The American Girl: My Suggestions for the Next “Girl of the Year”

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Written by Sylvia Denice

From the ages of two to five years old, I lived with my family in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  At this time in my life, dolls were my favorite toys; and, conveniently enough, the one and only American Girl Doll Store in 1998 was located in Chicago.  Suburbia flooded into the city for American Girl shopping experiences, theater productions, and birthday tea parties.

My best friend in Naperville was my Filipino next door neighbor, and we loved playing dolls together.  It never crossed my five-year-old mind that none of the dolls we played with looked like her; probably because, sadly, they all looked like me.

Since 2001, American Girl has annually released a “Girl of the Year" doll, accompanied with her own story as a young girl in modern-day America.  This year, I was excited about the release of Luciana Vega, a Chilean-American lover of space and science, who dreams of being the first astronaut to land on Mars.  The 2018 “Girl of the Year” brings diversity to the collection in her ethnicity, hobbies, interests, and aspirations.

I have met some incredible real-life American girls, and I would love to see their cultures and aspirations reflected in future American Girl Dolls.  Here are my proposals for American Girl’s next “Girl of the Year:”

Black Aspiring Lawyer

In January of 2017, American Girl released an African-American “Girl of the Year,” Gabriela.  She is a lover of the arts, including dance, painting, and music.  Now I love the arts, but I know so many diversely talented, brilliantly intelligent African-American girls affected by the representation of black women in the media predominantly as performing artists.  In fact, when I ask my students what they want to be when they grow up, an overwhelming majority of my African-American 4th-grade girls respond with “singer,” “dancer,” or “actress.”  Let’s guide African-American girls to see themselves in roles as varied and bright as they are.  We should not discourage them from what they enjoy; but, we should encourage them to explore a range of possibilities.

Mexican DREAMer and Future Doctor

Hispanics are extremely underrepresented in the medical profession, and we know there is a great need for women in STEM fields in general.  A Mexican doll aspiring to become a doctor could bring light to our nation’s DREAMers and sympathy for the unique challenges young immigrants face.  Considering the United States is a nation built on the back of immigrants, it seems necessary for the immigrant population in America to be reflected as an American “Girl of the Year.”

Muslim Pakistani-American Hijab-Wearing Future Teacher

I always loved the idea of becoming a teacher, but many people (including some disheartened educators) discouraged me, saying I was “too smart” to be a teacher, or that teaching was “not what it used to be.”  Let’s bring light, value, and positivity back to “the noblest profession.”  Every year, I share some variation of the story of Malala Yousafzai with my students.  Each class is incredibly moved by her story, asking authentic, thoughtful questions about Pakistani and Muslim cultural practices and traditions, including the hijab.  A Pakistani-American doll could destigmatize the hijab and bring a stronger sense of sympathy and humanity to Muslim girls in America.

Indian-American Aspiring Politician

It is important to encourage girls that their voices matter.  Even at 10 years old, girls can play a role in political and social change.  Representation of people of color in politics is extremely necessary, and American Girl has yet to introduce an Arab doll to their collection.  Some elements of Hinduism and representation of Indian culture within her story would be beautiful as well.

Biracial Girl in IT

Many of my friends who are biracial have expressed a struggle with their racial identity.  They grapple with questions like: If I claim the race of one of my parents, am I denouncing the other?  Do I lack depth or belonging if I claim both?  American Girl could open up this dialogue for young, racially mixed girls.  Biracial is stereotypically thought of as a child of one black parent and one white parent.  Let’s shake up that idea, too: a bi-racial doll who is no part white, but enthusiastic about technology and coding.

What careers, races, ethnicities, hobbies, and interests would you like to see represented for American girls? Comment below.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45

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Ever since Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968 many leaders campaigned for his birthday to become a federal holiday. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making the holiday a law. It was not until 1986 that the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed. This is the 31st Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day that will be observed in the United States. This MLK day will be different than the 30 that preceded. Regardless of the person in the White House and the political landscape of the country, MLK Day was a day of celebration. We celebrated the dream Dr. King had and how we may have not officially reached the mountaintop that he spoke about, but how we were a lot closer than we were when he was alive. This year, Martin Luther King Day takes on an entirely different light. We now celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King in the era of 45.

Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” On this day, as we reflect on the legacy of Dr. King, we should remember these words. Regardless of the hate spilled out by 45 when he referred to Puerto Ricans as lazy, or when he called Mexicans murderers and rapists, we have to remember love will conquer this hatred. In this era of 45, the hate will only succeed if it is left unopposed.

The best way to oppose the hatred he speaks is by actions of love. On this MLK Day, we should come together with our actions of love and our kind gestures of love should show support for one another and those less fortunate. In the darkness of this era, this day is a symbol of light because we can reflect upon one of the proudest moments of our country when Dr. King’s words and actions brought together people from all backgrounds and views of life under the common ground of equality. I dream as Martin Luther King dreamed to create a world filled with love because I do not want our children to inherit a world filled with hate.

In the era of 45, what are we going to do to make an impact? How are we going to make the world a better place? Martin Luther King’s legacy was about ensuring blacks had the same equal rights as their counterparts. Too many people before were silent on the issues. It was Martin Luther King, and a host of others, who voices rang loud for the equality for all. King said it best, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

When this era of 45 is over (I cannot wait for the day), it won’t be his words we will all remember.  We will look at one another and ask, “What did we do or say about it?” As we celebrate the legacy and life of Dr. King, we must also speak up against those words that go against his legacy. Our silence is allowing for this era to be defined for us instead of us defining it for ourselves. For eight years, we stopped speaking because we thought we had arrived. Many of us became comfortable because of Obama, the living embodiment of what Martin Luther King dreamed. If we stay silent, the Obama era will become just a blip in our history instead of memorable and lasting.

On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 89th birthday, we celebrate the legacy of a man who risked everything to speak out and to stand up for what is right. He inspired a nation because he taught us all about courage, justice, service, and most of all humility. When 45 makes comments like, “Why are we allowing these immigrants from those shitholes countries to come to the United States?” we have to assure anyone who believes in the values of this country that they will have a seat at the table. And, if the table gets crowded; we’ll just pull up chairs on the end.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS" by Cheryl Kirk

"Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before" by Barato Britt

"Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would" by Andrew Pillow

"We Need More Dreamers" by Shawnta S. Barnes

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

We Need More Dreamers

On Sunday, December 17, 2017, my pastor Darryl K. Webster said, “Our community is dying because kids don’t dream and kids won’t dream because the adults in front of them stopped dreaming.”  During his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “I have a dream today,” but many people, including our youth, don’t have a dream; they lack aspirations.  They are hopeless and surrounded by despair.  

Last November, I interviewed and wrote about my father for Veterans Day.  My father enlisted in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam.  My parents are married and they both raised me and even though my father has been part of my life, we never had any in-depth conversation about why he enlisted and his experience in Vietnam.  When I asked my father why he enlisted, his response surprised me.  

I decided to join the military because Martin Luther King was just assassinated.  Black people were depressed and losing hope, but I wanted to attend Lane Technical Institute to study drafting.  It cost $2,000 for the program.  I dropped out of Tech High School and enlisted because Mama didn’t have that kind of money to send me.

He said he joined because MLK was assassinated.  Even though this was a terrible tragedy, instead of giving up hope, my father decided this was the time more than ever to pursue his dream.  Throughout the rest of the interview, my dad shared other instances of racism and injustice he had to endure while in the military and as he pursued his education.

It seems like every day we wake up to disheartening and troubling news:  racist remarks by politicians, inequalities in schools and violence in our communities.  We are stuck.  All we are doing is reacting and complaining; that will get us nowhere.  Yes, we need to voice our opinions and call out those who are wrong, but we also need to dream of a better future and create a plan to make that better future come to life.

When I share my dreams and aspirations for myself, my children and for our society, at times, family and friends will tell me I need to get rooted back into reality.  They’re wrong; I can’t stay rooted in this reality and if great leaders like Dr. King stayed rooted and accepted their society, a change would not have occurred.  I can’t willfully accept this reality nor will I choose to be satisfied with the status quo.  My hopes have to be rooted in a new and better reality for myself, my family and my community, so my current reality can become a thing of the past.

