Members of neighborhood groups and churches rallied around James Whitcomb Riley School 43 to call for increased support today.
Three principals cycled through the Butler-Tarkington K-8 school in the past five years. The instability has lead parents and community members to voice concerns in meetings and to the district school board. The once A-rated school has earned an F on the state’s accountability scale since 2016.
Sabae Martin, of the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association Board, stood outside the school with a small group that included members of the IPS Community Coalition and Purpose Of Life Ministries.
Martin says they support incoming principal Lauren Johnson and believe the selected Superintendent Aleesia Johnson wants to improve, they school but remain concerned the school will not get enough resources from the district to improve students' lagging academics.
Martin questioned how the school’s standarized test scores could remain so low. Last year, only 7 percent of students passed both parts of the math and English portions of the state’s ISTEP+ exam. No students passed both parts in the previous two years.
“It starts to feel like it's intentional,” she says. “And that's the undercurrent of the conversation in this neighborhood.”
The group said they want the school to have a part-time or full-time librarian and an audit to ensure staff at all levels are properly trained to work at the school.
In wake of the sudden departure of the previous principal in February, the district filled vacant positions at the school, to help in the classroom and with student behavior.
An Indianapolis Public Schools spokesperson said Johnson, the new School 43 principal, was not available Tuesday to respond. Johnson was most recently principal at Raymond F. Brandes School 65 for seven years.
In a statement, the district said, “Superintendent Aleesia Johnson has made racial equity, specifically, a priority of her new administration to ensure all students have access to high-quality educational options regardless of where they live, attend school or their racial background.
“IPS utilizes a student-based funding model and, as such, James Whitcomb Riley School 43, a neighborhood school, receives per-pupil funding on par with all of its nearby choice school counterparts,” the district said in a statement.
The closest choice programs to School 43, at 150 W. 40th St., are Butler University Laboratory School 60 and Center For Inquiry School 70.
The school enrolls about 450 students, a majority receive free lunch. Seventy-five percent of the students are black.
The 2019-20 school year begins Aug. 5 at most IPS schools.