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:

  1. Global Learning
  2. Commitment to Growth
  3. Preparation for Post-Secondary Success
  4. Community Ownership

And these four functional imperatives:

  1. Non-core Content
    • schools offer non-content core courses 
    • proposal & consultation for non-traditional designs
  2. Core content instructional time
    • 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
  3. Family Engagement
  4. State and Federal Compliance
    • 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.

Global Preparatory Academy (GPA) submitted an Innovation Network School application, along with a term sheet outlining the proposal for the operation of Riverside School 44 to begin the 2016-17 school year. GPA would oversee operations of two school entities in the same location – Global Prep and Riverside. Global Prep would operate as an Innovation Network Charter School serving grades K-2 under GPA’s Spanish-immersion model presented to Commissioners in August 2015. Riverside would be managed as an Innovation Network School serving grades 3-6, continuing relationships with families who currently attend the school and are living within the school’s enrollment boundary. Over time, the grades served by Riverside will become fewer as Global Prep would expand gradually to a K-8 school. For Riverside, IPS would pass per pupil funding (less funding for services provided by IPS) to GPA; per pupil funding for Global Prep is still in discussion pending results from the current legislative session related to the issue. GPA would be responsible for hiring and managing staff, along with implementing its academic model in alignment with IPS imperatives and state guidelines.
Kindezi Academy is the proposed partner for Joyce Kilmer Academy; Commissioners reviewed the Innovation Network School application and term sheet for a co-location plan similar to that of Riverside. Enlace, Inc. – currently operating Enlace Academy in the Gambold building – would operate both Kindezi Academy and Joyce Kilmer beginning with the 2016-17 school year. Kindezi would be an Innovation Network Charter School serving students in grades K-2, with eventual expansion to K-6. Joyce Kilmer would serve students in grades 3-6 who live in the school’s enrollment boundary, with fewer grade levels served as Kindezi gradually expands. IPS would pass per pupil funding (less funding for services provided by IPS) for Joyce Kilmer to Enlace; per pupil funding for Kindezi is also in continued discussion as school funding conversations move forward in the current legislative session. Enlace would manage and hire staff while maintaining an academic model in alignment with state regulations and IPS imperatives.
As initial charters are granted for primary grades, these agreements would allow Innovation partners the opportunity to provide high-quality educational experiences to all students in these neighborhood schools. These agreements could be terminated for a number of reasons, including failure to meet academic goals or non-compliance with legal and financial accounting standards.
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 autonomyinips@myips.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.

Enrollment at Emma Donnan Elementary is close to 200 students; more than half of those students did not attend an IPS school last year. Every grade exhibited overall growth on formative assessments from the beginning of the school year to the top of second semester; continued success is anticipated heading into the close of the school year. Increased English/Language Arts (ELA) instructional time and additional reading blocks have been implemented to support continued student achievement. Weekly professional development opportunities are directed toward addressing areas of highest need for teachers and the school as a whole. A notable initiative is the use of “peace circles” – meetings encouraging students to talk through conflicts with a moderator – to support implementation of the Restorative Justice model within Emma Donnan; 23 peace circles have been held since November, resulting in a 68% decrease in suspensions.
 

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.

The preliminary budget development documents outline enrollment projections, special projects, assumed changes for the coming school year and a comparison of the district’s anticipated revenue and expenditures. A conservative estimate of $6M in revenue from property sales – including the potential closing of the SCIPS property on Mass Ave – is included in the projections, along with rental income from Innovation Network Schools and a variety of grants. Expenditures for SY 2016-17 include technology upgrades, services and materials, and the pass-through of per pupil funding to Innovation Network Schools.
These outlines are conservative and fluid; they will continue to be shared publicly. Feedback gathered in the coming days and weeks will be taken into consideration as the Finance team works to finalize the budget development process.
 

Superintendent Contract
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.

 

Naviance
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.

“Simply put, Naviance is brilliant,” said Shortridge High School Principal Shane O’Day. “It enriches the conversation between students and counselors. There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities serving 14 million students. It’s thrilling, but can be intimidating.”
Students in middle grades use Naviance to create personal and academic goals, identify careers and colleges of interest and complete the 21st Century Scholar application. High school students utilize Naviance to create post-graduation and long-term plans, identify and research at least three colleges of interest and complete their FAFSA and college applications. This software allows parents, students, counselors and school leaders to remain connected as they work together to ensure each student succeeds in reaching their goals.
Ann Toombs-Heiple, Principal of James A. Garfield School 31, told Commissioners her students in grades 6-8 use Naviance to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) goals and determine what they can do now to start thinking about and aligning their conversations and actions with their future school and career plans. “It’s interesting to listen to the conversations our students are having,” Toombs-Heiple said, “as many of them are seriously considering their futures for the first time.”
Stan Law, Principal of Arlington Community High School, shared with Commissioners Arlington’s innovative implementation plan to support family engagement in the use of Naviance. The school’s Parent Involvement Educator created “one-stop shop” service, creating convenient login options for families to break down any technological barriers that may impede students’ ability to sign up for Naviance. School staff members also set up a Naviance table at athletic events and other popular gatherings to encourage family engagement.
This initiative directly aligns with the district goal to ensure all graduating students are enrolled in a college or vocational program, enlisted in the military or employed at a livable wage. 
“I’m glad to see we’re setting these goals and expectations for students,” said Vice President Sam Odle. “This is a good investment.”