Last March, we took a family vacation to Washington D.C.  My boys learned about Dr. King in school and they wanted to view the statue of him at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  After we walked around the memorial and I read some of Dr. King’s quotes written on the memorial walls, I asked them, “What is your dream for your life?  What do you want to do when you are an adult?”  They had recently turned six and didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up, but they both said they wanted to be happy.  They will be seven, in little over a month.  Yesterday, I asked them the same question and they had a more concrete response:

JB:  I don’t know what you call it, but I want to be the person who studies rocks and minerals.

JJ:  I want to be a scientist.  I’m not sure what type of scientist yet because I’m still learning about all of the different types of science. 

Adults need to openly dream in front of their children and youth they know.  If they don’t see us dreaming and working towards goals, they won’t dream.  If they don’t see us standing up against injustice and fighting for what we want, they won’t know how to fight for a better future for all.

For me, a better future means:

  • We won’t have to disaggregate data to look at scores based on race or free and reduced lunch because all students will attend good schools.

  • My black sons won’t have to have ‘the talk’ with their children about enduring racism and potential violence.

  • People from all backgrounds will love themselves and their culture and not be ashamed of their heritage.

  • Black Americans will overcome the systemic poverty caused by slavery and Native People will overcome poverty caused by the genocide of their people and the theft of their lands.

Those are just some of my dreams.  They might seem impossible, but not working towards a better future is a guaranteed way to ensure failure, so we should at least try.  

Click here to read my MLK piece from 2017.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS" by Cheryl Kirk

"Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before" by Barato Britt

"Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would" by Andrew Pillow

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45" by David McGuire

Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would

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By Andrew Pillow

Today is the day that we as a country honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It is easy to relegate our efforts to honor MLK to quotes and lip service, which is precisely what most of us do. We tweet parts of the “I have a dream” speech. We post an iconic picture of MLK and some other civil rights leader. There is nothing wrong with that. All of that is well and good, but Martin Luther King is bigger than your social media posts. In fact, his legacy is even bigger than him.

I can’t tell you how to honor his legacy in your own life. However, I can tell you how I, as a black male history teacher, attempt to keep his dream alive: 

I always imagine how Dr. King himself would be as a teacher, and I try and emulate those traits.

1.       Never give up on a student.

Teaching in the inner city, I have the opportunity to teach a lot of students who have been written off. Some of them have been written off at every level of their education. Many of those students according to both the research and my own experience happen to be black males. This, of course, isn’t incidental. 

As a black male, I have a duty to make sure other black males have an opportunity to do their best every day. I can’t write them off. Society does that enough already.  

2.       Remember that black history didn’t start at the civil rights movement.

If you are a grade school student in the US you may get the impression that black history is the story of slavery, the civil rights movement, and Obama. Students have this impression because that’s the way we teach it. Some teachers don’t know any better, but as a history teacher, I have to do better.

Black American history in America predates the 1960s and extends beyond slavery. Our students, from all backgrounds, need to be taught that.

3.       Keep students informed of current events.

The black experience didn’t stop with the passage of the civil rights act. Black Americans continue to have success and struggles. Your students need to know about it.

That may look like reading relevant news articles in class. It may be having students reflect on their own experience. Either way, students need to realize they aren’t just learning black history… they are living it.

Most people feel like they will never have the chance to make the same level of impact as Dr. King did. Most people would be right, but I did the math and I will teach over 7,000 students in my career. That is a huge number of lives I will touch. I have to do right by them. Aftereall, you never know if that student you are ready to write off will become the next Dr. King.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS" by Cheryl Kirk

"Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before" by Barato Britt

"We Need More Dreamers" by Shawnta S. Barnes

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45" by David McGuire

 

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before

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I admit out of the gate, I could do better personally to honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through the free provision of service to those in need.

