At the February Agenda Review and Action Sessions, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners addressed crucial projects and initiatives for continued district growth including Innovation, finances, guiding principles and more.
Philosophical and Functional Imperatives
A goal for district administration to develop and implement philosophical and functional imperatives for all schools is outlined in IPS Strategic Plan 2015; the philosophical imperatives are the guiding principles for all IPS schools – including traditional, autonomous and innovation schools. These guiding tenets inform functional imperatives, which are baseline instructional and operational expectations that all students and families can expect at each IPS site. In alignment with this goal, Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee presented Commissioners with proposed imperatives founded on the Board’s Core Commitments and Beliefs and IPS Strategic Plan 2015. Taking into consideration the Board’s feedback from its December retreat, the administration adjusted language accordingly and recommends the following philosophical imperatives:
- Global Learning
- Commitment to Growth
- Preparation for Post-Secondary Success
- Community Ownership
And these four functional imperatives:
- Non-core Content
- schools offer non-content core courses
- proposal & consultation for non-traditional designs
- ELA (K-6): 300 minutes/week minimum (K-2 120 min/day per state law)
- Math (K-6): 300 minutes/week minimum
- proposal & consultation to approve unique plans
- annual plan with goals & metrics aligned to IPS Strategic Plan 2015
- adhere to federal/state statutes & IPS policies
- deliver instruction aligned with Indiana Academic Standards
- complete state & district accountability processes
In alignment with the proposed structure, administrative teams for IPS’ Autonomous schools pilot cohort would tailor school design plans with the philosophical and functional imperatives, while Innovation Network Schools would also need to demonstrate elements of these guidelines. Rather than focusing on specific details of the implementation and management of the district’s guiding ideals, the administration recommends these broader guard rails of school design to shine a spotlight on what is most important to the district.
Innovation Network School Proposals
Commissioners voted to authorize IPS administration leaders to proceed with establishing final Innovation Network agreements for two schools, Joyce Kilmer School 69 and Riverside School 44. Both schools have been selected as candidates for Innovation Restart status after several years of chronic underperformance. The Board reviewed term sheets for each school’s proposed operation; these documents are overviews of the fundamental elements of the school model and operational plans which have been discussed to this point – these are not binding contracts or final decisions. Final and comprehensive Innovation Agreements will be presented to the Board for review and action at the March sessions.
Both school communities have participated in a series of intentional engagement events to gauge support for the proposals and gather valuable feedback. Community meetings and additional opportunities for stakeholders to weigh in will continue into the coming school year. Families, staff members and neighbors are always invited to email questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Innovation Schools Progress Update
As the IPS Board of School Commissioners is ultimately responsible for the achievement of our students, including those operated by external partners through Innovation Network Schools agreements, school leadership teams for our Innovation schools must share substantive updates twice annually at public Board sessions. In line with this contractual agreement, progress updates were provided to Commissioners by Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) Director of Community Engagement Jackie Burroughs, CSUSA Director of Government Relations and Development Paula Jackson and Emma Donnan Elementary School Principal Michael Dunagan. This school opened as part of an exciting initiative to increase enrollment and eventually return Emma Donnan Middle School to IPS from state takeover. CSUSA and IPS agreed to an Innovation Network partnership for the K-6 onsite feeder school for this unique model, which could serve as a blueprint for other districts seeking to recover schools from takeover.
2016-17 Budget Planning
IPS administration is planning to present the preliminary 2016-17 school year budget for consideration at the March Board Action Session; in the spirit of transparency and fiscal responsibility, the IPS Finance Division prepared planning documents outlining the considerations taken as the budget is prepared.
Commissioners voted to approve modifications to Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee’s employment contract, including an extension through June 2019 and a 6% salary increase, commensurate with the rate of teacher pay raises, which were disbursed earlier this month. Under Superintendent Ferebee’s leadership, IPS has:
- demonstrated improvement in state accountability grades – rising from an “F” to a “D” district designation in 2015;
- completed bargaining unit negotiations to:
- raise teacher salaries,
- reduce by nearly half the number of years required to reach maximum teacher salary,
- implement strategic staffing models, and
- increase employee benefits that are cost-neutral to staff in a year when the district lost $11 million in state funding;
- implemented universal meals and fresh fruit and vegetable programs, ensuring that breakfast, lunch and a healthy snack are offered free of charge to all students daily, with services also provided during school breaks and inclement weather closings;
- drastically reduced the number of suspensions, expulsions and arrests, gaining thousands of instructional hours;
- nearly doubled early learning opportunities by expanding preschool seats;
- increased the four-year graduation rate while reducing the number of waivers, outpacing state performance; and
- encouraged legislation allowing the creation of innovative solutions for IPS’ chronically low-performing schools.
Acknowledging both criticism and commendations around district transformation, Dr. Ferebee stated that “there is much more work to be done.” Commissioners voiced their support of Dr. Ferebee’s leadership and indicated that the superintendent had met Board-directed goals for SY 2014-15.
2016-17 School Year Calendar
Commissioners approved technical corrections to the 2016-17 school year calendar. School calendars for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years were approved by the Board at the January 27, 2015 Action Session. Revisions presented to Commissioners include a technical correction to shift the opening of the second semester of SY 2016-17 from Monday, January 2 to Tuesday, January 3. With this modification, January 2, 2017 will serve as the vacation day for the New Year’s holiday. Accordingly, the close of second semester has been shifted from Thursday, June 8 to Friday, June 9, 2017. The total number of instructional and staff days will not be altered, and the five professional development days allotted for staff members remain unchanged. Additionally, a review of the calendar was conducted to ensure Parents In Touch day does not conflict with any holidays that may prevent students or staff from full participation.
At the Agenda Review Session Deb Leser, IPS Director of Student Services, shared a presentation updating Commissioners on the implementation of Naviance in our schools. Naviance is a comprehensive college and career readiness platform which supports middle grade and high school students to establish and meet their post-secondary school goals. The tool helps set a culture of high expectation in schools and provides strategic supports aiding the work our school counselors. Through a series of surveys, career finders and additional tools, students are able to identify potential colleges and careers targeted to match their passions and skills. Counselors are able to utilize the eDocs tool to send a student’s transcript, references and application electronically to multiple colleges and universities for admissions and scholarship opportunities.