At the September Agenda Review Session, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners received updates on major IPS initiatives and considered new proposals targeted to improve district operations and student experiences.


Marian University Leadership Collaborative Agreement Update

Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp and LaTonya Turner from the Marian University Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership provided an update on the Leadership Collaborative Agreement between IPS and Marian University. This program, designed to build leadership capacity from within IPS, has 17 district educators enrolled in the 2015 cohort: 12 from elementary schools, three from secondary schools, and two from IPS alternative programs. Classes are already underway for our future leaders; coursework this semester includes Authentic Leadership: The Courage to Lead, Systems Thinking/Models of Inquiry for Complex Problem Solving, and Culture and Identity Leadership for High-Performing Schools.


Transformation Zone Update

Academic Improvement Officer Jesse Pratt and Mass Insight Education Engagement Director Ami Magunia presented updates about the IPS and Mass Insight Education (MIE) partnership and on the implementation of Transformation Zones that feature 6 IPS Schools. The Transformation Zones (TZs) include a pair of high schools and two feeder elementary schools for each: Northwest Community High School, Louis B. Russell School 48, Lew Wallace School 107, George Washington Community High School, William Penn School 49, and Wendell Phillips School 63. The goal of the TZ model is to assess and identify challenges and opportunities for growth within the schools. With restructured support from community partners and internal coaches, the TZs will give students consistent supports from Pre-K through graduation.


A district diagnostic review is being conducted in order to identify policies and processes that act as a barrier to providing exemplary service to schools. The diagnostic process will be complete by the end of October. Based on these findings, MIE will research and recommend best practices in addressing key challenges for schools through a district diagnostic report.


AdvancED Review

Committed to helping schools improve, AdvancED is a non-profit organization that conducts onsite reviews of school systems to ensure that all learners are aware of their full potential. IPS Academics and Curriculum leaders provided Commissioners with a status update on preparations for the AdvancED External Review happening in October. During this review from AdvancED, a 12-member team will visit 12 IPS schools to conduct interviews with principals and staff. The team will also review district presentations, conduct interviews with Board Commissioners, and gain insight in conversations from parents and community stakeholders.


The purpose of this review is to ensure IPS demonstrates quality assurance and meets AdvancED standards of continuous improvement. In preparation, IPS has completed preliminary meetings and has developed specific timelines for the review team visit. After the results of the review are shared with IPS, opportunities for improvement will be identified and training systems will be implemented to ensure achievement. Principals and literacy coaches will receive professional development from AdvancED and the district Curriculum Officer tailored to address the targeted areas of growth. District-level committees will experience standards-based training from the Academic team, and school-level committees will train with principals with focus on improved experiences for students, staff, and families.


Simon Youth Academy Update

Commissioners received an update on the Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre (SYA) from Director of Career Technology Education, Benjamin Carter. This collaboration with the Simon Youth Foundation is set to launch at Circle Centre Mall on October 20th and will enroll up to 60 students in grades 11 and 12. SYA offers a unique blend of online coursework and face-to-face instruction in a state-of-the-art facility. This empowering and flexible learning environment features instruction in core areas as well as commercial photography and digital marketing.


The school’s accelerated program is ideal for upperclassmen who may have fallen behind in course credits, but are ready to focus on graduating on time while learning valuable career skills; this is also an exciting opportunity for career-driven students seeking to learn a skilled trade while still in high school. SYA will offer instruction and experiences tailored to set these students up for success in the professional world after graduation. An in-house professional photography and design studio provides real-world experience, along with the opportunity to collaborate with mall retailers on promotional endeavors. SYA is scheduled to open on October 20; click here for more information and to apply for this exciting program now.