You’ll further forgive me if this year I feel less guilty. I plan to honor the day through developing and training my staff to meet our community’s needs year round. After a year in which the most egregious aspects of our national character have been manifested through our national leadership, and the implementation of policies that continue to neglect entire classes, the critical work of community development through youth enrichment has seldom been more relevant in my lifetime.

Perhaps, it’s just a reflection of the national mood that is driving my cynicism, which is undoubtedly shared among those in my generation that seek to keep our darkest days behind us…and it’s a shame that I have to keep reminding myself our darkest days are behind us.  

More likely, it is the seemingly never-ending barrage of negative activity and imagery that, left unchecked, will bring upon permanent nationwide derangement, in which it is acceptable to degrade, or as we have seen, tacitly approve hints of the racism that permeate almost 50 years removed from Dr. King’s assassination. Less than two weeks into this new year, we were reminded of the ravages of racism, as viscerally as the continuing struggle of American citizens in Puerto Rico and as blatant as the ignorant imagery of a recent and maddeningly clueless H&M ad in which a handsome young child is lost for the “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” message on his hoodie.

These stark reminders of the continuing work we must engage in often overshadow all for which we should be thankful. For example, a little over a year removed from the tenure of the nation’s first Black president, Black people can celebrate growth in areas such as employment, with a 6.8 unemployment rate that represents the lowest level since such data has been tracked. And it’s more than just jobs, as more young, gifted Black minds are seizing competitive opportunities in a tight job market.

And speaking of Black minds, in normal years perhaps we would locally celebrate the pursuit of Dr. King’s dream with the recent news of impressive gains made by all students, but particularly Black youth in Indianapolis Public Schools. This week, the district celebrated the promising news of a nearly 83 percent graduation rate for the 2016-17 school year. The gains represent a six percentage point increase in the district’s graduation rate from the 2015-2016 school year. Among African-American students, the district reported an 84 percent graduation rate, which outpaces the state average. By most objective accounts, these data present growth in a time where the district, city, and state have embraced innovative partnerships designed to stimulate school options and accessibility.

But, 2018, of course, is not a normal year. It is certainly not normal when the same Leader of the Free World signs a proclamation honoring Dr. King while demeaning the very people he fought and died to protect as second class humans from “shithole countries.”

So perhaps this MLK Day I need less forgiveness for spending that solemn day working because now our work is more important than ever.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS" by Cheryl Kirk

"Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would" by Andrew Pillow

"We Need More Dreamers" by Shawnta S. Barnes

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45" by David McGuire

 

Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS

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Today across the nation people are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I, like many people across the country, am reflecting upon the iconic, “I Have a Dream” speech.  What stands out to me most in his speech is the theme of equality. Although the Brown Vs. The Board of Education decision in 1954 declared school segregation unconstitutional, not much has changed. Across the country, schools remain separate and not equal. Whether it be the story out of Baltimore where children wear winter coats due to heating problems or my personal experience a few years back where every urban high school option for my children had a D or F rating.

Quality education across the country has become a luxury for the wealthy with socio-economics drawing the line on where children will receive the best education. Families that don’t have the means to move across those lines are stuck in failing schools systems. Access to quality education is a civil right. Poverty is not a reason to allow schools to fail children year after year. Just like the civil rights movement brought a lot of uncomfortable change to our country, so will school choice. It starts with parents like myself who refuse to accept that my children cannot succeed.

A lot of Indianapolis parents and teachers are upset because of the closure of several public high schools at the end of this school year due to declining enrollment. I am also concerned about how it will affect the community, but I am also looking forward to the changes Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is making to move towards providing a quality education to the children it serves. Parents want more from their schools and IPS is listening.

Failing urban schools are no longer business as usual in Indiana. Things are getting better but we have a long way to go. As parents, we have to make sure our voices are heard and we have to demand quality education for all children no matter the zip code.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before" by Barato Britt

"Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would" by Andrew Pillow

"We Need More Dreamers" by Shawnta S. Barnes

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45" by David McGuire

 

2 Comments

Cheryl Kirk

Mrs. Kirk is a married mother of three children, 16-year-old twins and a 9 year-old son, who all currently attend private school on a voucher. She is a Gary, Indiana native but has lived in Indianapolis for many years. While trying to provide a quality education for her children she met many obstacles and became determined to access the best education for her children. Cheryl is a licensed practical nurse and has worked in home care, hospice, long-term care, and is currently the clinical director for an assisted living facility.

