At the October 27 Agenda Review
Session, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners
discussed several key initiatives proposed to advance the Core Commitments and
Beliefs in the work of the district.

Grade Configuration

In line with the Board’s directive to IPS administration to
replicate highinterest and highdemand programs and shift grade configuration
away from the community high school model (grades 6-12 or 7-12), Deputy
Superintendent for Academics Dr. Wanda H. Legrand presented Commissioners with
recommendations for a phased approach to reconfiguring school options. 

For Phase 1 of the transition, the district presented two
options that would potentially take place for the 2016-17 school year. Option A
includes the Performing Arts magnet program, currently serving grades K-5 at
Nicholson Performing Arts Academy at School 70, relocating to the building
currently housing Key Learning Community. Thomas Edison School – the current
Key site – would allow the addition of Visual Arts to the magnet offering,
along with immediate expansion to serve grades K-8. The middle school grades at
Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities would be gradually
phased out, allowing current middle school students to remain and ultimately
resulting in a traditional 9-12 model at Broad Ripple for the 2019-2020 school
year. Nicholson would then house the district’s fourth Center for Inquiry (CFI) school, initially serving grades K-5 and
gradually expanding to a K-8 program. This school would not have a geographic
boundary, and the current CFI waitlist would be eliminated as all students
could attend the new option. The current CFI waitlist includes more 310
students; 150 of those students do not attend an IPS school today. This influx
of students could bring up to $1 million in per-pupil revenue benefiting the
district for each year those students would remain enrolled.

Option B would keep the Performing Arts elementary program
at Nicholson, and the new CFI site would be located at the Key site. The grade
configurations at Nicholson Performing Arts and Broad Ripple would remain
unchanged.

The district recommends Option
A, as the Key Learning Community site is better suited to host a Visual and
Performing Arts Program
(VPA) serving both elementary and middle school students; the
necessary
facility adjustments required to prepare Nicholson to house middle
school students and a VPA program

requiring arts studios and performance spaces –
would
decrease student capacity in the school
and
would need to take place over time.

In both options, the Multiple
Intelligences magnet program would no longer be
offered
at Key Learning Community. If demand for stronger implementation the
Multiple Intelligences magnet continues, a “school-within-a-school” model could
be considered to offer the option in a new location. No boundary (neighborhood)
schools would be affected by either of the proposed options.

“As I understand it, all we’re
doing is moving a magnet to what I see as a better location for enhancement of
that program,” said Board President Diane Arnold.

“There’s a dire need to ensure
that we are preparing students to be successful in the secondary grades,” said
Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, “but also to grow the number of students
that are participating. I believe a barrier to the growth of the Visual and
Performing Arts has been the odd grade configuration of K-5 to 6-12. As a
parent of a middle grades student, I don’t know that it would be the most
favorable model for me. We need to be strategic about the facility that we
utilize to ensure that the middle grades students would have those
opportunities that we want them to have as it relates to the performing arts. I
also think that the downtown location provides us an opportunity to capitalize
on the cultural arts activities that are available to our students. We have
orchestra, ballet, Young Artists Theatre, we have a number of opportunities to
partner around that location, and I think it’s an extremely exciting
opportunity for our students.”

Phase 2 of the transition would
begin in spring of 2016
– which could be as
early as January –
and would involve a
series of opportunities to gather community input on desired
elementary, middle and high school program offerings throughout
the district
and grade configurations to
more closely align future recommendations with the needs and desires of our
families and neighbors.

Given the Board’s and district’s
commitment to streamline grade configurations, consensus was reached to vote on
a proposal Thursday recommending the sunset of the K-12 Multiple Intelligences
program at Key Learning Community and the phasing out of middle school grades
at Broad Ripple. Commissioners agreed to postpone a vote on the proposed
reconfiguration involving the elementary Performing Arts magnet and
a new CFI until the
Board Work Session on November 9
, allowing
the administration to complete scheduled school community meetings.
At the November 9 work session, Commissioners will hear feedback from families at the schools impacted by
the proposal. Family meetings are occurring at Key Learning Community November
2 at 6 p.m., Nicholson Performing Arts Academy November 3 at 6 p.m., and Broad
Ripple November 4 at 6 p.m.

