Future of Schools

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

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
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.

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.

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”