Deal means School 93 will get Project Restore

The Indianapolis Public School Board approved a pay raise for Project Retore’s leaders tonight clearing the final hurdle for School 93 to put in place a homegrown school turn around effort that parents and teachers have asked the district to expand to the East side school.

Board members unanimously approved $10,000 raises for Tammy Laughner and Daniel Kriech, who more than five years ago launched Project Restore at IPS School 99. Soon after the school dramatically increased student test scores.The program combines consistent discipline with a routine of regular testing and regrouping of students based on on their progress.

School 93 is another the high-poverty, low-performing School 93. Parents lobbied heavily for the Project Restore program, but were angered when the effort stalled earlier this month as the district and the union debated about how much Laughner and Kriech were going to be paid.

Union leaders didn’t like IPS’ plan to give raises to Laughner and Kriech for performing administrative duties while leaving them on the teacher pay scale. They argued IPS should make them administrators if they want to pay them more. On the other side, district officials said that’s not how the program was set up.

The personnel report approved by the board tonight says the Project Restore leaders will have new titles as “Project Restore Coordinators” in IPS’ Office of Innovation and Transformation beginning in July. This year they were considered academic “coaches.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the move is a signal to the IPS community that the district values innovation and is willing to pay extra to people who can find ways to improve student learning.

“We felt an obligation to ensure that we were expanding the model that has been effective and proven to expand student outcomes,” Ferebee said.

While Project Restore supporters celebrated at the meeting, teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett urged IPS officials and teachers to be mindful of the fact that most teachers still have not had a raise in five years.

Cornett, who said she was obligated to advocate for all teachers, not just a select few. She said it was unfair that the union was blamed for the holdup of Project Restore. Bargaining over a new teacher contract begins with the district Aug. 1.

“As you pay these two an increase, you still have other personnel who are doing all the day-to- day work,” Cornett said. “You need to think about your other employees who are still making the same salary while doing more work.”

Ferebee said he believed their raises were justified because of the intense effort that goes into starting and maintaining a Project Restore school.

“We’re asking more of Dan and Tammy, and there’s a lot of legwork that goes into implementation,” Ferebee said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity this presents for not only School 93, but also to continue implementation at School 88 and School 99.”

Parent advocacy ‘refreshing”

School 93, which Ferebee named to his list of 11 high-priority schools because of its poor performance, has earned an F grade from the state for the past three years, making it a prime candidate for a turn around program. More than 88 percent of students at School 93 come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

Parents have pushed for Project Restore’s expansion at the low-performing School 93 for the better part of a year, collecting more than 240 petition signatures in favor of its expansion because of the results that the program has had at other IPS schools. They had the help of Indiana chapter of the advocacy group Stand for Children.

It all started at a demographically similar school located nearby — School 99 — where teachers Laughner and Kriech first developed Project Restore. In five years, School 99’’s ISTEP scores jumped nearly 30 points to 60 percent passing. Last year it dipped slightly to 58 percent, but the school still is in the top quarter of IPS schools.

Because of its success, IPS expanded the program in 2012 to School 88. In one year, that school’s grade went from an F to an A.

Allison Morgan, a fourth-grade teacher at School 88, said she has seen firsthand how the program transforms students attitudes and their test performance. Last year all of Morgan’s students passed the math portion of the ISTEP, and her class average of students passing both reading and math was among the top in IPS.

“The hallways are abuzz every Thursday as students enter the building prepared to tackle the test,” Morgan said. “Restore is the reminder to students to continue learning and the assurance that they have a purpose. … I even had one student that scored a perfect (score) on his math ISTEP.”

School 93 parent Eugenia Murry said “the great deal of time and energy to negotiate” it took the district and the union to negotiate is not lost on her, and she is grateful for it.

“I appreciate that throughout the process, you have never lost sight of what is truly important in all of this: our children,” Murry said.

Ferebee said he looks forward to the teachers’ and parents’ continued involvement in the district.

“I want to commend the parents and the community for their advocacy,” Ferebee said. “It’s always refreshing when you have this level of interest in an academic program.”