Northwest High School Community Meeting:  Why Do You Want to Bus Us Across Town?


Thursday, August 31 at 5:30 p.m., Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) held its last meeting at Northwest High School to hear feedback on their recommendations to close Broad Ripple and John Marshall at the end of the year and to convert Arlington High School and Northwest High School into middle schools next school year.  Feedback was also shared about IPS’ plan to reinvent the four remaining high schools: Crispus Attucks, George Washington, Shortridge and Arsenal Tech with different career academies on each campus where students would select the high school that best aligns with their post-secondary plans.

Northwest High School, located on the west side of the district, serves a diverse population; the school is majority minority.  White students comprise 5.4% of the student population.  The school’s population is almost 25% English language learners some who are refugees and a little over 20% are special education students.  Before comments were given, IPS Board President Mary Ann Sullivan reminded the audience of three points:  the board will not take formal action on the recommendations until the September 18 meeting, if the recommendations are approved they would not take place until next school year and no current programs will be eliminated even if the school it is currently housed in is closed. 

Below are some of the comments from the meeting which have been shortened and edited for clarity.  

Dountonia Batts, IPS Community Coalition

Why are we constantly busing our brown, our black and our poor students? We bused to desegregate and now we are busing to save a couple of dollars, two percent of your overall budget.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Not to mention, as the district consolidates, your expenditures are increasing.  Things just don’t add up...We are replicating programs for families who are affluent, but were taking away programs from families who aren’t.

Northwest student

I’m a student athlete.  When I heard the school is going to be shut down and become a middle school, I was kind of hurt.  I have been here since 7th grade...Even though I am graduating this year, what about everyone else?  Kids will have to go to a new school.  I think this school should stay open as a high school because if you have all high schools in the center of Indianapolis, it will be crowded.

Virginia Cantrell, Northwest parent

To close Northwest would be a huge disservice to our community and to our children.  The administration and teachers have worked hard to gain the trust of students and help kids graduate and achieve their dreams.  In 2017, over 80% of the seniors at Northwest graduated.  Every senior in the graduating class was accepted to college and over $2 ½ million of scholarships were received by students.  This doesn’t happen without caring, loving, hardworking teachers.  Why punish the teachers and administrators for doing their jobs well?  It’s not fair to make children get on buses and go to school away from their teachers who care and are invested in their future sometimes more than their parents are.  I get phone calls when my son is having a bad day or when he is not doing his assignments.  I think if he you put him in a classroom that is full to capacity, kids are going to slip through the cracks and I won’t receive those phone calls.  Closing Northwest means that many students won’t be able to participate in extracurricular activities; there’s not transportation.  Even if there are buses, lots of the parents don’t have cars.  Kids walk to school and walk home after football games, after practices.  Their parents don’t have cars and won’t be able to come watch them play because they won’t be able to get there.  Late buses often don’t get some kids home until after 8-8:30 p.m.  Parents won’t be involved.  IPS will lose students when there are no schools in the community.  They will move or go somewhere else; they won’t be here anymore.  It makes no sense for kids to choose a career path when they are 14.   Who knows what they really want to do in 8th grade.   This will not have an impact on you who are sitting up there, but closing Northwest will have a huge negative impact on the lives of the students.

Andrea Newson, Northwest Class of 2001 and Northwest parent

I am here because I love Northwest.  I am here because I am a single mother and Northwest is an intricate part of the business that it takes to raise my child.  I am here because of the work Michelle Watts does.  I’m simply here to ask you to reconsider whatever decisions you have made for Northwest high school.   We have lived in this community for over 20 years and Northwest has always been a safe place for myself and my son as well...My son is more successful now in his high school career than he has been and this is only his second year of high school.  It is my hope that he can walk across this stage for the graduating class of 2020.  Northwest is needed on this side of town.  We do not want to bus our children to the other side of town.  We don’t want to have to figure out transportation.  Whatever my son needs throughout the day, I can go to work and not have to worry about his safety.  I don’t have to worry about if he is being disciplined correctly.  I came today on behalf of alumni, on behalf of my son - he doesn’t want to go anywhere else next year.  For as long as we have Michelle Watts in this building, we know that she is capable leader.  We know that she loves our children.  