Weekend Education Links (1/14/2018)

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Stop Beating Around the Bush; the President is Racist.

David McGuire of the Indy Education Blog takes on the President's recent comments on "shithole" countries and immigrants. 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Innovation Restart: Potential Partner Presentation

Innovation Partner Presentation at Wendell Phillips School #63 on January 4, 2018

Innovation Partner Presentation at Wendell Phillips School #63 on January 4, 2018

On Wednesday, January 4 at 6 p.m., Matchbook Learning presented its education model and potential plans they would like to implement at Wendell Phillips School #63 if the IPS Board of School Commissioners approves them as the restart partner.  In the audience were parents, grandparents, current middle school students, community partners including Stand for Children Indiana, current Wendell Phillips staff and two heads of charter schools that will be opening in the area next school year, Robert Marshall, Vanguard Collegiate and Rick Anderson, Allegiant Prep Academy. The meeting was facilitated by community member Jackie Garvey who helped guide the dialogue and kept notes of questions asked and answers given.

Matchbook Learning is a non-profit charter management organization founded by its Chief Executive Officer Sajan George in 2011 to turn around chronically failing schools.  The management team is rounded off with Dr. Amy Swann, Chief Academic Officer and Al Motley, Chief Technology Officer.  George and Swann are 2017 Innovation School Fellows through The Mind Trust and they relocated their families to Indianapolis last summer.  The Matchbook team wanted to make it clear to parents why they were a good fit for Wendell Phillips even though the two schools they previously operated closed.  In a handout given to parents this note was included:

In both our last two charter schools, Merit Prep (Newark, NJ) and Michigan Technical Academy, the State did not “restart” the schools under Matchbook which meant the school’s historical performance (its “F” status or bottom 5% rating) was not reset with a clean slate and so these schools closed due to the historical performance prior to Matchbook and not because of Matchbook’s
double digit gains in proficiency and strong growth since takeover.  This led to our relocation to Indianapolis where a true long-term restart contract could be pursued.

If granted the opportunity to restart Wendell Phillips, Dr. Swann would become the school’s principal where she would implement Matchbook’s personalized blended learning model.  Under this model, students will receive whole group instruction, small group instruction, conferencing with the teachers and with peers, and learn through the Spark platform.  Spark is the technology platform that will house each student’s playlist.  This is a list of learning opportunities students choose to help them master content.  Not only is the personalized model used for students, it is also used for teachers and staff.  Dr Swann shared, “Teachers will be brought in two weeks before the school year begins for professional development and they will receive year-round coaching.  Every week, teachers are observed by an administrator and every two weeks, they will have a goal setting meeting.”  George chimed in and added, “the kids won’t experience personalized learning unless the adults experience personalized learning in the way they are developed.  Every staff member, the janitor, the secretary will receive 1 on 1 coaching sessions.”

Below are the questions asked by attendees the responses given by Dr. Amy Swann (AS), Sajan George (SG), and IPS Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson (AJ).  

Note:  Responses have been edited for clarity and organized based on topic not by the order questions were asked during the meeting.

MATCHBOOK’S PRIOR PERFORMANCE

How are previous Matchbook schools doing and are they still using your model?

AS: Some schools we contracted into have been switched from the EAA to Detroit Public Schools and they have all new administration, so we have no idea.  The last schools we were in are now longer in existence...the very first school we were in, which was the first school in the city to implement a personalized learning model under us, became a model for the district. The principal we worked with got promoted in the district to become a regional superintendent in charge of personalized blended learning district-wide. Many of the concepts we talked about here, they began to implement district-wide into schools that opted in and the original school is still implementing a version of this.

ENROLLMENT

Is Wendell Phillips becoming a private school?

AS: It will be an innovation school, a public charter school.  There is no tuition and open enrollment.  We just have more freedom to do innovative things.  

