At the December 15 Agenda Review Session, the Indianapolis
Public Schools Board of School Commissioners approved bonuses for non-teaching
staff, reviewed a comprehensive diagnostic report on the district, and
discussed initiatives to foster continued student achievement.


Employee Bonuses


The Board took action on one agenda item at the review
session, voting to approve a loyalty bonus for district employees represented
by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME). This group includes custodians, food service staff, bus
drivers and other operational non-teaching employees.


Employees who have continued with the
district in good standing for the 2015-2016 school year will receive a $1,250
bonus; these employees will receive $1,500 in late 2016 if they remain in good
standing. To be eligible, employees must be hired before July 1 of the previous
year, and must not have any disciplinary action for that school year.
Commissioners approved an equal loyalty bonus for non-AFSCME employees in
November; all eligible non-certified employees are now set to receive their
stipends December 18.


Commissioners shared praise for the
district’s commitment to employees, even in a time when the district is losing


“I commend the administration and bargaining
unit for getting together and getting this done,” said Vice President Sam Odle.


Mass Insight Diagnostic Report


IPS is using the Transformation Zone (TZ) model to cultivate
a supportive environment for success at our high schools and feeder schools on
the west side. As part of the TZ process, Mass Insight Education (MIE)
completed a district diagnostic review for IPS to ensure school-based work and
central services are properly aligned. In the spirit of transparency and efficiency,
members of the MIE team studied district data and interviewed IPS employees,
families, students and stakeholders to assess potential obstacles to exemplary
service in the district. Face-to-face interviews, online surveys and document
reviews informed MIE’s diagnostics and recommendations.


Strengths in IPS include the district’s vision and strategy
as outlined in IPS Strategic Plan 2015. Stakeholders believe IPS regularly
assesses progress on goals and makes adjustments when appropriate to ensure
success. All strategies identified in the strategic plan have corresponding
performance metrics to assess progress. Work done around district branding,
identity and communication is also identified as a strength. The report notes
public perception of the district has improved as a result of targeted branding
and media relations strategies.


MIE representatives Ami Magunia and Anu Pattabiraman
commended IPS on the restructuring of central services to provide targeted supports
more efficiently than with previous configurations. The creation of Academic
Improvement Officer (AIO) positions to offer principals a knowledgeable and
effective point person for central service supports was uplifted as a highlight
of the smart moves in the district. They also pointed out stakeholders’
perception of the district’s willingness to embrace change in pursuit of
purpose as a positive sign.


The MIE team also identified opportunities for improvement
to ensure maximum achievement in the future. While the new vision and plan for
the district is bringing many positives, the number of new initiatives
implemented in a short time frame could potentially pose an obstacle. MIE
acknowledged the positive benefits of these initiatives while highlighting the
need for caution to ensure the disruption associated with major changes is not
greater than schools’ capacity to provide exemplary service. MIE also
identified an opportunity for increased ownership of data management to ensure
the integrity and fidelity of all data collected by schools to monitor the
achievement of our students and staff.


“I am continuously impressed by the focus on instruction in
this organization,” said Ami Magunia, Engagement Director for MIE. “Having
done this work in several places…you have very few school districts that have
more personnel on the academic side than the non-academic side. You have very
few organizations that are paying attention to customer service and making
certain service to schools is a top priority. Despite all of the political
complexities that exist…you all manage to keep your eye on the prize and an eye
on instruction, which I think is a direct result of the fact that you are
building a data-driven organization.”


Innovation Network Proposal


Innovation Network Fellow Shanae Staples shared an
informational presentation with commissioners on her proposed Innovation
Network School, drafted in partnership with Enlace Academy. The proposed school
would present students with a blended learning environment, encouraging them to
grow and excel at their own pace. Character education would also be a
cornerstone of school philosophy, as Staples says “who a student becomes is
just as important as what they know.”


Integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
curriculum, project-based learning and “microschool” environments would provide
students with a variety of unique learning opportunities. The “microschool”
concept incorporates a community organization or business partner with specific
focus on a discipline (i.e., the Indianapolis Zoo for animal sciences) to
support projects in academic content areas. While the school would not be an
exact replica of the current Enlace Academy, it would serve under the same
advisory board and share their core values.


Innovation Network Restart Model

reviewed the district’s proposed model for restarting a consistently failing
school in the Innovation Network; this model was discussed at November’s Agenda
Review Session and revised to incorporate the Board’s feedback. Revisions
include language requiring school principals receiving two consecutive failing
grades to present a school improvement plan to the Board of School Commissioners,
detailed guidance on required content for the school community engagement
meetings principals would lead in the second year of unacceptable school
performance, direction for IPS administration to collect feedback through
community meetings in year three of failure, and providing a report to the
Board on collected feedback.