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IPS, Mind Trust forge deal to continue $100,000 fellowships

Heather Tsavaris, Marlon Llewellyn, Lauren Franklin and Earl Phalen (left to right) were the winners of The Mind Trust's $100,000 innovation school fellowships in 2014.
Heather Tsavaris, Marlon Llewellyn, Lauren Franklin and Earl Phalen (left to right) were the winners of The Mind Trust's $100,000 innovation school fellowships in 2014.
Scott Elliott

Indianapolis Public Schools and education reform group The Mind Trust have worked out their differences when it comes to how to select winners for $100,000 fellowships the group is offering for those who want to developing ideas improve troubled IPS schools.

The Mind Trust announced Wednesday it will now accept applications for the second round of the fellowship program. The idea grew out of discussions with IPS about a new state law designed to encourage the district to partner with charter schools.

But changes will be made to the selection process in response to concerns raised last month by IPS board president Annie Roof and board member Gayle Cosby that The Mind Trust broke its agreement with the district by choosing the first set of fellowship winners without the approval of the district. Mind Trust officials denied that claim.

“We’re more comfortable,” Roof said. “We have an understanding of the timeline and their expectation of us. They were waiting for us to reach out to them. We assumed they would come to us. It just kind of cleared up some miscommunication.”

In the updated agreement approved this week, IPS board members and officials will be allowed to see all application materials, and the district will have more say in approving the finalists.

“I feel like we have a document to work from that will serve as a framework for the next three years, which is what the intended length of the contract was,” Cosby said.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said in a statement that he was supportive of the program. The first school redesigned based on a fellow’s idea could come in 2015, with the two others expected for 2016, as part of what the district is calling the “Innovation Network Schools.”

“We’re pleased to continue this partnership with The Mind Trust and create more opportunities to serve our students,” Ferebee said. “Innovation Network Schools help us execute our vision to transform IPS into the flagship in urban education.”

The first three fellowships — given to a longtime IPS principal, a former counterterrorism analyst and an education entrepreneur team — were awarded earlier this year, and the winners are still developing their ideas. Some will be presented to the district for approval in January.

Mind Trust fellows earn a $100,000 salary plus benefits during the year-long fellowship, along with access to experts in school design, management, and support from The Mind Trust.

“With each round of fellowships, we help to close the gap between the number of students in need of excellent schools and the number of world-class schools in our city,” said The Mind Trust’s CEO David Harris.

Anyone can apply for the fellowships. Applications are due in mid-January.

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