IPS will pay consultant $200,000 to help overhaul teacher pay

Indianapolis Public Schools has called in outside help to design a new teacher compensation model in the district’s rush to develop a plan for the future before negotiation with the teachers union begins next month.

Board members at a special meeting last week narrowly approved a plan to pay Boston-based nonprofit Education Resource Strategies $200,000 over four months to help the district reimagine how and what it pays teachers while working within tight budget constraints. IPS, which lags behind some of Marion County township districts when it comes to teacher pay, has struggled recruiting and retaining teachers. Officials say salary is a major stumbling block. Because of tight finances in recent years some IPS teachers have gone five years without a raise.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee says the purpose of working with ERS, which has helped other urban public school districts with the same task, is to prepare for negotiations with the union by developing a “cost-sustainable strategy that helps IPS achieve short-term goals while also setting the foundation for deeper transformation” in the way the district evaluates and pays teachers.

District officials and the teachers union seem to agree on some key points when it comes to teacher compensation — including the fact that increasing teachers’ starting salaries will be necessary for the district to be more competitive with nearby districts. Current starting teacher salary at IPS is $35,650.

But IPS board member Caitlin Hannon, who has championed ERS, said the parties don’t necessarily know what steps to take to arrive there, which is where the nonprofit could help. Even a modest 2 percent raise for IPS teachers carries with it a roughly $4 million price tag, Ferebee has said.

“My hope is this helps us actually act on the values that it seems we all share,” Hannon said.

She previously worked with ERS through an organization she leads known as TeachPlus at a recent event that included nearly 150 IPS teachers completing hands-on exercises that forced them to think through tough questions about teacher pay. TeachPlus is a national organization that aims to get teachers involved in education policy. Hannon is its executive director for Indianapolis.

Momentum building for “Project Elevate”

The board’s approval of the plan to work with ERS means that Supt. Lewis Ferebee and administrators are one step closer to moving forward with a $2.35 million plan known as “Project Elevate” to overhaul teacher pay and compensation throughout the district.

IPS recently approved the first part of the plan — a nearly $85,000 contract with IUPUI to help improve the district’s teacher evaluation system.

Not everyone was supportive of the district’s new relationship with ERS.

Three board members — Gayle Cosby, Michael Brown and Samantha Adair-White — voted against the plan for the district to work with the nonprofit. It passed the seven-member board by a narrow one-vote margin.

Along with the teachers union, they previously expressed concerns over IPS’ decision not to put out a request for bids from other contractors who might have ideas to improve the district. The teachers union also questioned Hannon’s past relationship with ERS because TeachPlus worked with the organization for the hands-on exercise.

Cosby said she voted against the plan not because she isn’t supportive of the company’s work, but because she thinks the district needs to be more transparent. She also said she wondered if a competitive process would have resulted in a lower cost for the services.

“I would have been completely fine if they had won the bid, but I thought that it would be a good idea to try to get some diversity through the bidding process,” Cosby said. “I hope that the steps that we’re taking are going to end up preparing us to bring a fair package to the table (when negotiation begins).”

Work beginning immediately

Work redesigning the teacher compensation system will start right away as officials prepare for union negotiations. State law dictates that talks can begin Aug. 1, and Ferebee has said he wants a swift resolution with the union over the new contract.

ERS will receive $50,000 per month from the district through October to analyze teacher pay spending patterns and trends at the district and in other areas, present different teacher pay ideas to the district and adapt a compensation model it has used in other cities for the district to use in the future.

“I would be reluctant to say ‘Here’s how it’s going to look in Indianapolis,'” said David Rosenberg, manager and practice leader for strategic initiatives at ERS. “It’s going to vary by context, but one thing we have seen in other places that can be effective is finding ways to compensate teachers more if they are taking on more challenging assignments, moving them to a higher need school or taking on responsibilities where they can leverage their skills and expand their impact.”

The nonprofit will not have an official role in the contract negotiation process, according to the contract signed by ERS and the district, but will be “available for ongoing advisement on counterproposals” and help the district estimate costs throughout the process.

“The idea was to move forward on this so we can get ourselves in a good place for August,” Hannon said.


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.