IPS plans to reinvent and restaff its high schools

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On Monday, September 18, in a 5-2 vote, the IPS Board of School Commissioners voted to close John Marshall Middle School and Broad Ripple High School and convert Arlington Community High School and Northwest Community High School into middle schools.  The four remaining high schools:  Arsenal Technical High School, Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, George Washington Community High School, and Shortridge High School will have different career academies.  Students will select the school where their interest lies and will not be forced to attend their boundary school.

The district immediately shared a press release after the reinvent high school plan passed which stated the district appointed transition team would move swiftly to ensure a smooth transition.

 

The transition process will start immediately. A district transition team has been formed to oversee the process. Advisory teams for students, parents, teachers and community members will begin forming in October. Teams from human resources and academics will visit each high school starting today to talk to school staff about how they may be affected. Schools will distribute student companion guidebooks and schedule one-on-one meetings with school counselors to walk students through their options and get them ready to enroll in the high school program of their choice.

 

The district kept its word.  The day after school closures were approved, district representatives were sent to all high schools to meet with certified and classified staff to inform them about their positions for next year.

The representatives let staff know how valued they were by the district and that the district needed their continued dedication throughout the rest of this year.  Before this meeting, IPS announced a monetary incentive would be given to any high school teacher who stayed until the end of the 2017-18 school year.

High school staff were told everyone would have to reapply to work at one of the remaining four high schools.  The only exceptions were for staff in specialized roles with special certifications such as International Baccalaureate, Career and Technical Education or Life Skills teachers.

Just like students are being tasked with choosing the high school that is the best fit, IPS Human Resources reminded IPS high school staff, they should apply to the high school that is the best fit for them.

In a few weeks, IPS will name the principals who will lead the four remaining high schools.  By November, the administrative teams (assistant principal, dean, etc.) for each school will be named.  The principal and their administrative team for each school will hold an open house in late October or early November sharing what career academies their school will hold and other information about their school.  Certified staff (teachers) will interview for a high school position in November and December and classified staff (assistants, secretaries, etc.) will interview for a position in January and February.

Staff at the meetings were reassured the district would communicate updates biweekly through email.  The district is also offering resume writing classes to help staff with the application process.

High school staff from multiple locations (who would only speak under anonymity) shared their views after the meetings at their respective campuses.

“We are all competing for jobs at this point and there’s no guarantee of one.”

“This was bad timing.  I am afraid many teachers are going to start looking for jobs and leave once they have one; thus, leaving our students without teachers.”

“The meeting was futile.  The questions posed could not be adequately answered nor was anything said to assuage our viable worries about future employment.  I walked away frustrated by the lack of transparency in IPS.  It’s clear that the district only cared about financial gain - not the teachers and certainly not the students.  In the case of Broad Ripple, they are eager to pave paradise and put up a parking lot to paraphrase Joni Mitchell.”

“I just got hired to the district and now I have to apply again.  I’m so frustrated.”

“They told us they would guarantee us an interview at the school that was our first choice.  They guaranteed us one interview; that is not the same as guaranteeing us employment.”

The overall feeling was, if staff want to continue as high school employees, they must reapply.  And since they have to polish their resumes to reapply to IPS, they might also send their resumes to one of the other ten school districts in Indianapolis. And where would that leave IPS as a system? And most importantly, where would that leave the students?

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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.