IPS board approves Gambold IB move to Shortridge over objections

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
A parent speaks to the Indianapolis Public Schools board of education Tuesday night at a packed meeting on the future of Gambold Prep and Shortridge high schools.

The Indianapolis Public School Board went ahead with a plan to shift programs out of Shortridge High School to make room for International Baccalaureate students from Gambold Prep High School Tuesday over the objections of a long line of Shortridge supporters who blasted the move.

The 164-student IB program will replace Shortridge’s law and public policy magnet program, which will move about 300 Shortridge students to Arsenal Tech High School. Shortridge will drop middle school grades, converting to a high school for grades 9 to 12. The plan passed 4 to 1, with only board member Samantha Adair-White voting no.

About 75 students, parents and community members signed up to speak to the board about the plan. Many of the speakers for Shortridge argued the move was primarily designed to cater to wealthier white families with children who attend magnet schools on the city’s North side while forcing poorer children and children of color out of the school. Several students from Gambold advocated for the move.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the issue is not one of race and class. He said both schools include a majority of non-white students and students poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

“It is important that we not embed or insert the issue of race or equity in this conversation,” he said. “This is a conversation about access and also ensuring a rigorous option for our students.”

Shortridge is 87 percent black, Hispanic or multiracial and 81 percent come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For a family of four, that means an annual income of $43,500 or less. Gambold, has fewer poor children and minority students, but not by large margin. It is 65 percent black, Hispanic or multiracial with 70 percent who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Gambold and Shortridge were reorganized to include specialty magnet programs under former Superintendent Eugene White in 2012 and 2009 respectively. Gambold serves grades 9 to 11 and was scheduled to expand to 12th grade next year. Shortridge has about 700 students in grades 6 to 12.

IB is a nonprofit group created by educators at the International School of Geneva, Switzerland with a goal of establishing a program that requires students to meet high standards, learn foreign languages take an international view of academic studies, such as by examining culture and identity. It is sometimes compared with Advanced Placement courses for its college-level rigor.

Olivia O’Neal, a Shortridge junior in the law and public policy program, said IPS should not move hundreds of students from the school just to help the IB program.

“(IB) is an elitist program designed only for a certain group of students,” O’Neal said.

Such a move was discussed last year with encouraging families from magnet schools to enroll their students in the IB high school program rather than move to private or charter high schools among the motivations, board members said. Ferebee said the plan will more efficiently use buildings in the district and lead to more space in magnet programs that are in high demand.

Joyce Moore, a parent of IPS graduates who also graduated from the district herself, was skeptical of Ferebee’s plan, saying the move would be disruptive for students, leading to ill effects.

“Is a centralized IB program a good idea?” she said. “Show us the data stating so. The proposal before us has none. The community needs to know why (the changes are) happening and is it economically feasible, not just that it will occur.”

But students from Gambold argued that using the Shortridge building to accommodate more IB students enriches the whole district.

“As a community, the goal of our school is to be able to develop for anyone needing a quality education,” Gambold student Donna Johnson said. “Our current location is preventing us from being able to do so. By relocating to Shortridge, a myriad of opportunities will open up to us.”

Board member Caitlin Hannon said the decision has been a long time coming and shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“Since I’ve been on the board this has been a topic of discussion,” Hannon said. “It’s always been my understanding that Gambold would move at some point.”

Another part of the magnet plan presented last week — closing Key Learning Community School and moving the mass communications and media program from Broad Ripple High School to Arsenal Tech High School — was tabled until the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.

NOTE: This story was updated to add clarity that there were several speakers for and against the magnet plan.

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.