Richard Curry, True Tried Missionary Baptist Church Senior Pastor

I’m the senior pastor of True Tried Missionary Baptist Church congregation who serves the families and the students that attend this very school.  I am also a 20 year resident.  In addition, I have been employed for 26 years with the Indiana Department of Corrections.  I am a former superintendent of Marion Superior Juvenile Detention Center and a proud graduate of Broad Ripple High School.  Because of my close ties with the community and different lenses, it’s hard not to be sentimental in my thoughts as we consider closing multiple high schools in the IPS district specifically the mission change of the Northwest High School.  Both of my children graduated from this school and my grandson currently attends here.  Instead of being sentimental, I would like to take a sensible approach here to explain why we should not close or alter the mission of this school.  We have been down this road before with little return on our investment to the community.  I think it would be safe to say the current plight of IPS has its ties and foundations in the mass movement of inner city children to the township schools beginning around 1983.  My of us in the room can remember the impact of what we call the soul train.  It was the nickname of the buses that transported our kids to Perry Meridian, Decatur Central, and other township schools that began suck the life out of IPS especially in the area of sports.  While education is of utter importance, sports play a major role in the educational process and provide a way for inner city children to escape a life of poverty.  What busing accomplished was taking student athletes from inner city schools and it put township schools on the map.  Ben Davis would not have as much success, if it were not for the closing of Washington. I can safely say that Warren Central and Lawrence North have benefited from the mission changes of Arlington and John Marshall.  Why is this important? It’s important because it created a divide and conquer system that does not allow our inner city kids to win.  

Latashiana Garrett, Northwest Junior

Hi, I’m a junior at Northwest Community High School and I have been here since my sophomore year. To me, this is more than a school. This is memories.  This is staying up late studying and group chats with friends. This is sports; I’m an athlete.  I just don’t think it’s right and then you are transferring hundreds of kids all to schools downtown.  What’s the real reason?  I don’t get it.  I’m just a kid; I’m just a teenager, but this is a lot to me...I just don’t think it’s fair.  They are going to be sent to a school where they’re are not welcome because you’re changing boundaries.  I don’t think you should do it. Let’s keep Northwest.

IPS Alum

You assembled an incorrect task force and asked the wrong questions.  The questions that should have been asked, the ones that are the most pressing is why has IPS been unable to attract students and provide them with a quality education?  There is no reason to get rid of these wonderful public institutions If the problem is low enrollment, why are children drowning on waiting lists?  When people go in to enroll their children, they are turned away.  I don’t understand, if you are having an enrollment problem, how are you not enrolling students who come to you.

David, Northwest Class of 67

I was part of the first four year graduating class of Northwest.  Let’s change the school calendar.  You could start the last two weeks of August or the day after Labor Day and get your 180 days in.  Have six weeks of summer schools like I did in the sixties.  People will come back to IPS and you’ll get more enrollment.  Dr. White’s plan didn’t work too well and now he’s out of the picture.  A lot of people left the IPS district because they didn’t want their kids going here.  They want to be with their kids during the summer.  The state fair is in town, a lot of activities and that’s one way of bringing everyone back to IPS.  Then you won’t have to consolidate schools.

Zhy’yon Hoover, Northwest student since 8th grade

What you hear on the outside doesn’t reflect what’s going on in the inside.  I want to stay here. I want to graduate here.  This is love. You see the love from these teachers. Yes,  as a high school student, you’re going to be like I don’t want to go to that class; I don’t want to see this teacher, but we are students.  Don’t take everything that is on the news.  This place has history.  My grandmother graduated from here.  My mother graduated from here and I want to be the next graduate. I can’t do that if I leave here; I don’t want to leave here.   All of my family have been made here.  My memories have been made here.  This is my high school.

Northwest student

Closing down Northwest - I’m so upset, sad and frustrated that ya’ll trying to move my home.  I’ve been here for three years and hands down this is the most caring high school I have ever been to.  I don’t think you understand how much this school is improving.  Year after year, we are becoming better, stronger and closing down this school - you are not going to be able to see the full potential.  Family is the word for this school.

Leslie Jackson, Northwest parent

This school is very important to the community.  To me, this is a better high school for the west side.  I understand that change is needed.  I’m not against it, but we have to be smart.  This is about our future.  The people that we are working to help fight for and educate are going to be the decision makers.  Twenty, forty years later, these guys will be making decisions and we have to get them educated.  Moving them around and disrupting them is harmful.  I want you to rethink, reconsider because initially you said this school was going to stay and this was going to be the high school.  What happened?