“We directed the administration
to go out and do the necessary
work to try to accomplish two things,” said Vice President Sam
Odle. “One is to eliminate the 6-12 schools, because research shows they don’t
work well. The second thing is to expand the schools that are in demand so that
we can respond to those families that are on waiting lists. I think it’s
important that we remember we have to feed students into our high schools.
Broad Ripple is an underutilized high school, and if we can get more kids
interested in performing arts at the lower grades, then we can get them
hopefully interested in Broad Ripple as an option. Same thing if we can get
more kids into the CFI curriculum, which is the IB (International
Baccalaureate) curriculum, then that will help feed them into Shortridge. These
strategies are all about building IPS, it’s not about tearing it down. It’s a
tough decision, but an important decision to make.”

The continuing grade configuration discussion is open for public
comment at Thursday’s action session.

Autonomy/Innovation

Commissioners discussed a
proposed framework for Autonomy and Innovation, presented by IPS Innovation
Officer Aleesia Johnson. The district’s goal in outlining various levels of
independence in management and decision-making is to shift from a “one-size
fits all” management theory to individualized, school-level decisions supported
by district services leading to positive student outcomes.
 

The proposed autonomy model
would include three main tiers: traditional (district-managed) schools;
autonomous (site-managed) schools; and innovation (partner-managed) schools.
Autonomous schools would have additional control over budget decisions, as funding
would be allocated to the school using a student-based model. Autonomous
schools would also have increased decision-making power regarding professional
development, instructional methods, and the timing of the instructional day. An
autonomous school’s staff would remain employees of the district, and teachers
would operate within the existing collective bargaining agreement. Innovation
schools
, however, would have control of all academic programming and
operations-related functions, while adhering to all applicable state and
federal regulations. Innovation school staff members would be employed by the
operating partner of the school; teachers would not operate under the
collective bargaining agreement of the district, but could create their own
bargaining unit.

It is important to note that the
information presented to the Board is just the starting point in the district’s
pathway to autonomy.

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“It’s critical that we get approval on this framework so we
can inform our community conversations going forward,” said Dr. Ferebee

 

Ms. Johnson has meetings scheduled with multiple stakeholder
groups to share information and gather important feedback regarding our
autonomy framework. As areas in need of additional discussion are identified,
those conversations will move forward with our families, employees, neighbors
and Commissioners to ensure everyone is onboard with the progress.

Enrollment and Choice Programs

Commissioners reviewed and discussed proposed Board Policy
and Administrative Guidelines regarding Enrollment and Choice Programs. The
policy defines “neighborhood” schools as those designed to serve students in a
specific geographical area, while “choice” programs are characterized by a
specialized curriculum, innovative theme, unique teaching technique or magnet
certification. The administrative guidelines outline IPS enrollment and
application requirements, the choice application/lottery process, and student
mobility.

Choice lottery logic was also discussed at Tuesday’s session;
Commissioners were briefed on the proposed format at last week’s Work Session.
A variety of items would be considered, adding weight to a student’s
application. The proposed weight scale is outlined in the slide below:

 

Magnet Lottery Logic

 

Finance Quarterly Update 

Chief Financial Manager Weston Young shared the quarterly
financial update with Commissioners. As expected, 2015-16 revenue is less than
the previous year’s revenue due to a decrease in per-pupil funding. As the
district continues to streamline processes and increase efficiency, IPS has
maintained expenditures within the budget and in-line with revenues. Young
stated the district will update revenue projections and realign expenditure
projections in this year to ensure that we operate more efficiently. He noted
that the expenses do not currently include the retroactive salary increases that will be paid to staff
after the state releases accountability grades. The Finance team is
collaborating with consultants from Education Resource Strategies (ERS) to
develop a framework for student-based budgeting. This model would empower
autonomous schools to manage financial decisions within the school, rather than
deferring to central services for all decision-making processes.