Hannon resigns IPS board to take a Mind Trust fellowship

Caitlin Hannon, a former Indianapolis Public Schools teacher who joined the school board in an effort to push for change in the district, has stepped down, but she hopes to return to a key role in education in the city soon.

Hannon resigned today in order to accept an “education entrepreneur” fellowship from The Mind Trust. She will work toward launching a new nonprofit organization with a goal of creating a shared enrollment system that would allow families to apply for both IPS and charter schools on one form.

That’s an idea Hannon has championed as a board member.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that parents have access to choices, both within the district, and for me personally, outside of the district as well,” she said about the idea earlier this year. “We have ton of choice (in Indianapolis), but we don’t have a ton of clarity around navigating that system.”

Hannon grew up in suburban Indianapolis and worked as an education policy adviser in New York City before she returned to become a teacher through the national teacher recruiting organization Teach For America at Arsenal Tech High School and Emma Donnan Middle School. Then she ran for the school board in 2012. She will also leave her job as the Indianapolis executive director of Teach Plus, a national organization that pushes for teachers to get involved in education policy debates.

Hannon was one of three new school board members who ran three years ago on similar platforms that advocated for more autonomy for schools, less central office spending and other changes. She was elected along with newcomers Sam Odle and Gayle Cosby, and the three helped force out then-Superintendent Eugene White and hire Lewis Ferebee as his replacement.

Hannon has said a shared enrollment system would help parents find schools that best fit their kids’ needs and reduce confusion about what students are enrolled at what schools, an uncertainty that causes some schools to scramble during the first month to track down students who don’t show up. But she also argued such a system would provide better data about which schools are in demand and which are not.

“This new venture will allow me to work even more closely with families to help them navigate the school selection and enrollment process,” she said in a statement. “I am thrilled to work to empower parents with better information and to simplify the system for families.”

The board will appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Hannon’s term, which runs through the end of 2016. District officials said there is no time table yet for when the appointment would be made.

“We now look ahead to filling her seat and continuing with the momentum we’ve had over the past years and months,” board President Diane Arnold said in a statement.

In May, Ferebee said preliminary discussions were underway with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office about the idea of creating a common enrollment process to be shared by IPS and Mayor Greg Ballard’s portfolio of Indianapolis charter schools.

Ferebee praised Hannon’s move.

“I believe her work on this exciting new initiative will be beneficial for Indianapolis,” he said in a statement.

Sharing enrollment in one system, Hannon and others have argued, would allow district and charter schools to more efficiently plan their staffing and would make it easier for parents who are trying to decide whether to send their children to IPS or to a charter school.

But some skeptics are wary that the plan could either promote charter schools in a way that would hurt IPS enrollment or dampen competition for students by making the selection process more bureaucratic.

Hannon is just the ninth such fellow since 2008 for The Mind Trust’s program that selects innovative education ideas from anywhere in the world and incubates them on the condition they are launched in Indianapolis. The fellowship will pay her a salary and provide support as she crafts her idea. Past winners include Earl Martin Phalen, who used the fellowship to create Summer Advantage, and Mariama Carson, who is developing a dual language immersion charter school.

The Mind Trust operates a separate fellowship that supports educators who want to develop ideas for turning around low-scoring IPS schools.

Founded in 2006, The Mind Trust is a non-profit based in Indianapolis that aims to improve learning in the city by supporting educational change.

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.”