Melvin, Broad Ripple parent

First and foremost, I am extremely concerned because looking at the board of you guys, you look like this is just one more meeting.  I have my daughter coming home every day asking, “What am I going to do?  What am I going to do? I got these people deciding what school I’m going to go to and if I wanted to go to that school, I would have chosen that school from the very beginning.”  IPS’ low and failing standards is the reason we are losing so many kids who are going to township schools.  My daughter came and told me at Broad Ripple, the principal left, the vice principal left, the dean left and three of her teachers have left.  These guys are jumping ship like a boat on fire.  Now, I have second hand teachers teaching my children.  You give me three minutes, but my children need four years.  It is a travesty and an injustice, not only to the city, but also to our demographic.  You guys are talking about closing historically strong schools.  These schools have such a long tradition.  These neighborhood schools are vital because due to our demographics, if you watch the news, we have 16, 17 year olds kids killing each other.  An educated kid is not going to pick up a gun and go shoot someone.  I’m not only losing my school, but I’m losing my kids to the streets because they don’t have a viable option and you’re cutting their options in half.


Passionate comments were shared at this last meeting.  As a child who was bused out of IPS to Lawrence Township, I understand the concerns of parents who would like a school close to their home.  I understand their concerns about the neighborhood diminishing because families might move because they want to live in a neighborhood where the school is close.  It happened in my childhood neighborhood where my parents still reside.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love Lawrence Township and received an excellent education, but the cost was my neighborhood being broken apart as people and businesses moved away.  I don’t regret I attended Lawrence North instead of Arlington.  Some students from my neighborhood who weren’t bused out and attended Arlington went on to college as I did, but they had to retake courses,  wasting money and time, because they did not obtain the necessary skills from their IPS high school.  Some finished on the five or six year plan and some dropped out, so I also understand the district’s concerns about taking action to reinvent and improve the high schools that remain.  Soon, we will know if the recommended plan will be approved.  


I am school choice

My oldest two children, twins, will graduate from high school in spring 2018. I can hardly believe they are seniors. As I look back, I think about our journey through education.

We are a family who has never tried traditional public schools. When I set out on this journey, my only goal was to give them the quality education they deserved that I definitely could not afford. Twelve years ago quality education was not easy to provide for your children if you didn't live in a certain area code. 

Critics say it's challenging for poor families to send their children to charter/vouchers schools. I must agree; it was sometimes hard getting them to and from a centrally located bus stop and traveling across town to their school for programs, parent teacher conferences, sports, etc., but Christel House Academy made every effort to make these challenges a little bit easier for families. 

My children went from a public charter school to a private school that accepted vouchers. All the rumors I heard about private schools not being equipped to teach children from all backgrounds was not true. The teachers and faculty at Heritage Christian School were determined to help my children succeed. Again the struggle of transportation and the portion of tuition I had to pay was sometimes challenging. 

A few weeks back, I was driving up to the school to pick up my kids from several activities and there was a huge sign out front that read “Heritage Christian School #1 College Prep School in Central Indiana.”  Like a ton of bricks, it hit me; both of my twins are college bound and they received the best education central Indiana has to offer, an education they deserved because of school choice. 

All those years ago when I enrolled them in a public charter school, it was not to destroy the institution of public school. It was to give my children a better chance at a quality education. Quality education comes in so many forms and should be accessible to all children no matter the zip code they live in. 

Although all the sacrifices we made have been worth it, I hope other families don't have to make the sacrifices we have for quality education, but this will only happen if our lawmakers pass legislation giving equal funding to all education entities in Indiana.



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.

Arlington High School Community Meeting:  When Will the Experiments Stop?


In July, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) held meetings at Broad Ripple and John Marshall, schools recommended by the district to be closed at the end of this school year, to hear public comment about their recommendations.  This month, the district scheduled two more meetings at Arlington High School and Northwest High Schools, schools the district has recommended to restart as middle schools next school year.  Yesterday evening, on Tuesday, August 29th, a meeting was held at Arlington for the public to share its views on the possible conversion of the school and the district’s high school reinvention plan.  

Although comments were shared for and against the switch to middle school and for and against the high school reinvention plan, what was clear people were frustrated with the many changes Arlington has been through.  By 2012, Arlington had been rated an F school for six consecutive years which led to state takeover.  Successful charter operator Tindley Accelerated Schools was hired by the state and tasked with turning the school around.  In 2015, Arlington returned to IPS; Tindley requested extra funds to operate the school, but this request was denied.  Although Tindley signed a five year contract, the agreement was ended.  Although Arlington has returned to IPS, it is still under state intervention as the grade has not changed from an F.  It is part of the district’s transformation zone where it receives extra support and guidance from Mass Insight Education.  Many commenters mentioned they were tired of Arlington being an experiment and that the Arlington community is invested and wants to continue to lend a hand to improve the school.

