On January 14, families from Riverside School 44 gathered in the school’s cafeteria for an evening meeting to hear about school performance trends and discuss academic programming options for the 2016-2017 school year. 


A school nestled within a neighborhood of proud and enthusiastic families and supported by an engaged alumni base, Riverside School 44, has benefitted from the generosity of several philanthropic partners who champion efforts to help ensure students are provided with a wealth of academic, social and cultural experiences. The school can be considered a model for cultivating strategic partnerships with organizations that provide wrap-around supports to students. Riverside is also the district’s only targeted one-to-one technology implementation site, providing each student with daily instruction on a handheld device. Despite its strong network of support and technology-infused instructional model, among other significant attributes, Riverside School 44 has experienced lackluster performance in recent years and is designated an IPS chronically low-performing school. Collaborative efforts are underway to revamp the academic program at the school for the 2016-2017 school year to ensure all students are performing on grade level.


Jesse Pratt, Academic Improvement Officer for the West Learning Community, welcomed 50-60 attendees to the meeting, shared a bit about his role as the supervisor of Riverside and provided a handout outlining the purpose and key components of the district’s Innovation Restart Model. Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, also greeted families and described the vision for school autonomy and equity in quality educational experiences throughout the district. “Though there are some areas of improvement [at Riverside], students must be able to read on grade level. They must be prepared for success beyond our doors. We have a responsibility to ensure our students are being provided the instructional supports they need and we cannot sustain practices that have proven to be ineffective…We must drastically improve student outcomes at Riverside,” said Dr. Ferebee.


The handout shared with families served as a Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ) guide highlighting, among other important points, the general definition of Innovation Network Schools – an educational model established as the result of Public Law 1321 allowing IPS to partner with other school operators to lead our low-performing schools, while ultimately maintaining these schools under the governance of the district. The handout also detailed why Riverside School 44 was a prime candidate for the Innovation academic improvement strategy and what implementation of the Innovation Restart Model at the school would entail. Families were introduced to the concept of Riverside potentially being led by a partner organization for the 2016-2017 school year to bolster student achievement.


IPS Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson shared with parents more specifics about the Innovation School framework and informed attendees that there is an interested provider who would like an opportunity to lead the school and serve its students and families. Johnson shared that Innovation restart is an academic improvement strategy and stated, “When we see that there has not been a track record of success, we look to implement innovative strategies to improve outcomes. Partnering with an experienced provider is an opportunity to dramatically change the school environment to benefit students.” Johnson indicated that ultimately, the provider must still report progress to the IPS administration and is under contract with the IPS Board of School Commissioners. The students remain IPS students, facilities remain the property of the district and partners would manage school operations. Whether or not an Innovation Network partner organization operates with an advisory board, board of directors or another configuration of governance, it is still accountable to the IPS Board of School Commissioners and is subject to a termination of its contract with the district if school performance terms are unmet. Johnson encouraged families to look ahead to exciting new possibilities for the school and introduced Founder and Principal of Global Preparatory AcademyMariama Carson as an interested Innovation partner for Riverside School 44.


Local, accomplished bilingual educator Mariama Carson (see IndyStar article by Matt Tully), has infused into Global Preparatory Academy (GPA) her passion for providing children with high-quality, engaging world language learning experiences. Carson shared excitement about the chance to operate the school and affirmed her ties to the Riverside community, “I live three minutes away from here, [working with Riverside students and families] would be a wonderful opportunity!” She explained the tenants of the GPA instructional model, Language, Expeditionary Learning, and Love, and shared a brief PowerPoint presentation that included the mission statement for the dual language immersion extended day program that would serve grades Kindergarten through six at Riverside with a plan to grow to a K-8 school. Carson responded to questions from the audience, assuring parents that all GPA teachers are licensed and that with the implementation of dual language instruction at the school (Spanish immersion for early grades and World Language instruction for the upper grades), an intentional integration of technology would remain. Carson was well received by attentive families, community partners and school staff at the meeting, and invited them to call or email her with any questions they might have about the GPA program.


Dr. Ferebee responded to questions from attendees, stating that all Riverside students are guaranteed their seat at the school and that the district is committed to transparent communications and continued dialogue with families. Prior to closing the meeting, Dr. Ferebee acknowledged IPS Board Commissioner LaNier Echols, who was in attendance, thanked families for participating and noted multiple opportunities for further group discussion that were listed on the meeting handout. He encouraged attendees to join the district in promoting the meeting dates to the Riverside community:

  • Wednesday, January 20 at 9:00 a.m.
  • Tuesday, February 2 at 9:00 a.m.
  • Monday, February 8 at 9:00 p.m.

All meetings will be held at the school.


Riverside community members who are unable to attend the meetings are encouraged to email their questions to autonomyinips@myips.org and visit the Riverside School 44 website for important updates and an upcoming opportunity to complete a parent input survey.