March Board Highlights

When the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners convened for its Agenda Review Session on Tuesday, March 13, and its Board Action Session on Thursday, March 15, topics included several Innovation School agreements and proposals, an update on the Transportation Community Input Meetings, and action on the district’s budget appropriations for the 2018-19 school year.

What follows is a deeper look at those agenda items.

Transportation Community Outreach

In December 2017, the IPS Board of School Commissioners asked the District to explore a later start time for high school students for the 2018-19 school year. IPS Transportation Director, Manny Mendez, presented to board members several transportation model options to engage the broader community and gather input.

More than 165 students, families, and community members were in attendance. Online surveys were made available for individuals unable to attend and the district surveyed all seven high schools as well.  In total 1,022 responses were collected.  

Participants were asked to consider the following:

  • Adjusted start and end times that could impact all students
  • The extension of walk zones for high school students from 0.4 to 0.7 tenths of a mile
  • The utilization of high schools as bus stops

Response results included:

  • 54 percent agreed with later start times for middle and high school students but demonstrated concern for how such a change would impact factors like student employment and child care
  • 51 percent supported the expansion of walk zones from 0.4 to 0.7 tenths of a mile and they also supported the suggested utilization of high schools as bus stops so long as safety concerns were addressed

Thursday night, two additional options were presented for the Board to consider:

Option Four:

  • High schools would run on the first tier.
  • Elementary schools would run on the second tier.
  • Innovation schools can extend past the first-tier PM bell time.
  • A 20-minute breakfast would be offered prior to the first bell.
Option 4 Draft Transportation Schedule

Option Five:

  • A Small adjustment to the second and third tiers would allow an opportunity to pair buses in all three tiers.
  • High schools would run on the first tier.
  • Elementary schools would run on second and third tiers.
  • Innovation schools can extend past PM bell times on first and second tiers.
  • A 20-minute breakfast would be offered prior to the first bell.
Option 5 Draft Transportation Schedule

As a result of the feedback and findings, the Board has asked that additional information be collected on the two new options and the findings presented at a future Board meeting.

Historical Property Tax Overview

Policy Analytics, LLC is an Indianapolis based firm that specializes in economic analysis, public finance, and policy analysis. At this month’s board meeting representatives of the firm joined IPS Chief Financial Manager, Weston Young, and together they provided a briefing on the property tax landscape within the district.

Their findings provided District leaders, Commissioners, and the general public with the following:

  • Historical context required to fully understand and assess changes to IPS’ unique tax base
  • A detailed analysis on the residential tax base, including geographic areas of improvement and decline, and the median homeowner assessed values within IPS’ jurisdiction
  • An overview of changes to the commercial assessed value, including a summary of TIF implications for the District
  • A summary of long-term changes in homeowners’ property tax bills, including the effects of property tax reform in 2008

This month, a full summary of their findings were presented to the Board of School Commissioners.

Budget Appropriation Action

A public hearing on the proposed budget appropriations for the 2018-19 school year was held on March 5, 2018 and the Board of School Commissioners voted to adopt the recommendations made by Chief Financial Manager, Weston Young, at the March 15 Action Session. Next, the budget appropriation will be submitted to the Department of Local Government Finance (DGLF).

Key takeaways include:

  • Budget appropriation authorizes maximum spending authority but it is not a guarantee of district revenues, nor is it a line-item budget or breakdown of expenditures by use.
  • The projected cash flows for the upcoming school year create structural deficits that exceed cash reserves.
  • The appropriation of rainy-day and referendum funds is expected to address structural deficits.

ACTION: Passed 6-0

Innovation Agreements

Innovation Restart Partner Recommendation for Wendell Phillips School 63

Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson shared a contract proposal for Matchbook Learning, the recommended Innovation Restart partner for Wendell Phillips School 63.

Timeline of Events

  • In August 2017, IPS issued a Call for Quality Applicants interested in partnering with a new innovation school in the 2018-19 school year.
  • Letters of Intent were due in September and the district started the screening process in October.
  • In November 2017, Wendell Phillips was recommended for Innovation Restart after receiving a fifth consecutive “F” grade from the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Applicants specifically interested in working with restart schools were asked to submit a full application last November.
  • In December 2017, Matchbook Learning – a prospective partner for Wendell Phillips – and district representatives met with families, teachers and staff, and community leaders.
  • In January 2018, Matchbook representatives presented additional information on the organization and the proposed academic model for Wendell Phillips School 63.
  • In February 2018, the Board reviewed the terms that had been agreed on so far.
  • This month, the Board voted on the full agreement.

