Education

IPS approves reorganization plan that closes some schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis Public Schools Board approved its reorganization plan called Rebuilding Stronger during the board’s action session Thursday night.

For months, the district has collected feedback from parents, educators and community members. The feedback continued Thursday night, with 44 people speaking to the board before its vote.

On Dec. 6 the board will have a preliminary determination hearing to consider two referendums to ask taxpayers to invest in the proposal. IPS leaders have said the referendums, if approved, will add $6 to most homeowners’ property tax bills. The referendums would be put on the ballot for the May primary election.

The original proposal outlined changes for the district:

  • School consolidation and closures: Reducing the number of small schools and poor facilities.
  • Grade configuration: Creating schools for kindergarten-Grade 5 and grades 6-8 students.  
  • Facility upgrades: Renovating buildings to create higher-quality learning environments.
  • Enrollment zones: Offering choice schools versus neighborhood schools for families.

Updates since the Oct. 27 proposal included these:

  • High-ability and dual-language programming at Harshman Middle School.
  • Charter and Innovation partnerships.
  • Potential Paramount partnership.
  • Innovation school partnership with the Near Eastside Innovation School Corp.

Before Thursday’s decision, educators from the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indianapolis Education Association spoke out a board meeting, saying the board seemed to be less than transparent about the plan. They criticized the original survey that went out across the district after Superintendent Aleesia Johnson first unveiled details of the plan at the state of the district address in September. However, by Thursday, Jack Hesser with the Indianapolis Education Association supported the final reorganization plan.

Last month, a group of 19 IPS parents, grandparents, guardians and teachers had written a letter asking the board to address equity gaps for Black and brown students before the proposal was approved. The group said a recently released strategic plan by IPS did not do enough to meet the needs of children of color. The letter offered recommendations, including IPS partnering with Paramount Schools of Excellence, a local public charter network, which was recently honored by the Indiana Department of Education for its academic success in serving underserved students. At Thursday’s action session, parents from that group and other groups including Empowered Families spoke out against the final reorganization plan and stated it lacked equal education for students.

Before voting Thursday night, board commissioners shared their support and concerns. All six could be heard voting “yes” on the final call for the vote except Commissioner Will Pritchard. During his speech, he thanked community members, educators and parents for their feedback on the proposal as he continued to be a voice on their behalf.

Johnson said, “We will not always agree. That I know, but I do believe that we are stronger together and as we head into this next phase of implementation we will need your partnership and your voices.”

Statement

“The Mind Trust appreciates the hard work that went into creating the Rebuilding Stronger plan. We agree with several components of the plan, but we simply disagree with many others. While we are pleased to see IPS’ stated intention in the resolution to establish future innovation network school partnerships, the resolution is also a clear attempt to circumvent Indiana’s unused facility law. As a result, this plan does not provide students, families, and communities with the clarity they deserve.

“Taken as a whole, The Mind Trust believes the Rebuilding Stronger plan will exacerbate racial disparities within IPS, not reduce them. For this reason, we cannot support it.

“We stand ready to partner with the district to continue making progress toward our shared goals.”

Brandon Brown, chief executive officer of The Mind Trust, on Nov. 17, 2022, prior to IPS Board action

Previous coverage