Who Is In Charge

Digital ed study gets panel nod

A bill that would commission a study of digital education was approved by the House Education Committee Monday.

Testing illustrationThe panel voted 13-0 to advance House Bill 12-1124 to the floor after hearing from a parade of witnesses that was unusually long for a study bill.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of House Ed. It would require the state Department of Education to hire a Colorado-based consultant to conduct a comprehensive study of digital education and report back to the State Board of Education, the governor and the legislative education committees by Jan. 31, 2013.

“I hope there’s legislation that comes out of it [the study],” Massey told Education News Colorado. (But Massey, because of term limits, won’t be in the 2013 legislature.)

If the study is approved, it would join a long list of education issues that have been studied by non-lawmakers before the legislature acted.

  • A 2006 audit of online education programs led to creation of a commission that made recommendations to the 2007 legislature, which passed a law on the issue.
  • Management and financial problems with the Cesar Chavez Charter Network led the 2010 legislature to create a committee to study improvements in charter management and authorizing. That panel’s recommendations are only now being considered as bills by the 2012 legislature.
  • The 2010 legislature also formalized the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, which made recommendations for a new teacher evaluation system to the SBE, which in turn issued rules that this year’s legislature is reviewing.

Problems with online education surfaced again last year (see this examination by EdNews and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network), but Massey’s interest is not in sorting out those problems. Rather, he’s interested in developing data about both online education and in-classroom use of technology to inform future policy decisions.

The study, as summarized by a legislative staff, is supposed to examine:

  • Student eligibility for and access to digital learning
  • The quality of available digital learning content and instruction
  • Funding models for digital learning that create incentives for performance
  • Other states’ experience integrating digital learning into K-12 education
  • The need for information technology infrastructure
  • Current state laws and rules concerning digital learning
  • The extent to which current school accountability measures are appropriate and sufficient
    to measure the performance of online students

Massey said in an interview that he feels a study, rather than legislative action this session, is needed because very little information and data exist now about the issue. “We have to start from ground zero.”

Some witnesses and committee members questioned the use of a consultant, rather than a committee to study the issue.

Massey told EdNews after the meeting that he feels using an outside consultant will be a more efficient way to handle the issue. The bill specifies that the study will be funded by “gifts, grants and donations,” and Massey said at least two non-profit groups have indicated interest in both funding and doing the study. The bill specifies that the consultant “cannot be a provider of digital learning or related technologies, or otherwise have a conflict of interest in conducting the study.”

Massey declined to identify possible bidders for the contract.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, has said he wants to introduce legislation to regulate – or change the funding of – multi-district online education programs, but he hasn’t yet detailed his intentions. He’s keeping his plans, if any, close to this vest.

Massey said Monday he doesn’t know what, if anything, Shaffer is planning.

Read the bill and check the legislative staff summary.

Another current enrollment bill

House Education also gave unanimous approval to House Bill 12-1146, which would authorize school districts and community colleges to make agreements under which certain kinds of students at high risk of dropping out could take high school-level classes at community colleges in order to receive their diplomas. They also would receive college credit for the classes. School districts would continue to receive per-pupil funding for such students and would pay their community college tuition.

The bill is needed to protect existing programs at Front Range Community College and Pueblo Community College, whose funding could be threatened by scheduled changes in overall state law on concurrent high school-community college enrollment.

But Geri Anderson, community college system provost, said other colleges are looking into such programs.

For the record

House Bill 1201001 – This is the bill to ratify the regulations for implementation of the new educator evaluation system. It received preliminary Senate approval.

House Bill 12-1072 – This measure, which would direct the higher education system to create ways for adult students to earn college credit for life experience, received preliminary House floor approval.

Senate Bill 12-051 – The bill would suggest that school boards consider the potential compatibility of outside contractors with school goals and atmosphere when hiring them. It got preliminary Senate floor approval.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.