IPS launches new effort to turn around struggling schools

Fund created to find solutions

INDIANAPOLIS - Officials with Indianapolis Public Schools are looking for solutions for 11 of their priority schools that currently have a "D" or "F" school ranking.

The school district has partnered with The Mind Trust and the City of Indianapolis to launch the Innovation School Fellowship  to attract anyone interested in creating school programs that will help children in the low-performing schools succeed.

Under the program, The Mind Trust will award up to nine Fellowships over three years.

Fellows will get a salary of $100,000 and $29,000 in health care and benefits. They will have a year to develop their program that must be approved by the IPS school board. The initial three Fellows will be expected to run their programs in the 2015-2016 school year.

"I’m driving this reform, because there’s a desire from educators to be flexible and autonomous," IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said.

Ferebee said the Fellow process, which begins with an application due on May 15, is open to all educators and he is encouraging his IPS teachers to step up and apply.

Ferebee said the newly passed Public Law 1321 allows the district to find alternatives to traditional school settings.

Ferebee adds that schools created by Fellows will be assigned to one of the district’s 11 lowest-performing neighborhood schools.

"This provides us with the opportunity to make sure neighborhood schools are quality," Ferebee said.

He thinks the district has a done a good job of creating magnet programs which often require kids to travel.  Ferebee said the newly created programs will have to accept all the kids that attend the neighborhood school, including those with special needs.

Ferebee pointed out the newly created program leaders will have the ability to hire their own teachers and staff and that they would not be part of the collective bargaining agreements.

IPS would enter into a three-to-five-year contract with the schools created by Fellows, and would have the right to terminate programs that were not working out.

The Mind Trust CEO David Harris called the Fellowship program historic. He believes the program will attract candidates from around the country and around the world.

Harris says The Mind Trust, a nonprofit company, will be responsible for raising the funds to make the program work.

Harris said that the key to creating successful programs is to give people the time to create, develop and implement them.

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