Indianapolis Public Schools hears feedback on resolution to partner with more charter schools

Side of a building with the words "my IPS"
The Indianapolis Public Schools building in 2023. The district is facing pressure from pro-charter groups and families to partner with more charter schools in its autonomous Innovation Network of schools. (Elaine Cromie / Chalkbeat)

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The Indianapolis Public Schools board held off on deciding how the district should partner with schools that produce the strongest academic results, after a meeting on Tuesday that at times devolved into clashes between pro- and anti-charter parents.

A proposed resolution on Tuesday’s agenda called for reaffirming the district’s need to collaborate with all public schools — including charters — within the IPS boundary to “best serve all families.” It follows pressure from pro-charter groups and families who have called on IPS to partner with more charter schools in its autonomous Innovation Network of schools, specifically charter models that post higher-than-average test scores for Black and Latino students.

Parents affiliated with the pro-charter campaign Better Together and the groups Stand for Children Indiana and EmpowerED Families have come in droves to push their message at school board meetings this year. But at Tuesday’s meeting, a number of parents also showed up to urge the district to pause its partnerships with charter schools and closely examine whether they are improving student outcomes.

The IPS Innovation Network is a collection of schools — allowed through a state statute passed in 2014 — that have more authority over day-to-day operations and largely operate separately from the district. Twenty-four of the 30 Innovation schools that operated in 2023-24 were charters.

The proposed resolution would direct district administration to provide a plan on Innovation Network school partners by August 2024, “specifically addressing how schools with a demonstrated track record of success will be engaged.” It also directs the district to provide a quarterly update on the climate and culture of schools starting next school year.

The board will bring back the resolution at a later date.

Meanwhile, another online petition that’s circulating calls on the school board to stop adding charter schools in the Innovation Network until there’s enough data to determine whether Center Township needs more school seats. As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 244 of 500 desired signatures.

At the same meeting, board member Hope Hampton said the district plans to tap marketing firm Hirons and law firm Ice Miller to help with its newly created Mental Health and School Culture Task Force.

The task force was created last month in response to an outcry over allegations detailed in a lawsuit against IPS that a first-year teacher at George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 encouraged and allowed other students to abuse a 7-year-old student with a disability.

Hirons will help the task force with community outreach and communication, Hampton said, while Ice Miller will help with data and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts as the task force determines what it would like to measure. Hampton said after the board meeting that she hopes to have members of the task force announced in June.

The district has also announced the creation of a student safety task force and an external review of the culture at School 87.

The district told School 87 families in an email this month that it would search for a new principal and assistant principal for 2024-25.

This story was updated to include the group Stand for Children Indiana.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org

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