NewsEducationPreK-12 / April 23, 2014

IPS, Mind Trust, City Partner To Turn Around Schools

Sam Klemet
IPS, Mind Trust, City Partner To Turn Around Schools

Indianapolis Public Schools is partnering with the state and a nonprofit in an effort to turn around struggling and vacant schools.

Plans will be developed through the Mind Trust’s “Innovation School Fellowship."

IPS has a number of low performing schools and ones with underutilized space.

The Mind Trust is offering $129,000 in salary and benefits to individuals who establish reform models to help turn them around. Up to three will be chosen in the first year.

IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee says it gives teachers a chance to express and implement their ideas.

"Teachers have a lot of ideas and also, I believe, teachers are looking for opportunities for leadership and I think that this particular approach for the fellowship satisfies both of those needs," said Ferebee.  "We want to hear from teachers who believe that they have a better way of educating our students, particularly in our schools that have been struggling."

The impetus behind the effort is House Bill 1321 approved this past legislative session.  It creates Innovative Network Schools allowing charters to operate in IPS buildings autonomously.

The selection process for the fellows begins in May with the winners chosen in the summer.  Those picked will work on their plans next school year and implement their ideas in 2015 and 2016.

Mind Trust Founder and CEO, David Harris, says it's important to give the fellows a full year to get their plans ready.

"Our experience and research tells us that one of the absolute essential keys to getting great schools launched is making sure that leaders, talented leaders, have the time and resources up front to do the necessary planning, to do the design work, to do the research work, to actually have the time to successfully develop, build, and launch new schools," said Harris.

Ferebee says the goal is to receive new grassroots reform models with a focus on improving neighborhood schools.

"We don't want any student to have to move or go to another school.  We want you to be able to attend your neighborhood school," he said.  "It also provides us with an opportunity to ensure that all of our neighborhood schools are quality.  That is where we have been struggling the most in IPS and Indianapolis for that matter."

The Mind Trust says the initiative is the first of its kind in the country.  The nonprofit is able to fund the first three fellowships and will try to raise money for six more the following two years.

IPS Commissioner Diane Arnold thinks these are the types of partnerships needed for the district to grow.

"I think for a long time, we've been adversaries with people who had no other agenda but to help us better educate our children and to see us all working together, it's just exciting for me and I'm excited to see what this brings to the table," said Arnold.

Ferebee says turn around for the schools likely will take three to five years, with signs of improvement after two.