IPS partnership to co-manage Emma Donnan in doubt

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Donnan Middle School was taken over by the state and handed off to be run by Charter Schools USA in 2012. The school now includes an elementary school in partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools.

A charter school company may be backing away from a plan that would return some control over Emma Donnan Middle School more than two years after it entered state takeover to Indianapolis Public Schools.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said tonight that confusion over whether the Indiana State Board of Education is willing to hand back control of takeover schools to their home districts caused the Florida company to pitch an alternative plan that would instead give the state board direct oversight of an expansion at the South side school.

That would mean asking the state board to vote to allow Charter Schools USA to expand Emma Donnan into a K-8 school overseen by the state board. Under a less direct partnership, the school would still work with IPS and the district could count the school’s test scores under the state A to F accountability system. In return, IPS would help the charter school recruit students in lower grades to the school.

“CSUSA has changed a little in terms of their messaging on what the partnership may look like,” Ferebee told the IPS school board. “They’re probably responding to the state board. I personally would rather see us try to handle it together versus apart, but if we can’t get there, we can’t get there.”

Charter Schools USA, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, first pitched partnering with the district to create an “innovation school” under under a law created last year by House Bill 1321. That law gives IPS special authority to create autonomous, charter-like schools under the district’s authority.

The company said under its proposal “takeover schools can be transitioned back to the school corporation over time without jeopardizing progress that has been made by the turnaround provider and without major disruption to the community.”

The IPS board informally backed that plan, since it would mean IPS would get back some control over a school that was taken over by the state for poor test performance in 2012 and formally severed from the district’s oversight But state board members balked at completely ending state takeover.

IPS’s attoreny, Hud Pfeiffer, said even though the school wouldn’t be considered an innovation school, IPS would still have more control if it backs the partnership.

Meanwhile, he noted, lawmakers are considering in House Bill 1638, which could expand state takeover. That bill, authored by Republican Rep. Bob Behning, passed the House Ways and Means committee today and could go to the House floor for a final vote this week.

Pfeiffer said talks are continuing, and the state board has the final say over what happens. IPS expects the state board to take up the matter at its March meeting.

Ferebee urged IPS board members to back even the slimmed down partnership — or he said the decision would likely be made for them.

“We’re at a point where we can either bring something to the State Board of Education or we can be uninvited from the conversation,” Ferebee said. “I think what we’re trying to do is be proactive to make sure we’re a part of the conversation. Based on the legislation that’s already been proposed, the train has already left the station. We need to decide at some point to make sure we are on board or not.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.