ACTION: Passed 4-2

Innovation Restart Partner Recommendation for Washington Irving School 14

In November 2017, the Board approved a proposal to match an innovation partner with Washington Irving School 14 for Innovation Restart. In February, Innovation Officer, Aleesia Johnson, presented URBAN ACT Academy as a potential partner. This month, the Board of School Commissioners voted on the recommended partner.

URBAN ACT Academy boasts researched-based educational practices that include:

  • Place-Based Focus which incorporates project-based learning to boost student engagement.
  • Ownership of Learning that includes student-managed portfolios and self-pacing.
  • Targeted Instruction in the form of small groups based on assessments.

URBAN ACT Academy uses an extended school day to allow for more classroom learning. The academy pushes for community support for tutoring and mentoring, and offers a variety of extracurricular activities.

The academy has also engaged with the Washington Irving community through formal presentations and satellite meetings with community members and neighborhood centers.

It is important to emphasize that when an innovation re-start partner comes to a school, teachers are not fired. If they choose, teachers can interview with the new partner. If they don’t get hired under the new partner or choose not to interview, they still have a contract with the district and can be placed in another IPS school.

ACTION: Passed 4-2

Choice Enrollment Guidelines

Director of Enrollment and Options, Patrick Herrel, presented Commissioners with a proposed change to the lottery priorities in response to parent concerns about sibling preference at schools with enrollment zones.

IPS’ Lottery Logic, as established by the Board in 2015 and affirmed in 2017, established the following order of priorities:

  1. In-District Priority
  2. In-Zone Priority (for multi-site programs)
  3. Sibling Priority
  4. Proximity Priority
  5. Loyal Applicant Priority
  6. IPS Employee Priority

Because of the above order, an in-district family living out-of-zone is only offered a choice seat after all in-zone families are offered a seat first.  This remains true even if the out-of-zone family has a sibling already attending the school.  During the first lottery application round, eight families fell into this category and did not receive a seat at their preferred school.  All of these families had a student at a school outside of their zone and were dissatisfied when sibling priority did not override zone priority.

The following recommendation was presented to the Board and ultimately approved:

  • The K-8 enrollment priorities shall now be as follows:
    • In-district
    • Sibling
    • In-zone (for multi-site programs)
    • Proximity
    • Loyal applicant
    • IPS employee
  • Enrollment priorities and parameters for pre-kindergarten and high school shall remain unchanged.
  • Enrollment priorities for Butler Lab approved in October 2017 will not be altered.
  • Changes shall not apply retroactively, and will be applied only during Rounds 2 and 3 of the choice enrollment lottery for the 2018-19 school year.

ACTION: Passed 6-0

Referenda Postponed to November

On Monday, March 5, 2018 the IPS Board of School Commissioners voted to move the operating and capital referenda from May’s primary election to November’s general election. The District also announced a partnership with the Indy Chamber to conduct a strategic operational and financial review with continued focus on teacher pay and special education.

  • Last December, the Board voted to pursue operating and capital referenda.
    • Funds from the operating referendum would support competitive teacher compensation, close funding gaps and provide appropriate levels of service to its high proportion of students with special needs.
    • The capital referendum would fund the myIPS Safety, Security and Technology Project. This project would allow IPS to enhance safety and security at all IPS-owned school facilities, address deferred maintenance needs and invest in energy efficient technology to reduce annual operating costs across the district.
  • The referenda, previously planned to be on the ballot on May 8 during the primary election, will now be presented to voters on Nov. 6, during the general election.
  • Without referendum funds, IPS could be forced to freeze teacher and employee compensation, reduce educational programs for students, reduce the quality of services for students with special needs, continue to defer building maintenance and scale back transportation services.
  • Between now and November, IPS will hold additional community forums, engage with parents and families, meet with neighborhood groups and partner with the Indy Chamber to dive deeper into current operations and finances.
  • During the next 120 days, the Indy Chamber will conduct a strategic review of all IPS business functions. Superintendent Lewis D. Ferebee and the Board of School Commissioners will collaborate as an active partner in the review and establish a prioritization and implementation plan.