April 24, 2019

Group Withdraws Charter Applications For Howe, Manual High Schools

Since 2012 Thomas Carr Howe Community High School has been under state intervention.  - State Impact Indiana

Since 2012 Thomas Carr Howe Community High School has been under state intervention.

State Impact Indiana

Charter applications for two Indianapolis high schools under state intervention were withdrawn from consideration this week. The move will likely extend the uncertanity of future plans at both schools. 

Last month state education officials ordered the private company running Thomas Carr Howe Community and Emmerich Manual high schools to seek charters to independently run the schools when its status as takeover schools ends in mid-2020.

The applications filed with the Indiana Charter School Board propose dramatic enrollment growth at both schools in five years.

The eastside Howe would expand to a K-12 school and more than double enrollment to 1,306 students by 2024-25 school year. Currently, the school is grades 7-12 with around 600 students.

Manual would remain a 9-12 school, according to the application, but increase enrollment by about 500 students to 1,200 students.

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But on Monday, both applications were withdrawn. Public meetings set for Thursday and next week are canceled.

A representative for the schools says they want to take more time to consider the application process.

The state hired the Florida-based Charter Schools USA, or CSUSA, to turnaround the two schools and Emma Donnan Middle School as part of the 2012 state takeover of five chronically failing schools. Noble Education Initiative, a nonprofit offshoot of CSUSA run by its former academic leader Sherry Hage, has been managing the high schools for CSUSA since 2017.

The groups then created a non-profit called ReThink Forward Indiana to seek the charters for each school.

“Considering the extremely tight timelines to participate in the first application window, the ReThink Forward Indiana board would like to take the opportunity to take more time to consider the best path forward for the charter submission process,” Eric Lewis, state director for Noble Education Initiative, said in a statement. “The board will now collaborate and prepare as a community to engage in the upcoming application cycles.”

It's uncelar if ReThink Forward Indiana will refile simillar applications with the state charter board or seek another authorizer to grant the charters. 

James Betley, executive director for the Indiana Charter School Board, said ReThink Forward gave no reason for the withdrawal of the two applications.  Board staff’s evaluation of the applications had not been completed.

The State Board of Education ordered CSUSA to seek charters to independently run the schools when its status as takeover schools ends in mid-2020.

But Indianapolis Public Schools leaders say outstanding bonds on the Howe and Manual buildings could complicate the state board’s plans for the schools to become charter schools.

Law allows the buildings, following the end of state intervention, to be turned over to a charter organizer in a sale for $1. IPS is worried it could be left to shoulder years of bond debt on the buildings or be required to pay interest if CSUSA and its related groups attempt to take control of the buildings.

Read More: Can This Principal Save Indiana’s Longest Failing School?

Read More: Fate Of Howe, Manual High Schools Depends On Community Input

In 2011, for the first time, the State Board of Education voted to take control of five schools: Howe, Manual, Emma Donnan, another former IPS school, Arlington Community High School, and Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary.

Since then, Arlington was returned to IPS in 2015 after a failed turnaround effort by local charter school company Tindley Accelerated Schools. Arlington High School was eventually closed in mid-2018 as part of a district-wide high schools consolidation plan. Arlington Middle School remains open at the building.

Roosevelt’s operator, EdisonLearning, signed a joint operating agreement with Gary Community Schools in 2017 to run the school.

The Indiana Charter Schools Board is scheduled to meet May 14. The board will consider applications for other proposed Indianpolis schools.

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

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