Joseph J. Bingham – Inaugural IPS Board Member

Joseph J. Bingham was born in New York City on July 6, 1815, of English parentage. He came from a line of distinguished ancestry, one of which came to America on the Mayflower. His father, a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, traded furs with the Native Americans at the frontier posts of Fort Maumee and Fort Dearborn.

Joseph, the oldest of seven children, was fourteen years old when his father died, and he was compelled to leave school in order to aid in the support of his family. He moved west to Ohio in 1837 where he and his brother-in-law engaged in the lumber business. In 1843, Bingham moved further west to Lafayette in the Indiana territory to became the captain of a steamboat on the Wabash and later had a very successful soap and candle business and became associated with the LaFayette Courier. In 1856, he and his family moved to Indianapolis where he was employed as the editor of the Sentinel.

 Joseph Bingham was deeply interested in educational affairs. He had served on the Governing Board of the schools in Tippecanoe County and his interest in education continued in Indianapolis. He was politically active, and when the state passed a law in 1871 providing that all cities of 30,000 or more have a Board of School Commissioners apart from the County Commissioners, Mr. Bingham was elected as one of three first members to that board. He served on the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners until 1882. During that time, he served as board secretary and chair of the committee for Buildings and Grounds.

Later in Joseph Bingham’s life, he served as deputy auditor for the state of Indiana and formed a publishing firm to print compilations of the laws for the state. During his remaining years, he was active in a variety of civic and political activities involving both the city and state. After being ill for several months, Mr. Bingham died at his family home – 546 N. Meridian Street – on December 12, 1896. His funeral was held at St. Paul’s Church and he is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

The Beginning of School 84

In 1927, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners voted to build a new school to serve the children on the far north-side area of Indianapolis. By December, the School Board Commissioners appointed the firm of J. Edwin Koff and Deery to draw plans for School #84. The specifications called for a brick building with Indiana limestone trim, walls that were twelve inches thick, and a floor space of 16,800 square feet. The building was to be classical Greek and Roman architecture so that it would blend in with the rest of the surrounding homes of the area. The school was named Joseph J. Bingham School #84 after Joseph J. Bingham, an early advocate for education and one of the members of the first Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners.

The northwest corner of Central Avenue and East 57th Street was selected as the site for the new school. Three lots were purchased from private owners at a total cost of $23,000. The contract for construction of the new school was awarded to Snider and Katz Company. The total construction costs of the school were $199,058.

On September 10, 1928, the Joseph J. Bingham School #84 was opened for pupils in first through eighth grade with an enrollment of 419 students. The two story building consisted of an auditorium, office area, a home economics lab, a shop area, a library, and twelve classrooms. The first principal of Joseph J. Bingham School #84 was Miss Elizabeth H. Scott. On October 11, 1928, one month after the opening of School #84, Miss Scott called a meeting of the parents and teachers for the purpose of organizing a parent-teacher group. Thus started a long history of involved and engaged parent involvement at School #84. 

By September 1931, in an effort to relieve the congestion resulting from the enrollment of 579 students, some of the students were re-assigned to School #70 and School #80. Nevertheless, for three years – from 1932 to June 1935 – half-day sessions were held for first grade pupils in School #84. By the end of February 1934, the school reached an all time high with an enrollment of 654 pupils.

Expansion, Renovation, and Reconfiguration of School 84 

In the 1950s, a three story addition was constructed on the west end of the building due to increasing enrollment. A cafeteria, music room, science room, library, and two additional classrooms were added. This served as the the general layout of the building until 2009, when a two-year expansion and renovation project was completed that enabled a new addition to the east end of the building. This addition included a gymnasium, music and art room, cafeteria, parent-community room, school offices, and middle school classrooms including a science lab. The east end was reconfigured into kindergarten classrooms at the lower level and support staff offices, conference room and staff lounge on the main level. Classrooms throughout the building were updated, adding technology capabilities, sinks, and restrooms for the primary rooms. The floor in the old gymnasium was raised to the level of the main floor and renovated as a media center.

The Transformation of Center for Inquiry at School 84

In 2003, Joseph J. Bingham School #84, the school boundaries changed to encompass much of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood as well as other parts of the city. In 2006, Superintendent Dr. Eugene White and the IPS Board of Commissioners chose School #84 as the site for expansion of the popular Center for Inquiry (CFI) magnet option school. CFI at School #84 becomes a prospective International Baccalaureate (IB) school and starts with students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Christine Collier is named the principal and Dora Brook, a School #84 alumnus and former teacher, is named the assistant principal. During the 2007-2008 school year, CFI at School #84 adds seventh grade, thus beginning a middle school on site and submits Application A to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). During this time, the two-year building renovation and expansion project begins. The next year, CFI at School #84 grew to capacity by adding eighth grade, increased their foreign language options by adding Mandarin to the curriculum, and hosted an IB authorization visit for Primary Years Programme for kindergarten through sixth grade.

In 2009, CFI at School #84 is fully authorized by the IBO to implement the Primary Years Programme in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. The two-year renovation project is completed and a re-dedication ceremony is held. That year, the school also receives a Magnet School of Excellence award. During the 2010-2011 school year, CFI at School #84 hosts an authorization visit for the Middle Years Programme and becomes fully authorized to implement the program. Ms. Collier is promoted to Head of CFI Schools and former assistant principal, Mrs. Dora Brook is promoted to serve as the second principal of Center for Inquiry at School #84. The next year, CFI at School #84 is awarded Magnet School of Distinction and Ms. Collier, Head of CFI Schools, receives National Distinguished Principal recognition. 

In 2012, CFI at School #84 hosts a visiting team from the IBO to evaluate the IB Primary Years Programme at grades K-5. With the retirement of Mrs. Brook, Ms. Tania Wolverton becomes the third principal of Center for Inquiry at School #84. The next year, Ms. Collier returned from her role as Head of CFI School to serve again as the principal of Center for Inquiry at School #84. By the 2014-2015 school year, CFI at School #84 receives Family Friendly Schools designation from the Indiana Department of Education and the school received recognition as a Top Ten Performing School in central Indiana. In 2015, planning began for a fourth CFI location to open at IPS School #70 and Ms. Collier is selected to serve as the school principal. Mrs. Kathleen Miller is chosen to become the fourth principal of Center for Inquiry at School #84, starting with the 2016-17 school year.