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Next Step in Emma Donnan Process Set for Friday, Dec. 13

The Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 8–1 Wednesday, Dec. 4, to approve a resolution directing Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) to pursue a charter to continue operating Emma Donnan. This was another landmark in the events surrounding the status of three former IPS schools scheduled to exit state takeover in June 2020.

The next step will come Friday, Dec. 13. On that date, the Indiana Charter School Board will decide whether to grant charters to CSUSA and its affiliates – Noble Education Initiative and ReThink Forward Indiana – to operate not only Emma Donnan but to continue operating Emmerich Manual and Thomas Carr Howe high schools permanently. If the charter school board does not approve the charters, SBOE will determine the future of all three schools at its Jan. 15, 2020, meeting.

On Wednesday, IPS told the SBOE that if it regains control of Manual, the district will maintain oversight, but enter into a partnership with Christel House International to operate the school as an Innovation Network School. Bart Peterson, president and CEO of Christel House International, informed the board that his local nonprofit is dedicated to transforming the lives of students and would move its south side location to Manual, making it a K–12 school.

“We want to do more, we can do more, and we hope to do that at Manual,” said Peterson.

“They already have a strong track record right in the neighborhood and invested heavily in the community and are willing to do so at an even greater level moving forward,” said IPS Chief of External Affairs & General Counsel Ahmed Young. “We are confident that if given the opportunity to flourish, this will be a powerful partnership that pays dividends for current and future students.”

If IPS is awarded control of Emma Donnan Middle School, it will operate the entire K–8 school and will enter into an Innovation agreement with a partner that has local ties and a proven track record. Both Adelante Schools and Phalen Leadership Academies have expressed interest in being that partner.

Leaders from several south side neighborhood associations, including Garfield Park and Bates-Hendricks, have expressed support for the district regaining control of the schools and building that local partnership.

“Our selection process for a new partner to manage the school would begin with family and community input,” said IPS Chief Portfolio Officer Jamie VanDeWalle.

IPS will complete its partner-matching process for Emma Donnan by the end of January 2020 and bring a new Innovation Network agreement for the site to the IPS Board of School Commissioners on or before March. IPS has offered two community meetings for Emma Donnan parents to learn more. The district also launched a feedback survey for families to provide input.