Below are some of the comments shared last night.  Some comments have been shortened and edited for clarity.

For the last few years, Arlington has endured more challenges than any other IPS high school in this district without success, without much support from this administration.  Three years ago, you gave Principal Stan Law and staff 45 days to get this school prepared for the 2015-16 school year.  When the school opened, they were understaffed, the athletic teams had no uniforms, but somehow, as a community, we all came together to make significant progress.  These decisions that you’re making unfortunately affects many of our poor whites and our black and brown students of color.  It frustrates me that many of you that sit on this board send your own children to private schools because you don’t believe in this system. It also frustrates me to see John Marshall students attend Arlington this year, who may now have to attend three high schools in three years. Where is the consistency in these communities? Many of you on this board would be outraged if your children have to go through what these students go through every day.  When the new justice system is finished the cost is expected to be worth $571 million.  Your proposal is to save $4 million a year closing schools.  How is it that more money is being invested in our justice system instead of our education system?   Why not support financially on the front end with education instead of the back end with jails and prisons?  A child’s race, their economic background, zip code they live should never determine their educational destiny.

Walker Foundation

Without Arlington staying open as a high school, many students will miss out on the opportunity of a scholarship from the Walker Scholarship Foundation.  This past year alone 24 students qualified for a scholarship.  They may be the first in their families to attend college.  We ask you to keep Arlington open as a high school so students can have the opportunity to experience a debt free education after high school.

Arlington Alum

A great program that was just brought back to Arlington High School was JROTC.  I was in this program for four years. These are the type of programs that bring discipline to children.  Not only does it bring discipline, but it brings livelihood.  When I say livelihood, I was able to go to the service, did  4 ½ years in United States Marine Corps with honorable discharge during the Gulf War.  It saddens me to look back on how our  high school has now changed and it has changed because the very popular programs that made it what is was are no longer here. 

IPS parent

I would like to say I am a proud supporter of IPS.  Children should go to a school that is near their home.  I also feel that IPS schools must step it up and provide our children the best.  I looked at the programs IPS currently offers.  There's a graduation rate of 91% for students who are in college and career programs compared to the 77% graduation rate of general studies.  Obviously something is working with these programs and if the result is graduation, then the college and career academies are doing a better job.   Why wouldn’t we want all students to have access to these programs?  Our kids deserve the best education available. We need programs like this to bring students back to IPS.  People are willing to send their kids to other schools around town because they feel those schools are doing a better job.  It’s time for us to be the best; I support IPS’ plan.

Dountonia Batts, IPS Community Coalition

The reinvent IPS proposal is proving to not be the right first choice for IPS students. The IPS Community Coalition are asking that you delay the vote, find ways to keep cuts away from the classrooms, and more at the central office level and to replicate programs that are working in the non-choice schools like the replication plan to open more schools on the north side of town.   All students should have the resources necessary for high quality education, but some students need more to get there such as smaller class size, mentors, access to exceptional teachers and the school needs the funding to provide them the education they need to succeed, but this is common knowledge among most educators.

Dr. Jim Scheurich, IUPUI Professor

I spent over 20 years studying urban school districts. Making the decision to close Arlington High School, the school board is not considering the impact that this decision has on the individual girls and boys and their families and their communities.  They are not thinking about how they might be hurting children. Some of our children will drop out.  Some will not recover from losing support from systems that have been built for them at Arlington. Some will never recover from losing those teachers who really know them and really care about them.  Some will leave IPS. Is this worth $9 million?  We all know we could find $9 million in other budgetary savings. If they really wanted to maintain our current high schools, they could have found other cost effective savings. For example, they could have found other agencies and organizations to share these buildings, but they did not even try. At the same time, they were strongly supporting the opening of new charter high schools. What is the game plan here -closing Arlington and thus hurting the families, students and community while supporting more charter high schools? Clearly, this school board is not dedicated to helping our children, families and communities.  Who are they really working for?  We do have some strong evidence of this.  Over the last three school board elections, The Mind Trust and Stand for Children have spent over $1.5 million controlling who gets elected on the school board. Wealthy conservative white people from Indiana and from around the country contributed over $1.5 million to buy the election of the Indianapolis Public Schools Board.  Thus when the school board ignores the clear fact that the community does not want to close the schools, which has been demonstrated in multiple school meetings, we know who they are obeying. 

