District is requesting a reduction in the referendum ask of taxpayers from $92 million per year for eight years to approximately $66 million per year for eight years. This decision was made as a result of direct community feedback asking the district to tighten its belt as much as possible and to lighten the pressure on taxpayers. There will be some significant trade-offs, however, including reducing cash reserves to 8 percent (this is aligned with Board policy but best practice is maintaining at 15 percent); delaying ideal upgrades to and expansion of the district’s Transportation Service Model; and further delaying maintenance and capital improvements.

Summary of Trade-Offs for $65.7M Operating Referendum

  • The district will not expand Transportation Services.
  • Potential impacts to transportation service quality will increase.
  • Maintenance improvements will continue to be deferred.
  • Capital improvements will be deferred.
  • The risk of having insufficient cash reserves will increase.
Strategic Priorities

If the revised operating referendum passes, homeowners (and businesses) in the IPS district will be assessed an increase in property taxes. That increase includes:

  • Calls for a proposed local property levy of no more than $0.44 on each $100 of assessed valuation.
  • The total monthly impact is projected to be $17.70 per month for the owner of a $123,500 home — the median home value within IPS.
  • This tax impact would depend on property value.

Without referenda funds, IPS could be forced to:

  • Freeze teacher and employee compensation.
  • Reduce educational programs for students.
  • Reduce the quality of some services for students with special needs.

ACTION: Passed 6-0 (at Tuesday night’s Review Session)