AJ:  Wendell Phillips will still be part of the IPS family.  We are working with the IDOE to show that our innovation schools are part of how we define IPS.  

Will current Wendell Phillips students be able to attend the school?

SG:  Wendell Phillips will continue to be a neighborhood school.  Any student who lives within the boundary of Wendell Phillips will continue to have a seat at the school.

What will happen to current Wendell Phillips students who are enrolled, but don’t live within the school’s boundaries?

AJ:  There is a district-wide special transfer process and policy. Let’s say your childcare is closer to here than your neighborhood school, in most cases our enrollment office has said that makes sense.  Then, it is approved for the child to go to this school although it is not their neighborhood school.  I anticipate we would have the same system working for those situations.   If they are currently here, the intent is that they can stay.  We are currently evaluating the whole special transfer process for the district right now.  There’s a chance this process could shift some, but if it did, it would not just be shifting for Wendell Phillips, but for the district at large.  

SUMMER SCHOOL

Will Matchbook provide summer school summer in 2018?

AS:  It depends on when the contract ends and shifts over.  We are going to need some runway time to get changes and to get staff before we can do that.  Likely, summer school with us would be the next year.

SCHOOL UNIFORMS

Will the uniform change?

AS:  We want to do a parent survey on that.

BUSING & SCHOOL SCHEDULE

Will the school schedule change?

AS:  We will be following the IPS calendar.  We will be contracting with IPS for the busing, so we will need to find out the bus times from IPS.  That will drive the start and end times.

What is going on with IPS transportation?

AJ:  The district has a proposal.  Right now, we are on three tiers.  We have some schools starting at 7:20, some at 9, and some somewhere in the middle.  We are proposing moving to two tiers.  Depending on how that falls out, will depend on how they will be able to decide what to do next.  

Do you have the timetable for the transportation changes?

AJ:  For transportation, I don’t.  Our transportation director gave a preliminary presentation to the board in December, so if you are interested you can go online to the board documents to look at that board presentation.  The board has given leadership direction on wanting the high schools to start later.  That’s what transportation is trying to solve for us.  How can we have a later start for our high schools?  That means elementary schools are going to be impacted because they are going to all have to start earlier.  

When there are school closings for snow days, should parent follow IPS on the news?

AJ:  Typically the partners follow our closings especially if they are using our transportation.  

MIDDLE SCHOOL

Which grades will be considered middle school?

AS:  Grades 7 and 8 will be considered middle school?

What will the middle school experience be like?

AS:  Middle schoolers will be changing classes and it will be a bit different than the elementary.  There will be a high level of rigor, high level of science engagement and labs.  They will also have a time built in where they'll be following their career tracks.  They will also be tracking towards what they want to be when they grow up and setting their job goals.  They go out into the community and have different experiences.  Eighth graders will also do some college visits.

Will students be able to set their schedules?

AS:  It’s going to depend on enrollment and staffing. They should be able to select which elective they want.  They should at least have one selection in that.  

SPECIAL EDUCATION & ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

How will Matchbox ensure a smooth transition for special education students and English language learners?

AS: If students are in special education or if they are an ELL student, we will be contacting and reaching out to families to work on transition plans.  We know a lot of these kids have become really bonded to the teachers that are here who have helped them with specific needs and we want to make sure we do the best we can in transitioning them forward.

CLASSROOM DISRUPTIONS AND INCENTIVES

What is your plan for dealing with classroom disruptions?

AS: Teachers will be coached on positive interventions.  They will also be coached on trauma-informed care.  We will have a social worker/counselor on staff.  That’s going to be the first person that is going to talk to a kid that’s maybe having a meltdown or having a disruption in the classroom.  Instead of when a kid is acting up going straight to an administrator, they are going to go straight to counseling to find out what the root of the problem is...Students will also learn respectful ways to earn badges which are housed in our Spark platform.  (It was noted by Garvey that Wendell Phillips has partnerships with Gallahue and Midtown and Swann stated she was open to continuing that partnership.)

Will there be incentives for honor roll students?

AS:  I can’t tell you what they will be right now, but I have always had them in my schools.

EXTRACURRICULARS

What about sports?

I couldn’t tell you what sports we should have or should add; I need you guys to help me with that.  We need to survey the kids, staff, and parents to find out what do we have that we definitely want to keep and what can we expand on.

Will you keep current after-school activities?

AS:  We have spoken to several community partners.  We plan to keep Reclaim the Village for our boys and would like to add a program for our girls.  We learned that 54 students are in Boy Scouts, so we will keep it and Girl Scouts.

NEXT STEPS

What about the current teachers?  

AS:  We are hoping to finalize contracts, if we are chosen, soon.  We plan to be in the school and meet with teachers so they can get to know us and we can go deeper on our model to see if they do want to be part of us and if they do, we hope they will apply.   It will be the teachers’ choice whether they want to apply; they may want to stay with IPS.

AJ:  It is changing their employment from IPS to the partner and no one wants to be forced into a new job.  Teachers will have to understand this is what I will gain and this is what I will be giving up.  We will have a meeting where teachers can ask these questions.  They are employees of the district, so as long as they have an effective evaluation, they would be able to remain an employee of the district.  They would just be interviewing to move to a different school.  

What are the next steps in the restart process?

AJ:  In terms of next steps, the goal will be either at the January or February board meeting to make a recommendation to the board around the selection of a partner.  Once that’s done, then we’ll have an actual agreement the board will review and vote on and that’s generally the next month.  In all of those agreements, a standard has been that the partner is given a space, a physical space, in the building so that at pick up or at drop off, there’s an opportunity for you to get to know them better and for them to get to know you better as well as for engagement with the current teachers and students.

Do you see the board saying no?

AJ:  They have not historically said no to our recommendation.

When will parents be notified of Matchbook possibly taking over the school?

AS: Parents will be notified as soon as the board approves the recommendation.

As stated by Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson, a partner could be approved during the next board meeting.  The next school board action session will be held Thursday, January 25 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services located at 120 E. Walnut Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Related Reads

 

Coco in the Classroom: How the “Best Animated Motion Picture” of the Year Deepened my Appreciation for the Cultures of My Students

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Written by Sylvia Denice

Award shows are my guilty pleasure.  From the stunning outfits to the humorous monologues to the moving acceptance speeches, I am a sucker for a night on the red carpet.  Admittedly, nothing I have ever loved about award shows has related directly to the awards; that is, until the Golden Globe Awards of 2018.  This year, I uncharacteristically watched in anticipation of one particular award: Best Animated Motion Picture.

I saw Coco in theaters not once but twice.  I couldn’t resist--I was so moved by the representation of Mexican culture in the film.  Coco is the story of a young boy (Miguel) celebrating Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) with his family in Mexico.  Miguel finds himself on a lively adventure through The Land of the Dead, searching for the truth behind his estranged great-great grandfather.  His journey is rich with culture: music, color, dance, art, religion, language, and even cuisine.  Disney/Pixar’s depiction of the Dia de los Muertos tradition gave me a whole new appreciation for the beauty of the culture celebrated by my Mexican friends, colleagues, and students.

I quickly latched onto the realization that my class is not just comprised of 23 individuals eager to hear my sage instruction on writing in response to reading or fractions.  Rather, each of my students is representative of a family and a culture to be embraced and celebrated within my classroom.

The value of unconditional familial love in Mexican culture is fantastically prevalent in Coco.  In honoring loved ones on the ofrenda each Dia de los Muertos, Miguel realizes the celebration that is family.  Miguel is not just one young boy celebrating The Day of the Dead, but rather an extension of his relentlessly loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who came before him.

The cultural lens of Coco provided me with a newfound appreciation for each of my students as not just the people who fill the chairs in my classroom, but as critical members of their beautiful families and brilliant cultures.  I am eager for an opportunity to share the film with my students as they continue to grow in their knowledge of and appreciation for diversity and culture.  It is a privilege to work with my students not just as the individuals who walk directly through my door each day, but also as extensions of their loved ones, values, and traditions.  I am grateful to the film Coco for deepening my appreciation of this great privilege and would recommend that anyone see the film at least once--or even twice.