March 18, 2020

IPS Board To Vote Thursday On School Restarts, Empower Superintendent To Help Staff If Closure Continues

IPS Board President Michael O'Connor and Superintendent Aleesia Johnson during a meeting on Feb. 27, 20020.  - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

IPS Board President Michael O'Connor and Superintendent Aleesia Johnson during a meeting on Feb. 27, 20020.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners will hold a unique session Thursday where only district staff and media will be allowed in the room due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The board will vote whether to approve a new district budget and a resolution that will empower Superintendent Aleesia Johnson to negotiate changes to pay, benefits and leave policies. That’s in preparation to assist employees faced with loss of pay if closures continue next month

Thursday is also when the board will vote on whether two schools will be restarted and assigned to separate charter school operators. It is one of the most controversial actions the district has taken in recent years. The board will also vote to assign a new operator to a third school exiting state takeover this summer.

Johnson says, despite the district closing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the vote is vital to keeping plans for these three schools moving forward. If approved, the new managers could immediately start the hiring process to staff the three schools for the 2020-21 academic year.

“We've gotten lots of comments over the last two months,” Johnson says. “So I think we've given folks the space to share their opinion. I think the board has come up with this system whereby folks will continue to be able to do so. This is a time sensitive decision that we need the board to make, because there are a number of (human resource) implications, facilities implications, that we're just not in a position to wait another month.”

The public will be able to comment through a web portal here. Comments can be submitted until 4 p.m. Thursday.  All submitted comments will be made available to the media and posted to the district's Board Docs website before the start of the meeting.

The meeting will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. That web link will be provided on social media Thursday before 5 p.m. (Facebook, Twitter), according to a district statement.

During the past two months, dozens of families, school staff and community groups spoke out on the controversial proposals to restart Louis B. Russell Jr. School 48, in the Fall Creek neighborhood, and Stephen Foster School 67, on the Near Westside. District staff have argued academic improvements at both schools took too long and students are not learning enough.

The restart would change the status of the schools from a traditional neighborhood model to the so-called “innovation restart,” where a non-profit board would oversee a management team or charter school operator to run the school and hire staff outside the district’s union contracts.

READ MORE: IPS Admin Urges Restart Of Schools 48, 67 -- Principal, Parents Protest Plan

School 48 was rated F for six consecutive years on the state’s accountability scale. School 67 was rated F for the past three consecutive years. New principals were assigned to both schools less than three years ago to turn each around.

But some families and School 48 principal Arthur Hinton say they're on the right track and will continue to improve if given more time.

The proposals for the restarts include:

Louis B. Russell Jr. School 48 The board will vote whether to restart the school and assign Phalen Leadership Academies. The charter network already operates two other IPS elementary schools. Nicole Fama, a Phalen leader, says she hopes Principal Hinton and staff will want to remain at the school under the new management.

Stephen Foster School 67 Local educator Alicia Hervey started The PATH charter operator and is proposed to restart the school. Hervey, a former Arlington Community High School principal during the state takeover of that school, has won over some critics of the restart plan.

Emma Donnan Elementary-Middle School In November, the IPS Board voted to end its "innovation network" partnership with the Florida-based Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) to operate Emma Donnan K-6. Earlier this year, the state decided to return Emma Donnan Middle, a school under state intervention and operated by CSUSA since 2012, to IPS. The IPS administration wants Adelante Schools to run the school. Eddie Rangel, previously at Tindley charter school, and Matthew Rooney, an Indianapolis native and former principal at a New York City charter school, started Adelante last year.

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


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