Dear IPS,

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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2 thoughts on “Dear IPS,

  1. Gayle: The essay is a strong and impassioned plea to not only your former peers on the board and the current IPS administrators, but to all Marion County citizens. I see you’re framing the current school closing issues in terms of race, and I agree. Why?
    The recent Attucks documentary shows from 1927-1950, IPS white families knew, whether they agreed or not, their children would not be going to school with black children. Many stayed with IPS as it tried to circumvent mandated integration. Yet, in the late ‘60s, when most knew integration was inevitable, they left the district: “white flight” (In 1968, IPS had 110,000 students, by 2015 >30,000).
    This implied there were places in the county for whites to fee to—thus white schools. And, due to decades of systemic housing/realtor practices keeping black families from renting/buying homes in areas outside Indy, there were such places.
    To help us see how the past is still here in a new form, let’s look at the relationships among gentrification, closing some IPS high schools, and the 2 Herron “Master Narrative” High Schools which are based on a Classical (Western culture) education and its methodologies.

    Click to access Are-Indys-educational-wars-ending-or-has-IPS-ever-been-at-war-with-charters.pdf

    John Harris Loflin
    Parent Power

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  2. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Ms. Cosby. Sadly, I don’t know what it’s going to take to halt this Charterization trend that was never meant to become what it has become. And failed desegregation (never mind integration) is a large part of what is happening. But is the culprit also the effort to make schools into religious and capitalist havens? I refer to the voucherization of Indiana education. These two trends go hand in hand. Former discriminators now ask – If I can’t judge you by your color, can I judge you by your faith? Or perhaps by your pocketbook? I don’t know if looking at these questions will help. The die is cast, and the current IPS Board is destroying the system of which they are in charge in the name of being so called “innovators”. What if they had resisted the Tony Bennett tornado that swept in and devastated public education in one fell swoop? What if Magnet and Options had TRULY been system wide? We can dream, can’t we?

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