An IPS family recently left our
area, and we were struck by the kind words Jason Dorsey shared as he reflected
on his years as an IPS parent:

“Yesterday
school started for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). For the first time in 13
years there were no backpacks prepped in entry room, no school uniforms put on,
no butterflies in their stomachs, no obligatory first-day-of-school pictures.
For the first time in 13 years, none of our kids were going to IPS.

We mourned
the loss.

Two weeks
ago, Jenny went to the admin building at Arsenal Technical High School to
withdraw Judah. She started crying in front of the secretary who she had never
met before.

When we
moved to Indy, most of our friends at Redeemer sent their kids to the Oaks, a
private Christian school with a commitment to racial reconciliation. It would
have been a great school for our kids. But we decided to first give IPS a try.
Looking back over these thirteen years I’m glad that we did.

Our
neighborhood school was Washington Irving School 14, in the Holy Cross
neighborhood. The first day of school we realized that we weren’t in Seattle
anymore. Our kids were clearly in the minority. (At that time IPS was about 70%
African American, 12% Hispanic, maybe 16% Caucasian). There was a lot of
poverty. We later learned that three homeless shelters fed into the school, so
there was a lot of transience among the kids. Elizabeth Odle, the
school principal, was there too. Elizabeth was a Lion and a Lamb, nurturing and
courageous in her leadership. She created a culture that was life-giving, and
our children thrived under her leadership. It was at Washington Irving that we
first met some of the Master Teachers who have guided our children, like Ms.
Perry.

After a
few years in IPS I realized how wrong and unjust the suspicion that many people
in Indianapolis had towards IPS. Many of my peers wouldn’t even consider
sending their children to IPS, even though they hadn’t visited a school. Their
decision was based more on fear than facts. I wanted to do something about
changing the negative attitude toward IPS, and with a few other advocates, we
formed a grassroots organization we called IPS Renewal.

Over the
years there have been many ways Jenny and I tried to be part of the renewal of
IPS. Jenny served as PTO President at Washington Irving, and one year each
morning put the school t-shirt on kids who did not have the school’s uniform
on. I coached baseball at Arsenal Tech with Josh Bowling, served on
different task forces, and was a regional coordinator for a bond petition drive
to complete capital improvements, including air conditioning in IPS schools.

In the
early years, we thought that we were the ones helping IPS. Now looking back my
position has completely changed. Our family has received far more than given.

I’m not
trying to paint a rosy picture. I’m not blind to the brokenness, struggles, and
challenges with IPS. For a couple of years I served as a lunch monitor at
Arsenal Tech and broke up fights and watched the campus police use mace.
Sometimes I wondered if I had made the right decision.

But that’s
not what I think of when I think of IPS.

I think of
the amazing teachers who have loved and shepherded and taught our kids, like
Ms. Perry, Mr. Blachly, Ms. Hartshorne, Ms. Garing, Ms. Wolf and Mr.
Arnold. I think of the amazing coaches like Coach Dabney, Coach Lyles, Coach
Delaney, Coach Jones, Coach Day, Coach Barnes, and Coach Brown.

I think of
the institutional legacy of education and the historical roots of IPS in
Indianapolis that our children have experienced, like the 100+ year history of
Arsenal Tech with its large and celebrated alumni association.

I think of Crispus Attucks.
Julian and Judah attended Crispus Attucks during their middle school
years. Attucks was formed as an all-black school, to separate out white from
black, and it was built near to the city dump. Nevertheless, it became renowned
for its gifted educators and, perhaps, most of all for winning the state
basketball championship led by Oscar Robertson. I loved walking the hallways at
Attucks and studying the pictures of each year’s graduation class, wondering
what it must have been like when desegregation happened.

I think of
our kids experiencing history in IPS, like when Julian played on Arsenal Tech’s
basketball team and they won the Indiana State Basketball championship.

I think of
the Friday night football games, and yelling with Katy Brett and the
Bowling family and watching amazing athletes like James Gilbert, Adonis Williamson and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq.

I think of
how our children have flourished academically, participated in great programs
like Science Bound and have been well prepared for college.

I think of
the diversity in IPS. The richness of culture. I think of the way our
kids would come home and teach me new words and phrases from “the
hood.” I’m going to miss that deeply.

I think of
the kids, friends of our kids, who we loved and welcomed into our hearts and
homes. I think of how they welcomed us into their hearts and homes, too.

Most of
all, when I think of IPS, I think of people we love and who love us. We
are family.

I owe a debt to IPS that I can never repay.
Thank you.”

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