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At the July 28 Agenda Review Session, the Indianapolis
Public Schools Board of School Commissioners discussed a variety of impactful
initiatives for the approaching school year involving student safety and
discipline, school achievement, and district efficiency.

 

Code of Conduct

In an effort to increase equity and strengthen our supports
of positive student behavior, IPS has introduced a comprehensive Student Code
of Conduct (SCC) outlining expectations to ensure all members of our school
community have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities to
maintain a safe and welcoming climate.

As the United States Departments of Education and Justice
recommended that school districts review their disciplinary data, IPS Student
Services identified inconsistencies and disproportionality in district
practices regarding student discipline. The team then set out to develop new
guidelines for practices and procedures, as well as an implementation plan for
those guidelines. A diverse group of IPS parents, teachers, students,
administrators, and community stakeholders started meeting in March to review
district policies and recommend clear expectations and processes to promote a
positive climate in our schools.

While former disciplinary practices were viewed as reactive
and exclusionary, the new SCC is focused on preventative expectations with
corrective and restorative responses rather than sending students out of the
classroom. Discipline data will be maintained in a streamlined format allowing
IPS leaders and the public to easily view and understand the ways equity drives
our new practices. Clearly defining behaviors, responses, and situations allows
everyone to understand what is expected in our schools, and the measures that
will be taken to ensure the best possible climate for our students.

“We want our students to think of two important questions
regarding their actions,” said IPS Positive Discipline Coordinator Dr. Cynthia
Jackson. “How does my behavior affect someone else, and what can I do to repair
that relationship?”

With a focus on building and maintaining positive
relationships between our students, staff, and families, the SCC has a tiered
approach to ensure the needs of all students are met. Rather than automatically
removing students from their classes and schools, the SCC defines multiple
levels of behaviors with appropriate responses. For infractions that do not
pose safety concerns or a serious impact on the classroom environment,
restorative measures will be employed inside the classroom to identify the
behavior and ways to interact more positively in the future.

Professional development opportunities for administrators
and teachers will be offered monthly to ensure proper implementation of the SCC
guidelines. Parent Involvement Educators will also receive training to assist
families with any questions they may have regarding the SCC.

A student/parent companion guide will address the same
topics addressed in the full SCC without the wordy educational language; the
goal is to make the newly-defined behavior expectations and supports clear to
every member of our community. This guide, available in both English and
Spanish, will be available on the IPS website along with other support
documents to ensure our students and families do not encounter any barriers in
understanding our districtwide expectations.

“I’m excited because I think it’s a nice balance and
promotes the teacher/student relationship,” said Commissioner Caitlin Hannon.
“I’m hopeful that this will create structured flexibility for what happens in
our schools, and I think that’s important.”

By giving our students the tools to handle conflict and
other situations with self-awareness and control and ensuring that our staff
members are prepared to support this effort, the authors of the SCC hope to kindle continued success for IPS students long after they
leave our schools.

You can read the full SCC here.

Use of Force

In continued support of the district’s efforts to maintain
clear safety procedures, Deputy Superintendent for Operations Scott Martin presented
recommended administrative guidelines for the use of limited force in the
course of staff supervision. Use of force is reserved for situations posing an
imminent threat to the safety of students and staff; staff member are
authorized to use limited force to prevent a student from harming themselves or
others, to prevent a student from damaging property, or to end the disruption
of an educational function.

According to the guidelines, limited physical force should
only be introduced to a situation after the staff member has attempted to stop
an incident verbally and by standing between the student and the recipient of
aggression. It is never acceptable to use physical force to discipline a
student or in a situation that does not pose a safety concern.

All IPS staff members will have access to training sessions
for incident de-escalation, as well as training to recognize when limited force
is warranted and how to appropriately use limited physical force. As part of
each school’s supervision and safety plan, principals identify volunteers
(including IPS police officers) to act as the school’s First Responders. First
responders will receive limited force training and will enact their training in
the event of a physical altercation threatening student safety. The full
administrative guidelines for use of limited force may be found here.

 

Finance Update

To maintain our goals regarding fiscal transparency, the IPS
Finance Division presented the quarterly update to commissioners. This report
marks the official transition between our previous calendar year budget and the
new budget schedule, which now aligns with the school year.

Achievements for the quarter include maintaining expenses
within the budget despite a decrease in per pupil funding. While tax revenues
for transportation were lower than anticipated, the district was able to
supplement the transportation budget with unused bus replacement funds. The
financial team also celebrated the successful transition to the school year
budget and a renewed commitment to strategic financial planning. Challenges
included the anticipated shortfall in per-pupil funding per the complexity
index and lagging property tax collections. IPS is meeting with county
officials to discuss the property tax challenges and the best ways to align the
district budget with the tax collection schedule.

“I believe an important item to note is that we continue to
live within our means,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “Although we
have seen a decrease in funding, we have increased efficiency to stay within
our fiscal constraints.”

In line with the upcoming strategic plan, the finance team
will soon begin planning the 2016-17 budget for anticipated approval in March.

 

Innovation Network Schools

Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson presented an update on
the IPS Innovation Network Schools. She shared definitions of the types of
schools in the Innovation Network; new schools occupy a previously vacant IPS
building or share a location with another program, while existing schools are
either a restart of an IPS school or a neighborhood school seeking a formal
Innovation agreement.

There are currently three Innovation School Fellows
beginning their planning year of their schools. A recommended timeline for
future Innovation Network Agreements with these fellows would be submission of
an application in October, presentation of the school plan to the Board in
November, and a Board vote on the proposal and location of the school in
January.

Representatives from Global Preparatory Academy presented a
proposal for an Innovation Network School for the 2016-17 school year. This
school model focuses on the positive effects of dual-language instruction,
experiential learning, and family and community engagement. The ideal student
base would be half native Spanish speakers and half native English speakers.
Students begin to read in their native language to build a strong literacy
core.

After 1st grade, all students would be brought
together for language arts and other core areas. Two teachers in each class
instruct in both English and Spanish, collaborating to use both languages to
bridge lessons together. Recruiting both locally and internationally to
identify a highly qualified, bilingual staff pool for the proposed Innovation
Network School. Partnerships with IUPUI, Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis Museum
of Art, and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra would provide a variety of
experiential opportunities for Global Prep students.

 

Board Meeting Schedule

Commissioners reviewed an updated meeting schedule, which
would add one work session each month from August-November and a Winter Board
Retreat in December. A proposed 2016 meeting schedule also includes monthly
work sessions for Commissioners.

 

Code of Ethics

Board President Diane Arnold presented a revision to the
Board Code of Ethics. This revision incorporates many of the Indiana School
Board Association’s recommendations into existing policy related to the Board’s
code of ethics. The revised language outlines several benchmarks for
Commissioners: striving to improve public education, honoring the
responsibility of Board membership, demonstrating respectful relationships,
maintaining relationships with the Superintendent and school employees, and
maintaining a commitment to the community.

The full text of the revised Code of Ethics may be found here.