September 20, 2023

IPS superintendent pitches equitable future for all students in district address

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson gave a state of the district address on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. - Indianapolis Public Schools / Youtube

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson gave a state of the district address on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Indianapolis Public Schools / Youtube

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson gave a state of the district address on Wednesday night.

It comes as the district starts to carry out a sweeping and controversial plan to overhaul academics and change school configurations. That included the closure of six schools this summer.

The speech is also amid a fight against state officials and school choice advocates who want to prevent the district from selling some of the closed schools.

During the address, Johnson thanked families and community members for trusting the decisions to redesign the district.

“I asked for your ideas and your patience as we re envisioned our district with more and better choices, but fewer schools,” Johnson said at the former Broad Ripple High School. “I've asked for grace, as we've implemented those changes along the way.”

In a speech that acknowledged numerous partnership and achivements, Johnson also said the district had become full of options for anyone — from those who speak Haitian Creole, to the neurodivergent, students with special needs, and families new to the city.

The Rebuilding Stronger plan is also meant to address academic achievement by providing

equitable school options to all students. Johnson has said the district will reallocate resources to boost academic performance, especially among students of color, who continue to lag behind their White classmates in standarized tests.

The plan expands access to algebra math to all middle school students. Last year, just 34 percent of those students had access to the course.

Eight education models, such as dual language, Montessori and international baccalaureate will also become more available for students across the city next year. Some students had been unable to enroll in these programs due to limited spaces and district enrollment policies that favored certain families.

“For as long as I can remember, our most exciting offerings were concentrated in neighborhoods that were wealthier and whiter,” Johnson said. “Now, for the first time, every family in our city can access our best stuff. What was once a privilege, is now a right.”

In May, voters approved a $410 million capital referendum for the district to improve facilities as part of the Rebuilding Stronger plan. The new dollars will pay for improvements at nearly two dozen buildings, including $53.4 million in construction to turn the formerly shuttered Broad Ripple and Thomas Carr Howe high schools into middle schools.

Contact WFYI education reporter Sydney Dauphinais at sdauphinais@wfyi.org.

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