March 12, 2015

Arlington High School Returns to IPS But State Intervention Remains


Scott Elliott / Chalkbeat Indiana

Scott Elliott / Chalkbeat Indiana

The State Board of Education voted today to allow Indianapolis Public Schools to regain operational control of Arlington High School, a school under state intervention.

If you’ve been following the saga of Arlington Community High School you may be confused about its future.

The school has been under state intervention since 2012 after years of academic failure. But last summer the company hired to operate the school -- Tindely Accelerated Schools -- said it could no longer afford to do the job.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee sought to regain full control of the school. And back in December it appeared to some that the State Board of Education did just that.

But in the months since, it became apparent board members had differing opinions over how much or how little control they wanted over Arlington and IPS.

At today's meeting, the board clarified its intentions by unanimously voting to make IPS the manager of Arlington, if the district can find a lead partner to work with at the school. Arlington will remain under the State Board’s intervention.

“There was a little confusion. But I think we made it clear today,” Gordon Hendry, board member said. “IPS will be responsible for Arlington going forward and it is still under the turnaround statue. It is a big step forward for IPS.”

Yet there is some frustration for IPS.

Most Viable Option

Ferebee was also asked to return to the board next month and lay out a set of student expectations -- such as test scores or attendance -- that would measure growth at Arlington. Ferebee had told the board he wants to increase proficiency by 10 percent each year at the school.

If IPS does not provide those expectations, the board could pull back on the offer for the district to manage Arlington.

After the meeting Ferebee said that it could be difficult to create expectations for an unknown student body. 

Ferebee described Arlington as a “reboot.” He hopes to have 600 students in grades 7-12 attend Arlington. Nearly half of those students would be seventh graders from the Northeastside neighborhoods around Arlington. To redirect students back to Arlington, IPS will no longer provide transportation for seventh graders to other IPS schools.

“I think we got more clarity today and that is helpful," Ferebee said. "We need some assurances because we have done a lot of work and continue to do a lot of work to make sure this is a successful transition. If there is a point that that we are not viewed as the most viable option -- we need to know that so we can move on and plan accordingly.”

A search for a new Arlington principal is underway.

Arlington is one of four IPS schools that have entered state takeover. The three others are Emma Donnan Middle School and Manual and Howe high schools. The Florida-based Charter Schools USA runs those.

Tindley is a non-profit charter school operator based in Indianapolis. When it took over Arlington in 2012 it was known as EdPower. The company had signed a five-year contract with the state board to run Arlington.

But after Tindley took control of the school, enrollment plummeted from around 1,200 students to the around 300 for the current school year and lead to financial problems at the school.

Contact WFYI reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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