At the March Agenda Review and Action Sessions, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners addressed proposed Innovation Network Schools, a district real estate opportunity and the budget planning process for the 2016-17 school year.


Innovation Network Restart Schools

On March 17, Commissioners approved final Innovation Network Schools agreements for two IPS schools – Riverside School 44 and Joyce Kilmer Academy 69. As chronically underperforming schools, both were recommended by IPS administration as candidates for Innovation Restart. Global Preparatory Academy is the identified partner for Riverside and Kindezi Academy would partner with Joyce Kilmer. Final Innovation Network agreements were drafted, incorporating feedback from Commissioners gathered at the FebruaryAgenda Review Session. Each partner organization will manage grades K-2 under a charter agreement, and grades 3-6 under an Innovation management agreement with IPS. The charter agreements will expand by one grade level in each of the next four years. You can view the Global Prep Charter AgreementGlobal Prep Innovation Network Management AgreementKindezi Academy Charter Agreement and Kindezi Academy Innovation Network Management Agreement online now.


In recent months, community conversation has been encouraged in many ways to discuss these proposed changes to two chronically low performing IPS neighborhood schools. In addition to presentations on proposed school models at public sessions of the Board of School Commissioners, intentional community engagement has been underway at both schools. Meetings for families and community stakeholders will continue into the coming school year to ensure implementation is successfully supported for all involved. Families, staff members and neighbors are always invited to email questions or concerns to


Innovation Network Conversion Schools

Commissioners received updates at the March 15 Agenda Review Session from the school leaders working toward proposals for what would be the district’s first Innovation Network Conversion schools. Conversion schools make an independent choice to apply for Innovation Network status to achieve greater flexibility in school management to support individualized school models. Carrie Scott, Principal of Cold Spring School, and Nicole Fama, Principal of George H. Fisher School 93, provided updated on their preparation, community engagement and planning process as they work to submit Innovation Network agreements for consideration later this school year.


“We wanted to provide the best possible educational students,” Scott explained to Commissioners as she shared her leadership team’s work on planning Cold Spring’s Innovation Network proposal. “We’re not interested in making drastic changes to our school model.”


The Cold Spring team is developing a plan for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) certified environmental studies magnet school. Cold Spring has a strong partnership with neighboringMarian University, and the collaboration would expand in a lab school model – providing exciting opportunities for the students and staff of both schools. As the only IPS school currently incorporating the STEM-based curricula of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) into regular school day studies, Cold Spring intends to expand PLTW in the school model. Nine family meetings were held in November and December to gather feedback, and a family survey was completed to collect input on the proposed daily schedule, school year calendar and more. Staff members have been surveyed throughout the process to gauge interest in continuing on the path toward innovation. The complete presentation from Cold Spring can be viewed here.


“Thanks for all of your hard work,” Commissioner Kelly Bentley told Scott and the Cold Spring team. “I know this is a huge leap of faith, but it’s really exciting and I’m glad to see all of the support.”


Dozens of students, family members and staff joined Fama as she presented George H. Fisher’s plans for an Innovation Network proposal. The school’s leadership team has successfully implemented Project RESTORE as a turnaround model in the formerly failing school, and intends to implement “Project RESTORE 2.0” in partnership withPhalen Leadership Academies.


“George H. Fisher had a proven sustainable turnaround model, Phalen Leadership Academies had a business plan and a philosophy that matched ours,” Fama said.


The proposed school model would focus on growth in English/Language Arts (ELA); George H. Fisher’s students have exhibited significant strides in math under the Project RESTORE model. Weekly formative assessments already occur for math, and would expand to ELA under the potential RESTORE 2.0 model. Fama’s team is also interested in enhancing report cards to facilitate greater understanding of student progress for families, along with a teacher-focused evaluation system. 


100% of George H. Fisher’s staff supported the Innovation proposal process and have already applied to remain on the team in the 2016-17 school year. More detail can be found in the complete presentation here


“I’m so proud to see the growth in your leadership and what you and the team have done with Project RESTORE at George H. Fisher,” Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee said. “Since you are all together, I think it’s appropriate to celebrate and recognize the work that you’ve done. After four consecutive years as a status of a failing school, to see progress in the 2014-15 school year – for you all to gain two letter grades in a year where we had new standards, a new assessment, and across the state saw dramatic decreases in student achievement – that’s phenomenal.”


Real Estate Update

The IPS Real Estate Advisory Committee is reviewing five bids for the potential sale and development of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant, located at 850 Massachusetts Avenue. A public meeting held was held March 8 to review the submissions and to gather stakeholder input through a community forum. IPS leadership, with the support of the Board, will continue discussion with community stakeholders and city leadership to ensure the bid selected will foster a successful sale of the property and development that is beneficial to our community. With the collection of additional feedback, the administration will return to the Board in April with updates. 


The Real Estate Advisory Committee, a team of local real estate and business experts, will provide a recommendation to IPS leadership and Commissioners based on the following guiding principles:

  • Creating a positive impact for the surrounding properties, the neighborhood, the City of Indianapolis and IPS
  • Increasing the economic vitality of the Mass Ave. corridor with high-quality jobs and amenities for a demographically diverse community
  • Demonstrating creativity and skill in adaptive reuse, mixed use and sustainability
  • Providing uses which encourage families with school age children to live downtown
  • Showing a knowledge of and willingness to address the elements of the Chatham-Arch/Massachusetts Avenue Historic Area Plan


Budget Public Hearing

IPS Chief Financial Manager Weston Young presented the latest updates on the 2016-2017 school year budget planning process. Drafts of preliminary budget planning documents were shared publicly on February 23 and March 4, and the public hearing at the Agenda Review Session marked the third public discussion of the proposed budget plan. Board appropriated funds included in the draft documents include general fund, debt service funds, capital projects fund and transportation funds. Young outlined projected revenues and expenditures in these areas; the entire budget presentation can be viewed here


Although state tuition support (per pupil funding) is expected to rise from the current amount, the projection remains 1.2% less than total tuition support in 2014-2015. The bottom line of the projected 2016-2017 school year budget can be seen in the table below; it is important to note that IPS made significant investments in increased compensation for employees and IPS Strategic Plan 2015 initiatives and will continue to invest in these areas, contributing to the deficit noted in the table.




 Commissioners did not take action on the budget at this week’s Action Session; a forthcoming special session will be called to address the budget.