10 new schools are seeking innovation partnerships with IPS

Ten Indianapolis schools and networks are considering partnerships with Indianapolis Public Schools — a sign that charter interest in collaboration remains strong despite major changes in the district.

Potential partners include one of the city’s earliest charter networks, a campus with a mindfulness focus, and a school for teens who have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.

Over the past 12 months, the school board was remade when candidates critical of charter schools defeated two incumbent members. In addition, the superintendent who created the district’s innovation network left to helm Washington, D.C., schools, and his former deputy, Aleesia Johnson, was elevated to the district’s top job. There is little indication, however, that these shifts will fundamentally alter the trajectory of the state’s largest school district.

The school board last week approved the relaunch and expansion of an innovation school. An additional 10 schools submitted letters of interest this fall to join the Indianapolis Public Schools innovation network. That’s on pace with the amount of interest the district received last year.

These letters are the first step in a process that could result in district partnerships. Schools must submit full applications to the IPS board and go through interviews before the district makes a final decision. The board will likely vote on agreements in early 2020 for schools that are set to open next school year — although some of the letters came from schools with later start dates.

Innovation schools are run by outside charter or nonprofit partners, and teachers are not part of the district union. The schools have access to district buildings and services, such as transportation. The district, meanwhile, gets credit for innovation schools’ enrollment numbers, student passing rates on state exams, and other performance data.

About a quarter of Indianapolis Public Schools students now attend innovation schools.

Four planned schools hope to partner with the district

One of the earliest Indianapolis-based charter networks is among those that have expressed interest in partnering with the district. Christel House Academy hopes to launch an innovation high school, and while its letter of interest didn’t specify a location, it would likely be near one of its existing campuses on the city’s south or west side. Three charter schools that plan to open next year also submitted letters: the Rooted School, a high school that will open at Eastern Star Church; Believe Circle City, a high school looking to open on the near westside; and Herron Preparatory Academe, an elementary school from Indianapolis Classical Schools, which also runs Herron High School.

Several operators are interested in overhauling failing schools

A veteran Indianapolis Public Schools principal, Tihesha Henderson, hopes to convert School 99, also known as Arlington Woods, to an innovation school. It would be a “jump start” school that aims to improve its outcomes without bringing in a new operator. The school would be known as Sankofa School of Success, with a model that “will allow students to learn through a therapeutic approach of mindfulness.”

Three other operators are interested in “restarting” chronically low-performing campuses, which have not yet been selected by the district. Those operators are the newly formed Adelante Schools, led by Eddie Rangel and Matthew Rooney; The PATH School, a planned school led by Alicia Hervey; and Phalen Leadership Academies, which runs several existing innovation schools.

Two schools, Herron Preparatory Academe and Allegiant Prep Academy, listed restarting a school as one of the potential innovation options they are interested in.

Two existing charter schools are interested in joining the network

The schools that submitted letters of interest in joining the innovation network include two existing independent charter schools: Hope Academy, a school for students recovering from substance abuse that previously announced plans to move closer to downtown Indianapolis; and Allegiant Prep Academy, a relatively new elementary school on the westside.