Deal means School 93 will get Project Restore

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
Stand for Children received funding to support parent education.

The Indianapolis Public School Board approved a pay raise for Project Retore’s leaders tonight clearing the final hurdle for School 93 to put in place a homegrown school turn around effort that parents and teachers have asked the district to expand to the East side school.

Board members unanimously approved $10,000 raises for Tammy Laughner and Daniel Kriech, who more than five years ago launched Project Restore at IPS School 99. Soon after the school dramatically increased student test scores.The program combines consistent discipline with a routine of regular testing and regrouping of students based on on their progress.

School 93 is another the high-poverty, low-performing School 93. Parents lobbied heavily for the Project Restore program, but were angered when the effort stalled earlier this month as the district and the union debated about how much Laughner and Kriech were going to be paid.

Union leaders didn’t like IPS’ plan to give raises to Laughner and Kriech for performing administrative duties while leaving them on the teacher pay scale. They argued IPS should make them administrators if they want to pay them more. On the other side, district officials said that’s not how the program was set up.

The personnel report approved by the board tonight says the Project Restore leaders will have new titles as “Project Restore Coordinators” in IPS’ Office of Innovation and Transformation beginning in July. This year they were considered academic “coaches.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the move is a signal to the IPS community that the district values innovation and is willing to pay extra to people who can find ways to improve student learning.

“We felt an obligation to ensure that we were expanding the model that has been effective and proven to expand student outcomes,” Ferebee said.

While Project Restore supporters celebrated at the meeting, teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett urged IPS officials and teachers to be mindful of the fact that most teachers still have not had a raise in five years.

Cornett, who said she was obligated to advocate for all teachers, not just a select few. She said it was unfair that the union was blamed for the holdup of Project Restore. Bargaining over a new teacher contract begins with the district Aug. 1.

“As you pay these two an increase, you still have other personnel who are doing all the day-to- day work,” Cornett said. “You need to think about your other employees who are still making the same salary while doing more work.”

Ferebee said he believed their raises were justified because of the intense effort that goes into starting and maintaining a Project Restore school.

“We’re asking more of Dan and Tammy, and there’s a lot of legwork that goes into implementation,” Ferebee said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity this presents for not only School 93, but also to continue implementation at School 88 and School 99.”

Parent advocacy ‘refreshing”

School 93, which Ferebee named to his list of 11 high-priority schools because of its poor performance, has earned an F grade from the state for the past three years, making it a prime candidate for a turn around program. More than 88 percent of students at School 93 come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

Parents have pushed for Project Restore’s expansion at the low-performing School 93 for the better part of a year, collecting more than 240 petition signatures in favor of its expansion because of the results that the program has had at other IPS schools. They had the help of Indiana chapter of the advocacy group Stand for Children.

It all started at a demographically similar school located nearby — School 99 — where teachers Laughner and Kriech first developed Project Restore. In five years, School 99’’s ISTEP scores jumped nearly 30 points to 60 percent passing. Last year it dipped slightly to 58 percent, but the school still is in the top quarter of IPS schools.

Because of its success, IPS expanded the program in 2012 to School 88. In one year, that school’s grade went from an F to an A.

Allison Morgan, a fourth-grade teacher at School 88, said she has seen firsthand how the program transforms students attitudes and their test performance. Last year all of Morgan’s students passed the math portion of the ISTEP, and her class average of students passing both reading and math was among the top in IPS.

“The hallways are abuzz every Thursday as students enter the building prepared to tackle the test,” Morgan said. “Restore is the reminder to students to continue learning and the assurance that they have a purpose. … I even had one student that scored a perfect (score) on his math ISTEP.”

School 93 parent Eugenia Murry said “the great deal of time and energy to negotiate” it took the district and the union to negotiate is not lost on her, and she is grateful for it.

“I appreciate that throughout the process, you have never lost sight of what is truly important in all of this: our children,” Murry said.

Ferebee said he looks forward to the teachers’ and parents’ continued involvement in the district.

“I want to commend the parents and the community for their advocacy,” Ferebee said. “It’s always refreshing when you have this level of interest in an academic program.”

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.”