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Meet Patrick McAlister, the policy wonk in charge of the mayor’s education agenda

Patrick McAlister was recently named the director of the Office of Education Innovation, overseeing mayor-sponsored charter schools in Indianapolis.
Patrick McAlister was recently named the director of the Office of Education Innovation, overseeing mayor-sponsored charter schools in Indianapolis.
City of Indianapolis

For six months, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has been searching for someone to manage his primary education responsibility — overseeing most of the city’s charter schools and shaping the district-charter partnerships that are a nationwide model.

This week, seasoned Indiana education policy director Patrick McAlister joined Hogsett’s team to do just that. He is the former policy director for the Indiana Department of Education and TeachPlus, a teacher leadership program, and a former member of Teach for America.

As the director of the Office of Education Innovation, McAlister will be in charge of monitoring and holding accountable the 35 mayor-sponsored charter schools, several of which partner with Indianapolis Public Schools as innovation schools. He’ll also lead any city plans to improve education.

Hogsett, a Democrat in his first term, has taken a much less aggressive approach to education than his predecessors, who championed the rapid growth of charter schools in Indianapolis. Instead, McAlister said the mayor has a broader vision to address poverty in the city and sees education as a key piece of that.

Still, Hogsett’s office plays an integral role in expanding Indianapolis Public Schools’ innovation schools strategy of partnering with outside operators to run schools that remain under the district’s umbrella. McAlister said he’s excited to continue that work.

“It’s so unique around the country to have the charter sector and the district working so closely together,” McAlister told Chalkbeat on Thursday. “And I really think the key to that is the mayor has authorization over many of the charter schools in the city, and we’re able to build that strong relationship.”

But innovation schools have been divisive, drawing concerns from supporters of traditional public schools. McAlister said he sees his role as bringing different stakeholders together.

“I want to do more listening than talking,” he said.

And expect McAlister’s past involvement with teaching and teacher training to come into play: He said he plans to advocate for innovative strategies to attract and retain teachers, such as the city’s recent Teach Indy campaign and Teachers’ Village.

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