David Worland, Principal Cathedral High School

I am very proud of the partnership Cathedral has formed with Arlington High School.  One of our events we share is Unity Day back in August of 2016.  During this joyful gathering,  Arlington visited Cathedral and enjoyed an afternoon of food, fellowship, and friends. The purpose of the day is to unite Arlington and Cathedral and make a positive impact on both schools as well as the broader community.   This past spring, the Arlington English department hosted the Cathedral English department to watch the powerful movie Fences together.  Both Cathedral and Arlington read the book and came together to watch the movie right here in your auditorium.   After reading the book and watching the movie, both schools had a very moving and powerful discussion.  Cathedral hosted Arlington on its Day of Service.  On this day, we asked the students of both schools to give thoughts about our relationship and responses from them were incredible.  The students felt we should continue to unite in the future and Cathedral and Arlington students want and value this relationship just as much as the teachers and administrators.  Cathedral wants you to know we are proud members of the east side community.  For the last couple of years, Arlington has been an active participant in joining our efforts to strengthen and improve our community.  It is in the spirit of unity that we would like to continue our relationship with Arlington High School.

IPS parent

I’m a mother of three children currently enrolled in the IPS school system, two attend CFI and one Purdue Polytechnic.  I have also worked at Arsenal Tech High School. I am here tonight to offer my support for the IPS high school plan and I believe that these schools can offer our kids a focus and a foundation that allows them to prepare for a career they would like to pursue after graduation.

As was shared at the meeting yesterday, Arlington has faced a rocky past, but I would like it to have a bright future.  While I was in first grade at IPS Washington Irving school #14, my parents moved into a house, where they currently reside today, in the Arlington High School boundary.  The street we moved to was part of the desegregation busing and I was bused from 2nd-12th grade to Lawrence Township and I graduated from Lawrence North High School.  The next street over, my friends attended IPS schools and attended Arlington High School. The busing caused some of the families to leave and move closer to the schools in Lawrence Township.  Since busing ended, where my parents reside, is now back part of the IPS boundary.  Some families, like my parents and some of my friends, did not leave.  I still consider this my community and I’m in this community every Sunday when I visit my parents after church.  Whatever future lies ahead for Arlington, I hope it is in the best interest of the students and causes this community to thrive like it once did.

On September 18, 2017, the Board of School Commissioners for Indianapolis Public Schools will decide whether to accept or reject the school closure recommendations and high school reinvention plan.  Click here to sign up to given public comment during the last meeting at Northwest High School at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 31.


There’s power in understanding policy


A few years ago, a friend forwarded me an email she received from an organization called Teach Plus.  Knowing I loved to write, she thought I might be interested in a storytelling event they were hosting.  Patrick McAlister, who is now the Director of Policy for the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), was the Policy Director for Teach Plus Indiana at the time and he facilitated the event.  That event led me to begin drafting the piece “Why I do this work” which would later be published in the Indianapolis Recorder.  I appreciated the information I learned and when the event was over, I wanted to avoid the inevitable socializing that would take place after the event, so I had planned to bolt through the nearest exit, but before I could, McAlister stopped me.  He began to tell me about this policy fellowship and suggested I apply.

Honestly, I was not interested because politics and policy made me frustrated.  After the event, I began receiving weekly emails from Teach Plus.  At first I deleted the emails, but one day I decided to read one and then I was motivated to read another because those emails highlighted how educators were making a difference because they understood how policy works.  Although I didn’t think I would be selected, I decided I would at least complete the application for the fellowship.  Surprising to me, I was selected for the 2016-17 Teach Plus policy fellowship.

Through the fellowship, I learned how to become an empowered educator.  I understood complaining in my classroom or venting to others was not a productive way to proceed.  I learned how to write testimony, how to write op-eds, how to get involved at IDOE, and how to connect to the right people at the right time to hopefully move the needle a little bit.

Last Wednesday, I was honored to meet Dr. Celine Coggins founder of Teach Plus.  She was here in Indianapolis to lead a book talk for her new book How To Be Heard: 10 Lessons Teachers Need to Advocate for their Students and Profession.  She shared teaching was her superpower and she was glad, as she steps down as CEO of Teach Plus, that educators across the country have learned how to advocate for their students.

I believe the Teach Plus Policy Fellowship has kept many educators, such as myself, in the classroom who thought about walking away because they didn’t believe they could make a difference that would improve the lives of their students.  I am proud I am one of those educators who understands and now believes I can influence policy.  It isn’t easy, but it was impossible before because I lacked the knowledge.   Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t make it to the exit because making it to that exit might have meant me eventually exiting the classroom.



NAACP’s Attempt at Nuance Leaves Much to be Desired

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By Jacqueline Cooper, President, Black Alliance for Educational Options

The NAACP released its much-hyped, and dare I say, now much maligned, report on “Education Quality” last month to mixed reviews. What’s not so “mixed” is that the organization is once again taking aim at charter schools across the country. The report claims to be “speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves” and calling for “stronger charter school accountability measures.”

I thought this story was over and done with last year when the NAACP heard from parental choice groups like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and others when we made our way to their national board meeting to pushed back against the civil rights group’s call for an ill-advised moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansion. Supporters even spoke out in favor of greater transparency and accountability for all public schools—charter and traditional district—that serve our children.

And while the report acknowledges many of the shared concerns we have with the effectiveness of the public education system, the report still calls for, what is now, a 10-year ban on charter schools and placing existing charter schools under the control of traditional school districts. This shows an inherited bias among some in the organization that they are more interested in pursuing bad education policies instead of scaling up what’s working well for our children. It’s hard to see how our children will win with such a subjective view of education choice.  

The NAACP says it “has always advocated for quality education of African American children as the gateway to economic prosperity and to become fully contributing citizens of society.” If this were true then why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have more high-quality education options, not less? Why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have greater access to excellent teachers, curriculum, administrators, and school staff, not fewer? And why aren’t they fighting for Black families to receive the same quality education as their peers across town, and not second-rate instruction?

The NAACP didn’t even acknowledge in its report new data on college completion that showed low-income students of color from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark who graduate from top charter networks, earn four-year degrees at rates up to five times higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Yet they want you to think charter schools are the real problem.

Well, one thing is clear: those of us on the front lines fighting for low-income and working-class Black families won’t be fooled by a one-sided report that offers limited solutions for our children.  That’s why we are urging all charter advocates to be more vigilant now than ever as the NAACP pushes model legislation to change state laws to stop new charter schools. Up until now they’ve been all talk and no action. Now is the time to fight back and double down on our own “model legislation” to bring more education options to families across the country. BAEO is ready for this fight.

So, NAACP: Black families deserve better from your organization if we’re ever going to, as you put it, “become fully contributing citizens of society.”

Jacqueline Cooper is the President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, one of America’s preeminent nonprofit education advocacy organizations dedicated to increasing access to high-quality education options for low-income and working-class Black families. As BAEO’s president, Cooper leads a national executive leadership team in implementing the organization’s mission, strategic goals, and vision.

Cooper previously served as BAEO’s Interim President and as Chief of Staff. She was responsible for the central coordination of staff activities and ensuring organizational alignment with the strategic priorities of the board. As a key member of BAEO's executive leadership team, she supported the organization in achieving its goals and objectives through improving performance management and talent development; eliminating barriers to coordination, cooperation, and collaboration; and stewarding the organization's resources to promote efficiency and cost management.

Cooper arrived at BAEO in 2009 as Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this position, she designed and implemented a management system that clarified strategy, optimized data, achieved vertical and horizontal alignment and linked strategy to operations. Most notably, Cooper directed BAEO's Annual Symposium, the largest gathering of Black education reform supporters in the nation.

Prior to BAEO, Cooper worked for 11 years at JP Morgan Chase. In her last position as Vice President and Business Manager in Global Syndicated Finance, she managed staffing, logistical needs and the performance review process for the investment bank's largest department. Cooper also owned and operated four elite "Shining Star" Curves franchises in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.B.A. in finance and accounting from New York University's Stern School of Business. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Cooper resides in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

Can the ban and just let kids read

Can the Ban.PNG

Best selling children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was once banned because the main character Max talked back to his mother.  Books are banned for many reasons:  sexual content, LGBQT characters, offensive language, violence, etc.  Every year, someone wants a book banned from a school.  Recently, in Indiana, Hamilton Southeastern Schools board member Amanda Shera suggested The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini be removed as a reading option for Advanced Placement English classes because “rape and distrustful and lying adults” are in the novel.  She had concerns about this book, that she has not read, when it was assigned to her daughter’s class.  Just because this book might not be the best option for her daughter, who is she to say it will not be okay for other students to read?  I believe schools need to provide as many options as possible to engage students in the curriculum and encourage them to read.

When books are banned, it limits educators.  When students have the opportunity to read from a diverse selection of books, students learn more and grow to love reading.  Unlike Shera, I have read The Kite Runner and I would recommend it as a book for students to read.  When I was teaching middle school English, I was known for using novels that needed parental approval such as Fallen Angels (language), Crank (drug usage), The House You Pass on the Way (same sex relationship) and 13 Reasons Why (suicide and sexual assault).  My students were in literature circles and they chose from a selection of books and if the book contained sensitive topics, I would send home a letter to receive approval from parents.  Only twice, in the eight years I taught middle school, did parents request another option. 

Many times, the risky books are the ones that have powerful themes and great usage of literary devices.  My students (if they read this will probably roll their eyes) have heard me say, “You can’t get better at reading by not reading.”  I made it my goal to read a variety of books even books I wouldn’t typically read so I could offer multiple selections to my students.

I am disappointed a school board member wants a book to be removed she has not even bother to read.  I do believe parents should be given the right to ask for another selection because parents know what their children can handle, but banning a book for everyone takes away the power of parents to make a choice.  

During the month of September, Banned Book Week is held.  I always challenged my students to read as many banned books as possible during this month.  This year, Banned Book Week will be held September 24-30 and the theme is Our Right to Read.  I have found banning books tends to have a result people wanting the ban do not intend; it makes students more curious and increases their desire to read the book even more.

Click here to view the top ten banned books of 2016.


Weekend Links (8/26/17)


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.

Indianapolis Public Schools and Butler Look to Open Another Lab School

 By Redsox17862 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Redsox17862 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Pillow

The Butler Lab School has been a huge success in the eyes of the community. So much so that the school has consistently had a long waiting list. Over 250 students are currently waiting to get into the school. As luck would have it, those students may have a chance to get in to the program.

Indianapolis Public Schools and Butler are looking to replicate the Lab School.

The Butler Lap school has a unique model. The school is staffed almost exclusively with Butler graduates. Teachers at the school receive continued professional development. Current Butler students also use the school as a classroom of sorts. This model appears to be the primary appeal to parents and students.

The current school attracts a slightly different demographic than other Indianapolis Public Schools. Less than 30% of the school qualifies for free and reduced lunch. The Lab School also serves a predominantly white student body.

The New Lab school would occupy IPS School 55 due to it’s nearby proximity to Butler.

Read more here. (Indy Star)


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.

Breaking the Mold: Shining Light on Black Female School Leaders in Indianapolis - Tyneasha Banks


Former First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Success isn't about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”  The Breaking the Mold Series is about highlighting and shining a light on Black female school leaders in Indianapolis who are making a difference. This week, we celebrate Tyneasha Banks, Principal of Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School East.

Tyneasha Banks is the new Principal at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, she graduated from West Side High School and went on to attend Grambling State University where she majored in Business Administration. After graduating with honors in three years, she went on to graduate school at Indiana University Northwest and received her MBA. After graduating with her MBA, she landed a job with Ford Motor Company as a Production Supervisor at the age of 22, but a few years later it was an experience while visiting her child’s kindergarten class that would change the course of her life forever.

On her off days from Ford, she would visit her son’s kindergarten class as a volunteer. During her visits she noticed one particular student sitting at a back table with a coloring sheet while the other 28 students were receiving direct instruction from the teacher. She asked the teacher why he was not with the class receiving instruction and the teacher responded he was going to be retained.  She thought to herself, “How could this be at this young stage in his life? How could he succeed without any interventions?” Later after seeing her own son sitting in the back table with the young man, she knew she needed to be a part of the solution and not on the sideline complaining.  She quickly realized it was bigger than just getting her son from the back table. Now, ten years later, she is sharing her story and the advice she was given.

David McGuire: What inspired you to become an educator?  

Tyneasha Banks: Wanting to help children reach their fullest potential at high levels… it’s very rewarding when you get to see the light bulb go off in a kid’s head and he/she says, “ Now, I get it!”  It’s also rewarding to know that you were responsible for planting the seed of knowledge and watering those seeds. Not all the time educators get to see the fruit of their labor, but it’s a good feeling knowing that you are growing kids.


DM: How has your experience shaped you as a school leader?  

TB: Experiences shapes us and molds us.  Leaders experiences help create the personal capacity needed to effectively lead. My experiences have shown me the importance of being a servant leader.  As educators, we must realize that we are being rated and judged as leaders by the quality of our customer service we deliver to our students and parents - most importantly, the students. Having a servant attitude helps meet the needs of your students effectively.


DM: Why are you so passionate about education?

TB: “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent, and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Jean Piaget. I am passionate about education because it opens the door to endless possibilities for students to achieve anything they put their mind and effort to.


DM: This series about is about Black female school leaders. Did you have any Black female school leaders that served as mentors to you while you were a teacher?

TB: Yes, I had my Principal Mrs. Lorna Dill and Dr. Patricia Hoffman.  They still serve as one of my many mentors. You need mentors who will listen to you, offer advice, and help grow you as an effective leader.


DM: Why do you feel there is such a lack of Black female high school principals?

TB: I really don’t have a definitive answer for this. I know for me – I shied away from being a high school administrator because for so long it has been male dominated. All through elementary and middle school women served as my principal. It wasn’t until I got to high school, I had a male principal. I believe it could have been that women weren’t seen as somebody that manages the building and deals with discipline - men were seen as being better managers.


DM: What advice do you have for other Black female teachers who hope to be school leaders one day?

TB: I will share what my mentors shared with me:

  • Begin to connect and build relationships with experienced administrators that can serve as mentor.
  • Learn to delegate - very key!
  • Learn to listen more than you talk.
  • Learn as much as you can about curriculum inside and outside the school.
  • Have as many leadership opportunities before becoming a building principal
  • Be a lifelong learner in order to grow both personally and professionally.
  • Most importantly, remember you are a servant - you work for the students and the teachers… always put students first!


DM: When you retire what do you want your legacy to be?

TB: I believe we all want to be remembered for something, more than just being ordinary. I want to be known more than just being an ordinary educator – a life changing educator that truly made a positive impact on the educational future of students. I want to be remembered as an educator that unselfishly gave of herself in order to effectively serve, motivate, and meet the needs of students in reaching their highest potential.



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.

Ten hours for two minutes


I admit, this week, I was an eclipse chaser. Like millions of others, I played hooky looking for that celestial anomaly that last happened when I was about three years old.

Yes, I know I could have waited seven more years for totality to come to Indiana, but there was special meaning this time around. A convergence in every sense, the occasion dictated a one of a kind trip with my father, little brother and son to chase the path of totality, as 91 percent Indiana had simply wasn’t going to do it.

It didn’t hurt at all that the rarity of the occasion also afforded my son and little brother excused absences. Staying home was simply not an option.

With my dad serving as the captain, my job was strictly to get us there and back safely, navigating what would ultimately prove to be ten driving hours to traverse roughly 250 miles south to catch the right view at the exact time.

Our travel took us to Russellville, KY, but our journey, and the eclipse itself, served as an example for reflection and perspective. En route to what would become our totality site, a small rural elementary school, our path was tarnished all too frequently with signs that our country’s dark past has yet to fully stay in the past.

Deep in rural Kentucky, every couple of miles or so our paths would cross Confederate flags, which were coupled with “Make America Great Again” or other indicators of support for the present Administration.  As we soldiered southward to ensure we were in the path, the Kentucky depths showcased easily hundreds of families gazing upward in fields, parking lots and other establishments, though none looked like of us in the car.

Perhaps it is the strange reality in which we find ourselves, where the notion of disenfranchisement has been turned on its head that my enthusiasm evolved to anxiety that perhaps our zeal to soldier south took a wrong turn. In the wake of Charlottesville, or even the President’s most recent racially charged rant this week in Phoenix, it’s no exaggeration that thoughts of Trayvon, Philando or hell even Emmett Till ran through my thoughts. The dread of any interaction with law enforcement, with two young gifted Black boys in tow was real, particularly in this neck of the woods.

But, it was the perfect time for conversation. For my father and I, it served as a reminder to reinforce the very real truth that racial reconciliation and the fight for equity is one that will continue long after we depart this earth. Our children, in all of their exposure to global perspectives, must not only be prepared to compete, and be given the tools to do so; they must recognize the not so distant past has and will affect their present and future.

The talk, where Black parents convey the importance of communication with law enforcement, is now on steroids with the increasing emergence of the racial animus that for a short while lurked in the country’s underbelly.

Strangely though, totality in that locale took on greater meaning. For those fleeting moments (in which we did of course look directly into the phenomenon) we were reminded that light surrounds the darkness of our very real challenges. And as quickly as it happened, the light once again overtook the sky.

So too must be the case for us all. As such, we must continue to do all that is necessary to ensure our children, OUR CHILDREN, walk in that light to cast out the darkness that seeks to separate, oppress, ostracize and discriminate. As we have each been reminded so viscerally these past weeks, there is still much to do.