January 17, 2018

Indianapolis Public Schools Board President Michael O’Connor and Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson took center stage at the MIBOR Realtor Association Leadership Academy to discuss innovation schools. The two were joined by Brandon Brown, Sr. VP of Education Innovation for The Mind Trust.  The panel discussion centered on what innovation schools are, why they were started and how they benefit families.

The IN legislature passed a law in 2014 allowing traditional public school districts to partner with charters and other community groups to form innovation schools. IPS launched its first innovation school in 2015. Today, 16 schools make up the IPS Innovation School Network.

“You hire the right principal, let them hire the right teachers and let them do what’s best for their students. As a district, we’re less of a dictator in telling the schools what to do and how to do it. Instead, we will hold those schools accountable for maintaining high standards,” said President O’Connor.

Johnson said IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee became interested in the concept after seeing the negative effects of the state taking over poorly performing schools and seeing those relationships with the schools severed. She said at that time, the district had several empty buildings while charter schools were buying old grocery stores.

“None of it was a good use of taxpayer dollars,” said Johnson. “If you give people closest to the students the ability to do what they need to do, you will see more positive results.”

And Johnson said IPS is seeing some great results with some of its innovation schools that were once suffering low test scores, but now are thriving.

Realtors in the group were also very interested in how the schools are rated saying it’s sometimes hard to sell a buyer on a great neighborhood because the school is poorly rated.

“We encourage people to go visit the schools and take a tour,” said President O’Connor. “The grade a school receives on paper doesn’t always tell the whole story.”

The MIBOR Leadership Academy is a 10-month program designed to build leaders out of local realtors. The academy meets monthly and focuses on a wide range of topics from education to government and law enforcement to professionalism.

Board President Michael O'Connor and Innovation President Aleesia Johnson address the MIBOR Realtor Board Leadership Academy
MIBOR Realtor Board Leadership Academy