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New school takeover rules on the table for state board

The Indiana State Board of Education will hold its March meeting Wednesday.
The Indiana State Board of Education will hold its March meeting Wednesday.
Scott Elliott

The Indiana State Board of Education will consider changes to the state’s takeover process for failing schools at its meeting Wednesday.

The board in August named a turnaround committee to recommend changes in its process for trying to fix schools that go six straight years with F grades, based mostly on test scores. Since the first five takeovers in state history in 2012, the effort has been fraught with conflict and confusion as major issues emerged regarding who controls what aspects of running the schools. Meanwhile only one of the five schools has seen its grade improve after two years: Manual High School went up to a D last year.

Under state takeover, failing schools are severed from school district oversight and turned over to outside groups — so far all charter school operators — to be run independently under a contract with the state.

That has resulted in huge battles in Indianapolis and Gary over issues ranging from who controls student data and ground rules for recruiting to who is responsible for furnishing band equipment and paying for expensive repairs to keep the schools heated.

Public Impact, a North Carolina-based national education consulting firm, has worked with the committee since October to develop the changes.

The board will also hear a request from Charter Schools USA, the turnaround operator at Indianapolis’ Emma Donnan Middle School and Manual and Howe high schools, about extending its contract by five years and for permission to reconfigure grades at Manual and create a new charter school within Donnan’s building.

A decision also is expected to resolve the situation at Arlington High School, a former IPS school which entered state takeover in 2012, because its operator, Tindley Accelerated Schools, has asked to end its contract early at the end of this school year.

IPS has previously said it would be willing to take back control of Arlington and merge it with John Marshall High School at the Arlington site.

In Gary, Edison Learning, which operates Roosevelt High School, has expressed concerns about its ability to work with the district further. The company has openly battled with the school district over the poor condition of the building and who will pay for utilities.

Also on the agenda is a reconsideration of state Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s recent announcement that schools can request to make up snow days with online lessons. That suggestion brought questions from board member and college professor Brad Oliver, who wrote on his Facebook page that such policies shouldn’t be created without input from the state board.

The education department posted guidelines for how the process would work on its website in September. They require school districts that want to use online learning in place of snow days to submit plans for how it would work to the department prior to using a snow day.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Watch the live video and follow reporters Scott Elliott and Shaina Cavazos on Twitter for updates.

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