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.

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

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.”