IPS developing plan for new charter compact law

Indianapolis Public Schools has started the tricky work of navigating how it might partner with charter school groups to run some of its schools.

It’s uncharted territory, with lots of unanswered questions like how school accountability would work, teachers would be paid and students would learn differently. Those and other questions stymied any thought of trying a new partnership this school year. But IPS could try to use a new law encouraging the district to pair up with charter schools for 2015-16.

In fact, the IPS school board has begun discussion of a district-wide policy for working with charter school groups or other outsiders who want to try their hand at running a district school.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and board members said they are open to trying a charter school or other partnership. A school board committee met Wednesday to talk through how the district might prepare for issues that could arise should the board decide to give it a try.

“We do have a number of people that have expressed interest,” Ferebee said. “The first person to jump in the pool is one we’ll go slow with to make sure we’ve thought through all the details. It would likely be someone that we have a relationship with, but it could be someone totally new. We don’t know.”

Ferebee, who joined IPS last September, worked with legislators to draft the bill this spring giving IPS the ability to hand over empty buildings for charter schools to use, or to hire other outsiders to manage an school.

“Very early on it was made very clear to me from our governance team that were was an interest in promoting autonomy,” Ferebee said. “To move where we want to be financially, we will have to look at how we utilize our facilities.”

Accountability for potential partner schools is a key question. The district already has four schools that were taken over by the state and handed off to be run independent of IPS by outside by charter school organizations, and there has been considerable debate before the Indiana State Board of Education about whether that approach is working. The takeover schools have seen modest test score gains over two years and relations with IPS, at times, have been strained.

Two other low-performing IPS schools were assigned “lead partners,” organizations that don’t run the schools but offer support and advice to the principals and staff.

IPS would only want outside partners that it was confident would improve its schools, Ferebee said.

“We would be looking for individuals with a proven track for turnaround,” he said.

Teacher compensation, seniority and hiring is another area of concern for board members.

For example, some worried it could create problems if teachers were paid much more or much less by an outside group compared with other IPS teachers.

Ferebee told board members that the district could decide how much a group could deviate from the district’s pay scale.

“We could give a provider complete autonomy and flexibility, or we could set guidelines,” Ferebee said.

The district has begun negotiations on a new contract with its teachers union. The new law allowing partnerships permits the outside groups running IPS schools to hire teachers separately under their own wage scale, separate from the seniority-based pay guidelines the district’s union contract specifies.

The committee meets monthly. The next meeting is Sept. 10.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.