Strategic Plan Update

Chief Strategist, Le Boler presented updates on IPS Strategic Plan 2015.  Since the adoption of its core contents in August 2015, the Strategic Plan is being shared with school-based and central services staff to ensure all employees understand the direction of the district and plans for implementation. Concurrently, the plan is being shared with the IPS community. Within the plan are three major goal areas: teaching & learning, efficient operations and family & community. Each goal area is set to ensure excellence in the classroom, in our business practices and in our support services to the community. In the implementation phase, we will break down the plan into several projects that include a detailed scope of work and then invite employees and the public at-large to join us on project teams to carry out our work over the next three years. Transparency will remain paramount throughout the implementation of our plan, timely updates will be available on the IPS website and quarterly status reports will be provided to the Board, while maintaining flexibly to address the evolving needs of our community. Ongoing results will be evaluated and plans will be refined to drive successful outcomes. We encourage organizations and community associations that are interested in having an IPS leader visit with their staff or membership to explain the vision and new direction of IPS to contact our Service Center at 317.226.4000 to schedule a visit.


Proposed Changes to Board Policy regarding Suspension and Expulsion

 The revised Policy and Guidelines for Suspension and Expulsion outline student behaviors and actions that may result in suspension or expulsion. In an effort to promote racial equity in discipline and student outcomes, language identifying “failure to comply” as an offense warranting suspension or expulsion was removed. National research shows “failure to comply” is the leading citation in racial disproportionality among discipline rates for minority students.


Proposed Changes to Personal Technology Policy

 Commissioners reviewed proposed changes to Board Policy and Administrative Guidelines regarding cell phones and personal technology devices. It was proposed that the current BP5136 “Telephones and Electronic Communication Devices” and BP 5136.01 “Sexting Policy” be replaced with “Personal Technology Devices.” This modification would merge the current policies into one comprehensive policy governing personal technology devices and acceptable usage on school grounds.  Accompanying changes to Administrative Guidelines would offer procedural details for school leaders when implementing the proposed policy. 


Certification of School Configurations Update

 The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) requires annual Board action and documentation to report school openings, closures, requests for new baselines and building reconfigurations. In July the Board approved the reconfiguration plans for the 2015-2016 school year. A proposed update reflects the removal of preschool from Ernie Pyle School 90 and the addition of preschool to William Penn School 49.



Student Assignment

 Each year, the student assignment policy is required to be reviewed and updated. Greg Newlin, IPS Enrollment and Options Officer, proposed revisions to the existing policy as the district shifts from a focus on “assignment” to “enrollment and choice” options. The proposed policy outlines the application process for IPS choice programs, the expectation of administrative guidelines to direct and support the work of the Enrollment and Options Office, and the definition of “neighborhood” schools and “choice” programs.


Athletics Management

 Commissioners considered a proposal to contract sports management services in an effort to improve the academic and athletic outcomes of students throughout IPS. In the proposed agreement, nonprofit organization FLOwens Group, LLC would offer professional development, training and mentorship to school-based coaches and athletic directors. This initiative seeks to engage students in positive extracurricular activities with a focus on teamwork and sportsmanship. 


In the first year of the proposed agreement, FLOwens would provide a full review and assessment of all IPS athletic operations. Recommendations for an athletic organizational structure, academic monitoring for IPS student-athletes, facility usage, and assessment tools for athletic directors and coaches would complete the initial review. Plans for the second year of the agreement include implementation of the Lead the Change project, which focuses specifically on increasing student participation in sports and other extracurricular activities to increase student health, achievement, and community connection. Student-athlete monitoring tools would assist schools in identifying the need for supplemental resources to boost student achievement. With goals of supporting a successful transition to higher education, Lead the Change partners with colleges and universities to provide resources for students and a pipeline to continued educational opportunities.


In addition to the personal effect on students, the proposed could potentially generate additional funding to IPS athletic programs through external fundraising opportunities. Jamal Smith, head of FLOwens Group, plans to build revenue capacity for IPS athletics through contributors outside of the district. If the consultation agreement is approved, schools would maintain autonomy in the supervision of their athletic offerings.


“Each school has its own athletic director and we want them to maintain control in the management of their program,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “This is an opportunity to bolster our resources, using a different strategy to ensure that all students receive the resources that they need.”