Ferebee: Reduce animosity between IPS and charters

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee Wednesday asked Indiana state senators to help tear down walls of suspicion and distrust between the district and the city’s charter schools by approving a bill he said would promote cooperation.

House Bill 1321 gives IPS the authority to hand empty building space over for charter schools to use, or it can hire charter school operators or others to run an IPS school with charter-like independence. Called “innovation schools,” these partnerships would allow IPS to count their test scores in its district averages in return for space in its buildings and possibly services like transportation or special education resources.

The bill, which applies only to IPS, give the district a long-coveted lever it can use to guide the location of some charter schools and a way to share state aid, or perhaps even outside grants that charter schools receive. For charter school operators, building space, transportation and other services are among their most vexing costs.

But Ferebee said the biggest advantage of the bill was the opportunity for greater collaboration among different types of schools in Indianapolis.

“We essentially have two systems of education for our students in Indianapolis, traditional public schools and charter schools, and there is no communication or collaboration between the two,” Ferebee told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. “It has been a system of animosity. That deeply concerns me.”

Ferebee, who joined IPS in September, said cooperation can better serve more students in IPS and across the city.

“At the end of the day we have obligation to give students a high quality education,” he said. “I’m not concerned with who provides the opportunity. I am concerned that students have those opportunities. We are serving the same students and same families. Ultimately we are utilizing the same resources.”

Teachers unions, however, remain wary.

The bill allows charter operators or other outside managers to hire the teachers at schools they run, even if they remain IPS schools. That means fewer teachers on IPS’s payroll — and under the protection of its union contract — and more teachers working for non-union, and generally lower paying, charter school organizations.

Sally Sloan of the American Federation of Teachers said the bill, in effect, just turns IPS schools into charter schools.

“They might be called ‘charter-like’ schools but they have all the power and all the rights of charter schools so I think they’re charter schools,” she said.

Gail Zaheralis of the Indiana State Teachers Association said the bill seems aimed primarily at teachers.

“Teachers will be employed by a different entity,” she said. “The rest of the arrangement stays with in IPS. It seems to be somewhat unfair and certainly targeting issues that may not be directly student-centered.”

The committee expects to vote on the bill, which has already passed the House, next week.

Other bills that moved forward in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday include:

  • Career and technical education. House Bill 1064, which creates a study of the return on investment of career and technical education programs in Indiana, passed 9-0.
  • Expanded background checks. House Bill 1233, requiring school employees receive an expanded background check every five years, passed 8-1.
  • High ability students. House Bill 1319, requiring more reporting from schools about students who score in the high ability range on ISTEP, passed 9-0.


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.