Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is building momentum as it looks to implement districtwide transformation through its Rebuilding Stronger initiative.
During the Board Action Session on Thursday, January 19, IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson, IPS Deputy Superintendent Andrew Strope, and IPS Chief Financial Officer Weston Young led a presentation that recapped the Rebuilding Stronger initiative and how it will be funded.
Rebuilding Stronger is designed to reinvent, rebuild, redesign and rethink IPS’ family of schools, how it spends resources, and how to effectively leverage facilities — with the ultimate commitment of ensuring excellent schools for all students in all neighborhoods throughout the IPS district.
Dr. Johnson told the Board that through the execution of the 2025 Strategic Plan, the district is seeing academic improvement, which will continue with implementation of Rebuilding Stronger.
“We have consistently delivered on savings and cost reduction efforts and will continue to prioritize strong financial stewardship. And, we are a national choice leader,” she said. “Through Rebuilding Stronger, we can drastically improve the student experience for ALL students. The future of Indianapolis and the future of Indianapolis Public Schools are deeply connected.”
Rebuilding Stronger would provide:
- Grade Reconfiguration and The Student Experience: Creates dedicated K-5 and 6-8 schools for an exciting and robust elementary and middle school experience.
- Enrollment Zones and Elimination of Proximity Priority: Increases equitable access to schools for all families; reduces student mobility.
- Facilities Upgrades and Renovation: Creates higher-quality facilities, and modifications to schools to accommodate new programs, academic models or grade reconfiguration.
- Program Expansion and Replication: Improves student access to higher-performing, high-demand schools in all enrollment zones.
- Pre-K Expansion: Improves access to FREE Pre-K by adding programs throughout district schools.
- Special Education Programming in All Zones: Increases accessibility of special education programs in each of the four enrollment zones.
- High-Ability Program Eligibility and Placement: Offers increased access to high-ability programming to eligible students in a more centralized location.
- School Consolidation and Closures: Reduces number of small schools and poor facilities; improves student enrollment.
During the presentation, Supt. Johnson said the district gained considerable momentum as a result of more than 75 public meetings and 12 community-based meetings in September and October. These meetings allowed district leadership to gauge community feedback and input.
The Board unanimously approved the Rebuilding Stronger plan on Nov. 17, and on Dec. 7, the Board unanimously approved a one-time $410 million capital referendum for the May ballot to fund construction projects proposed under the Rebuilding Stronger plan.
The Board still has to vote on the operating referendum — to be placed on the May 2023 ballot. The operating referendum would invest in students and staff, ensuring that all students have access to higher-quality programs and experiences and that the district would pay competitive salaries to attract and retain high-level educators.
The operating referendum would raise $50 to 51 million annually until 2031 and would propose a local property tax levy of no more than $0.25 on each $100 of assessed valuation. If approved, effective January 1, 2024, the $0.25 rate would replace the current $0.19 local property tax levy.
If both the operating and capital referendums are approved by voters in May, the impact on a typical homeowner will be about $6 a month.
What the IPS Community Is Saying About Rebuilding Stronger:
Melody Coryell, Executive Director of Postsecondary Readiness, Indianapolis Public Schools
“When we look at the success of Choice programs … we need to look at how we provide that access that we used to have (to these higher-performing, high-demand programs) for a diverse group of students that reflect the larger district population and the larger Indianapolis population.”
Josh Goodman, Music Teacher, Arsenal Tech High School
“(In other districts), students are starting band and choir in 6th, sometimes 7th grade, and they’re also getting a great elementary music education … Rebuilding Stronger will give our students the same exact opportunities that other schools (and other urban districts) give to their students.”
Darren Thomas, Director of Athletics, Indianapolis Public Schools
“Participating in athletics can be critical in the development of (the) whole child, and especially for IPS students. With Rebuilding Stronger (and the improvements in athletic facilities), we’ll have the opportunity for more of our students to reach those goals and to develop in athletics and in the classroom.”
Caleb Prewitt, ELA teacher at James A. Garfield School 31
“Rebuilding Stronger shows IPS’s commitment to improving both the daily student experience and overall student outcomes by focusing on middle school as a key time for a student’s growth and development. Moving students into a more traditional middle school environment will expand the options students have to learn, as well as their access to a broader range of extracurricular opportunities. The opportunity to learn an instrument or a new language — options that do not exist in my K–8 building — will provide lifelong learning opportunities to students that will also help them as they progress through high school and life after school.”
Amanda Kay Baker, parent of four children in IPS schools
“As the world is ever changing and evolving, it is great to see the Indianapolis Public School system do the same for the future of all students in the district. It is with change that we grow.”
Allen Mickens, principal at Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58
“Without a doubt, Rebuilding Stronger will be the mechanism to boost IPS. As a principal, I am excited because Rebuilding Stronger will change the fundamentals so every IPS student — particularly Black and brown — has an experience defined by excellent choices. Every elementary school will have art, music, physical education, and computer science classes. I cannot wait to see how our students and families embrace the new opportunities.”
Chante Campbell, Principal, George W. Julian School 57
“We need to make decisions that are good for all kids. I’m encouraging you to show up.”
Kristina Johnson-Yates, IPS Parent
“My hope is that we come together as a community because that is what we are. We have an opportunity to find strength in our differences and hope we find a way.”
Troy Nolan-Watkins, Principal, Center for Inquiry 70
“We use all the data we have available to make thoughtful and strategic decisions about how best to support our students on the furthest ends of the opportunity gap.”
Christine Rembert, Principal, Francis W. Parker School 56
“We know that we have work to do and we are committed to getting that work done in partnership with our students, our parents, and our community.”
Lynn Rogers, Director of Children & Youth Services, Concord Neighborhood Center
“Concord and our families are excited about the district’s Rebuilding Stronger plan for the deliberate reinvestment in neighborhood schools. These changes will cost money and we believe the district has been transparent, realistic and accountable with their proposed referendums and how the increased tax dollars are needed and will support necessary school upgrades.”