A heartfelt letter to the district I love: an invitation to stand for what is right and not permanently close three of our high schools.
First of all, I love you, and I want you to be better, that is why I am writing this letter. Truly, you have provided a decent education to me, generations of my family before me, and to my children. We may have been privileged in ways that let us see a better side of you, because I know not every person that has tried IPS has liked it. But for mine and my children’s experience, I am overall grateful.
So, about what is happening right now – I have questions. So do others in the community -questions left unanswered by your recent listening tour. It was overly structured to limit participant interaction with the decision-makers. Not a good look.
I understand the intent is to close three of our high schools. (I say “our” because you need to understand that these belong to the community and the people of this community. I assume shared ownership, as do many others.) This really is heart-wrenching news, never mind which three have been chosen.
We, the community, have been thinking. What does it mean that IPS is closing three traditional public high schools, yet partnering with charter school entities to open other new high schools at the same time? These actions MEAN something. First of all, they mean that there are definitely high-school aged students within IPS boundaries looking to enroll somewhere. If that weren’t true, then why would the charter schools be opening? Secondly, why isn’t IPS working overtime to attract those kids to enroll in the traditional public high schools, instead of closing our schools and resigning those kids to attend the new charter schools? We say ‘resigning’ cause, hey – we’re biased but – those schools have no history, no SOUL. A hundred years from now, will our descendents proudly tell their kids that their grandparents graduated from Connections Academy? From Carpe Diem? The Excel Center? There is no sense of place or space associated with these names…online? A cubicle farm? A strip mall? No offense intended, but I’ll give somebody a dollar if these institutions survive the next decade or two.
But what of the legacy and history of Broad Ripple, Crispus Attucks, Arsenal Tech, George Washington, Shortridge, Northwest, Arlington, John Marshall? We’ve seen it happen before – one of those spaces closes its doors and it rips a big hole in the fabric of our community. It takes years and hundreds of needles and thread to heal that damage…and the spot still always looks and feels different.
We have established that the closures aren’t really due to a lack of students, since IPS is partnering with charter high schools as we speak. So WHY is this happening? Race wasn’t mentioned once in the initial report on the school closures, but it seems that every time IPS schools are shifted or closed, it is due to race. (The creation of Attucks, strategic location of other schools historically, but I digress). Right now, Indianapolis is in the beginning stages of gentrification, meaning that lots of white people are coming back to center township from previous iterations of white flight from the city core. Is the racialized stigma of IPS so embedded in the collective white conscious that white students STILL cannot attend IPS? [White students comprise 20% of the current IPS population]. If this is not it, then what is it? What is the reason that since circa 1954 Brown v. Board, (well -really IPS dragged its feet until around 1980) – IPS has never been truly integrated?
IPS, you are positioned uniquely. I know, for decades your superintendents and board members have been tasked with implementing the charges of the city’s power elite, but… You can break those chains! Stop giving our public resources away to charter school money-makers, and stand as a true beacon of opportunity for all who choose to settle within the boundaries of IPS. Instead of selling three of our community’s school buildings, seek alternative means of income or consolidation such as leasing or renting excess properties. Develop strategies to attract all families to a school system of equitable offerings that reach all learning styles. If you are successful in building a quality public education, you will not need to lease extra building space for long. As the population of center township increases, so will the enrollment of IPS.
We know this is a big task. Undoing decades of self-selected segregation is going to be hard. But if you don’t step up now, the education inequity gaps already in place in Indy will become great crevasses, swallowing up black and brown communities all over our city. We already see the most desirable magnet schools being heavily populated by white students. If you continue down your current path, you’ll get the same apartheid results on a larger scale. Don’t close our schools, and don’t allow magnets and charters to become additional layers in a caste system of schooling. Do the right thing. This is your last chance to prove us wrong.
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