April 28, 2020

Charter For Emma Donnan's New Operator Approved In Fast-Track Process

Adelante Schools is led by Matthew Rooney and Eddie Rangel. They will co-led Emma Donnan Elementary-Middle School starting in the 2020-21 school year. - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Adelante Schools is led by Matthew Rooney and Eddie Rangel. They will co-led Emma Donnan Elementary-Middle School starting in the 2020-21 school year.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

The Indianapolis Charter School Board sped up its approval process Tuesday to allow a new operator to restart Emma Donnan Elementary-Middle School this summer. Instead of holding two meetings on the application from Adelante Schools, the board held only one.

During a virtual meeting the board unanimously approved a Mayor-sponsored charter for Adelante Schools, which will begin operating the Southside school in July, once the state’s eight-year intervention of the school ends.

Last month, Adelante was picked by the Indianapolis Public Schools Board to become the new operator of Emma Donnan, following months of dramatic state and local decisions over the school’s future. Adelante will run the school as an innovation partnership with IPS, a deal that provides operating autonomy with district support.

Emma Donnan Middle School was one of several IPS schools taken over by the state in 2012, due to years of academic failure. The company hired by the state to operate Emma Donnan, the Florida-based Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), oversaw academic improvement and the school was considered a successful turnaround by state officials. The company sought to continue running Emma Donnan after the scheduled end of the intervention this summer.

But following a series of votes from state boards against CSUSA, the school was returned to IPS earlier this year.

Typically, the Indianapolis Charter School Board hears a proposal for a charter during a meeting and votes on the application at a second meeting months later. For Adelante Schools, the board’s staff chose to speed up the process to make it easier to prepare for the fall.

Patrick McAlister, director of the Office of Education Innovation, says there are concerns about Adelante’s enrollment projections in grades K-8. The school will open with 420 students and grow to 750 students in seven years, according to the application. Currently 426 students attend the school.

“I want to emphasize Adelante, as an organization, has met our expectations for the application process,” McAlister said. “While it is a concern, and something we will closely monitor, we’ve seen good evidence they are able to work on a rapid timeline.”

Adelante Schools is led by Eddie Rangel and Matthew Rooney. Rangel was most recently a principal at Tindley Genesis Academy and Rooney was a principal at a charter high school in New York City. The two are part of a fellowship program -- created by IPS, the city and education reform group The Mind Trust -- to design innovation schools for the district.

The curriculum will be a combination of direct teacher instruction, e-learning, small group and independent learning. Current Donnan teachers were offered jobs at the school, the pair said. They plan to create a three-week professional development session for teachers before the school reopens in August.

Rooney says they will prepare for the school to open with students in the building and students learning remotely, as concerns about the coronavirus may continue in the 2020-21 academic year.

“Whether students are walking in the door on August 3rd or logging in on August 3rd, or whatever that format looks like, we want to make sure our teachers are 100 percent ready to go,” Rooney said.

Also proposed in Tuesday’s meeting -- Geoffrey Fenelus, of New York City, submitted a K-8 “college prep” school called Promise Prep. Fenelus, like Adelante’s Rangel and Rooney, is part of the Mind Trust fellowship program. He hopes to partner with IPS to restart a struggling school on the Far Eastside.

The charter board could vote on Fenelus’ proposal at its next meeting in June.

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


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