September 22, 2015

IPS May Outsource Oversight Of District Athletics

Arsenal Tech volleyball team plays a match. - Indianapolis Public Schools

Arsenal Tech volleyball team plays a match.

Indianapolis Public Schools

Executive director for the state’s Civil Rights Commission says his plan is unlike another other in country


The management of Indianapolis Public Schools' athletics could be outsourced under a nearly $300,000, two-year contract to the current executive director of a state commission.

Jamal Smith is proposing to mange IPS athletic funding with his own company and seek additional money outside the district for athletics, recommend changes to personnel and adding a community service component to sport teams.

Smith is the executive director for the state’s Civil Rights Commission. Before that, he was a senior advisor to former-Gov. Mitch Daniels and played intercollegiate basketball.

Smith, who proposed the sports management services to the district, did not mention his job when presenting to the IPS board during Tuesday’s review session.

When asked after the meeting if he would step down from the Civil Rights Commission if the contract was approved, Smith said he would just have to wait for the board’s vote.

It is not clear when IPS commisioners would take up the contract again for a vote or further discussion.

“This is starting to turn into a larger endeavor than I think I originally anticipated. Anyone who knows me, knows my true passion is young people with a combination for sports and athletics,” Smith said. “And given the opportunity it would be something I would have to consider -- transitioning over to do this full time. Nothing is definite … it has to be approved.

“In the meantime I’ve got a huge responsibility running the civil rights commission and we’ve got to make sure we do that.”

Smith said his proposal was unlike any others in the country he was aware of. The basis of it includes: being an outside contractor that seeks corporate sponsorship and stresses student community service and student's post-high school plans.

The cost of the agreement is $165,000 in 2015-16 and $115,000 in 2016-17.

In the second year, Smith would implement "The Lead Change Project," that includes increasing the number of students participating in sports and extra-curricular activities.

The contract is between the district and Smith’s limited liability corporation The FLOwens Group, but he said management would be carried out by his non-profit organization, also called The Lead Change Project.

“It will be the entity that kind of takes charge of everything and moves it forward,” he said.

According to Smith, The Lead Change Project would solicit and manage funding for sports-related expenses in the district so there would not be a culture of have and have-not between school-level programs. Recently some schools, like Arlington High School, sought media attention for help in funding for uniforms.

“This is an opportunity to bolster the resources” said IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “Not just Friday night activities but at elementaries and across the board.”

Frerebee said around 50 perecent of the cost of sports at the school level is paid for by ticket sales and fundraising by parents and students -- not the district general budget.

Smith said he would also assess student participation, athletic programming and making sure school level athletic directors have support, training and resources.

Some sports, he said, could cost too much and have such low participation that they could be cut.

Though at least one board member questioned the top-down approach Smith proposed as the district moves toward decentralizing decision making and giving more power to individual school leaders.

Commissioner Kelly Bentley asked why the board would want a consultant instead of a full-time hire?

“I don’t know that the central administration needs to be getting involved in who is running the concessions,” she said about some of Smith’s proposed ideas. “I think it is great to provide support that athletic directors need -- but I would hate to be managing that from central office."

Smith is also the Task Force co-chair of Mayor Greg Ballard’s "Your Life Matters" initiative.

Correction: A earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that the IPS Board would vote Thursday on the proposed athletics management contract. It is unknown when the contract will go before the board again for a final vote. The contract was presented at Tuesday's review session as an "informational presentation" not as an action item.


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

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