KIPP could be first charter school partner for IPS

KIPP College Preparatory charter school could move back to IPS School 110 and expand to more grades. (Scott Elliott)

Indianapolis Public Schools is working on a deal to bring the KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory charter school back into one of its buildings starting next fall.

After leasing the space for a year, KIPP Executive Director Emily Pelino said she would explore forging a deeper partnership with IPS by becoming an “innovation school.”

If it does so, KIPP could be the first charter-district partnership under a law passed in March which granted IPS wide powers to make deals with charter schools or other groups to operate in its buildings. Under those arrangements, the schools get more autonomy than most IPS schools and can access district services like transportation or meal programs while the district can count student test scores in district averages and oversee their academic performance.

Unions objected to the bill, saying it created a uneven playing field for teachers when it comes to their bargaining rights. The bill permits the charter operators to hire teachers for the schools they run — even if they remain IPS schools — and disregard the district’s union contract when deciding what the pay and benefits will be.

In this case, KIPP would move its middle school for grades 5 to 8, and the staff it already independently employs, just more than two miles from East 42nd Street to the School 110 at 1740 N. 30th St. An alternative school for about 150 students currently housed in the building would move to a new site that was not announced at tonight’s board meeting.

It would be a homecoming for KIPP, which was housed in School 110 before moving three years ago when IPS decided it wanted to use the building again. Pelino said that was a motivation to return. For IPS, the district gets $14,700 a month in rent and the possibility of stronger future ties to the school.

“We have a lot of relationships with community organizations and families in that neighborhood,” Pelino said. “Fundamentally, it’s a win-win for both of us.”

She also said the size of School 110 would allow KIPP to expand. Her plan is to add a kindergarten next fall and expand a grade each year until the school serves grades K to 8. KIPP’s long term expansion plans are to add a second K to 8 building and then a high school by 2020.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has expressed a strong desire to find partners to share school building space, as the district has many buildings with unused room.

At the same time, he wants to find new partners who can offer high quality options within IPS schools. KIPP earned a C from the state last year but was an A the prior year. It’s ISTEP passing rate is up almost 30 points from five years ago at 57 percent.

Ferebee said Tuesday the lease is designed so rent costs will jump 30 percent in the second year if the contract is not renegotiated. The goal is to give KIPP a reason to want to consider becoming an innovation school.

“It creates a little bit of an incentive,” he said.

Under Ferebee, IPS is pushing hard to expand and attract innovative school reform models to the district. It’s home grown Project Restore program, begun by two School 99 teachers, expanded to a second school last year.

At today’s meeting, IPS board members also discussed a memorandum of understanding it is expected to vote on next week formalizing an agreement with The Mind Trust to seek entrepreneurial educators to develop more school reform ideas.

The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based non-profit that pushes for educational change in IPS, is offering up to three educators a year off and $100,000 to expand ideas for improving schools into models that IPS might chose to employ at its most troubled schools.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede