Even hope may seem but futile
When with troubles you’re beset
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up whatever you do;
Eyes front, head high to finish.
See it Through!
– Edgar Albert Guest
It was the news that shook the district, a community, and a city. It was June when Indianapolis Public Schools decided that it was time to make a bold statement in order to save the district. The district recommended closing two high schools and converting two others into middle schools. The school commissioners will decide the fate of the schools during a vote on September 18th. After reading the blog by Shawnta Barnes about the district’s decision to offer monetary incentives to high school teachers to stay through the year, I decided to answer the question she asked at the end of her piece, “Will this be enough to motivate teachers to stay?”
I wanted to hear straight from the mouths of teachers, so I decided to ask two teachers their plans for the upcoming year. I interviewed two teachers both representing schools on both sides of the school shake up. The first teacher wanted to remain anonymous, but he/she teaches at a school that will be converted from a high school to a middle school and the other is Ronnie Beathea. She is entering her second year at Broad Ripple, which is slated to close at the end of the year.
DM: What was your initial reaction when you heard about the change/closure of your school?
Teacher: I wasn't surprised. Honestly, I wish the administrators would have been more transparent and let us know upfront that my school would be the one they were considering to change or consolidate. I didn't like that they made it seem that all schools were being considered when I truly believe they knew from the beginning which schools they wanted to consolidate or close.
RB: I had hope. Considering the history of Broad Ripple, the school grade, and the rich Athletics and magnet program, I honestly thought we would be safe. It is hard to recreate greatness in a new environment. Especially, if it’s located where our kids cannot display Ripple Rockets Pride.
DM: What made you want to come back for this upcoming school year?
Teacher: I came back to my school because I've been there and I have established relationships with the students, teachers, and the families and I didn't want to leave them because the students would suffer the most. It's not fair to them that they have to deal with a closure or a consolidation of their school and learn a new system from a new administration and new teachers this school year. With me, they have someone they are familiar with and someone they can trust.
RB: That is easy, my Scholars. I love my kids. I refuse to let them finish this school year alone. They deserve so much better and I refuse to walk out on them.
DM: What have your conversations been like with your students in regards to next year?
Teacher: The conversations have been optimistic and I honestly told the students to just have fun this year and do what you can. Be good students and have a positive perspective on the situation.
RB: Most of my conversations have been focused on getting students to buy in this year. The morale is low. Students want to transfer. They want to leave the district. I have encouraged so many scholars to stick it out -be a part of history. I reiterate daily for them to look on the bright side. They will be able to say, “I was the last of a dying breed - The Rockets.”
DM: Did you look for another job elsewhere?
Teacher: I have not looked anywhere else for a job. I want to stay within the district because they need people who care and who are there for the students. Other people in different districts have sought me out, but I decided this is my home.
RB: I did not. I was well aware of the changes that could be made and understood that job security for the 2017-2018 school year was guaranteed. I knew I was going to return to the good fight with my babies.
DM: Have you thought about your plans for next year?
Teacher: I haven't thought about next year yet. I just kind of want to get through this first semester.
RB: Absolutely. I would be a fool not to think of next steps. The first step is to be displaced in the district and or follow my scholars and magnet program to Shortridge.
DM: What advice have you been given to get through this year?
Teacher: Do what I've been doing: teaching the kids, being a positive role model, and advocating for those who feel like they don't have somebody who can speak on their behalf.
RB: Be Prideful! —Broad Ripple has a great story. We should be proud of the talent we have raised inside this building. This year merely serves as an opportunity to end with a BANG! - high test scores, increased growth rates, more magnet awards, and athletic championships. This year is an opportunity to be everything we know Broad Ripple scholars can be. We have to get up every day and press forward. Our scholars still deserve a valuable education, overflow of love, and miles of encouragement. Yes, the school is closing, but their minds aren’t.
Despite an uncertain future, these teachers should be celebrated along with all the other teachers in the district who decided to see it through ‘till the end. The students of IPS deserve the best and they have it by the personal and professional sacrifice of the teachers featured in this piece and all the other ones who have decided to stay. It does appear to me, after these interviews, that money was not the motivator. Instead, it was to show a group of kids that no matter what you do not have to face this journey alone.