At the October 29
Action Session, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners
voted on several recommendations shaping the future of school leadership and
choice programs within the district.

School Configuration

After discussion at the Agenda Review Session, the IPS
administration revised the school configuration recommendation, focusing on the
first steps in the process to realign the Visual and Performing Arts program.
Commissioners approved the proposed plan to expand the elementary offering to
include visual arts and serve students through 8th grade; the
location of that program is to be determined. Keeping in line with the Board’s
directive to phase out the problematic community high school model (including
middle school grades with high school), the approved plan also includes the
transition of Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities to a
9-12 school. Students currently in Broad Ripple’s middle grades are invited to
continue attending their current school, but middle grades applications for the
VPA program going forward will be considered for the expanded elementary/middle
school.

The approved proposal also included the sunset of the
Multiple Intelligences program at Key Learning Community. Students currently
attending Key will receive preferential assignment if they choose another IPS
magnet program. The option stands to possibly relocate the Multiple
Intelligences program to a “school within a school” model in the future.

Family meetings are scheduled 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.; IPS administrators and Commissioners
will hear feedback from families at the impacted schools to inform future
decisions regarding these programs.

School Change Policy Proposal

In response to Commissioner Cosby’s proposal to explore a
30-day waiting period before voting on action related to school
reconfiguration, closures or other significant changes, the administration
recommended building upon current policy regarding community engagement.
Commissioners agreed administrative guidelines could be drafted to direct
communication and outreach as the district considers reconfiguration, closing
or other changes to ensure families are properly informed and their feedback is
shared with Commissioners. Language for these administrative guidelines will be
drafted and discussed at a future Board session.

“The spirit and intent of what we’re trying to accomplish is
allowing opportunities for engagement and feedback,” said Commissioner Gayle
Cosby. “I think that we can work together to define what kind of feedback we
would like to have as a board in order to really inform our decisions around closing,
reconfiguring or relocating schools.”

Innovation/Autonomy Framework and Innovation Network
Policy

In the first steps of sharing the district’s vision for the
future with our community, Commissioners approved a proposed framework for the
Autonomy and Innovation models. The district acknowledges there is no “one-size
fits all” solution to school improvement; this framework incorporates several
options for school management in a strategic approach to supporting student
achievement.

The
approved autonomy model includes three main categories: 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 IPS collective bargaining agreement, but
could create their own bargaining unit. No matter the model, all students in
these schools will remain IPS students.

Autonomy
is a student achievement strategy. This framework is merely the starting point
in the district’s path to increased flexibility and independence for school
leaders to ensure they are free of mandates that serve as impediments to
facilitating student learning in creative, effective ways. District leaders are
hosting a series of conversations with diverse stakeholder groups to share and
hear thoughts around this initial outline. This critical input will continue to
inform the work around autonomy implementation the district over time. The administration
will continue sharing updates with the Board on proposed ideas and
definitions. 

“I firmly believe this is the way we’re going to improve our
schools for all of our children,” said Commissioner Kelly Bentley. “I’ve also
seen what happens when schools are burdened by cookie-cutter approaches to
education and what that can do to the integrity of some of the programs that we
have… It’s a constant concern, and we have to allow school leaders and teachers
the freedom and flexibility to make the decisions that they need to make in the
best interest of their children.”

The Board also approved a revised policy regarding
Innovation Network schools, keeping the district’s definitions, review,
approval and governance processes in line with Indiana HB 1009.

Marian University Partnership Expansion

Building upon the district’s positive partnership with
Marian University to build a pipeline for administrative leadership within the
district, Commissioners approved a proposed extension of the partnership to
grow capacity for strong teachers in our Special Education and English Language
Learner (ELL) departments. This partnership includes support for selected
Special Education and ELL teaching assistants and teachers interested in
continuing their education toward certification or a Master’s degree. Marian
would cover a portion of the IPS employees’ tuition, as would the district; a
small portion of the tuition would be paid by the employees.

Commissioners noted this as an opportunity to expand
employment opportunities for a diverse group of IPS employees as they enter this
valuable transition to teaching program. The first cohort will be selected in
December to begin coursework in January.

Enrollment and Choice Programs

Commissioners approved a revised 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. The
newly approved policy includes a vision statement, outlining the Board’s
commitment to supporting diverse, integrated and balanced schools.

The Board also voted to accept parameters of the IPS Choice
lottery logic. A variety of items would be considered when adding lottery “weights”
to a student’s application, including siblings currently in the desired choice
program, proximity, loyal applicant status (beginning in SY 2017-18) for
students who continue to apply for a program after receiving waitlist placement,
geography (applicable only for programs offered in multiple locations), and IPS
employee status. District administration will complete a yearly review and
provide a report on choice demographic data with the opportunity to implement
controls as necessary; disparities identified in the lottery process would be
rectified with adjustments to the application/selection process for all choice
schools. 

Supplier Diversity

The Board approved a proposed revision of the district’s
Supplier Diversity Policy, which was originally approved in June 2015. The
amended policy reflects the inclusion of veteran-owned businesses as group for
which IPS should maximize engagement. The policy only listed minority- and
women-owned businesses.

ELEVATE Indianapolis

Commissioners
voted to accept a Memorandum of Understanding between IPS and ELEVATE
Indianapolis. ELEVATE is a year-round program providing consistent mentoring
opportunities to promote student success in all areas of life. ELEVATE features
a pipeline structure to provide steady supports for students in 4th through
12th grades. A diverse team of teacher/mentors make a
multi-year commitment to providing support to their students whenever they are
needed – any time, any day. Arsenal Technical High School will serve as the
pilot school for ELEVATE Indianapolis; Arsenal Tech students will participate
in coursework on mentoring and positive life skills, which they will then share
with younger students in schools feeding into Tech.

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