Category Archives: history

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.

 

Comments permitted on this thread.

Questions/comments?  Contact the author at grhynear@iupui.edu

 

Black lives matter.

Disclaimer:  if the thought of having bold conversations about race issues is a turn-off, then read no further.  If you are sensitive or thin skinned, then this article may not be for you…because my intent is not to be offensive. The Indianapolis community needs to have broad, fearless conversations about race…and in order to figure out where to go – we first need to understand where we’ve been.  Here’s my attempt at an easily digestible history lesson, and food for thought about what is happening now.

1877 law stated that if no local school facility existed for black students, they could attend a school designated for whites.

An unintended consequence: by 1920, there were about 800 black students enrolled at Shortridge, Tech, and Manual High School – because there was no high school for black students at that time.  Apparently the 1877 law was based on the assumption that black students would attend to the 8th grade and then leave school.  When blacks sought a high school education and began to significantly populate these white institutions, some community members began to raise a fuss.  This fuss raising ultimately led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School – where black children, for decades, attended…until desegregation.

At its peak, IPS enrollment reached over 100,000 students in the late 1960’s, with 11 high schools.  A federal court order mandated that desegregation of IPS schools be achieved by busing black students to townships to attend school.  After several years of appeals, busing finally began in the 1981-82 school year with 5,600 students being sent out of IPS to attend school in the townships.  It is notable that no students from the townships were bused into IPS to attend school.  It is also notable that the busing of black students to the townships likely spurred many disenfranchised black parents, with no means of engaging in their child’s school – inaccessible, way across town.  The loss of students caused the  closure of Shortridge and the conversion of Crispus Attucks to a middle school.  Desegregation of Indianapolis schools also undeniably caused a mass exodus of white folks who had the means and desire to flee the city to do so.  They left as fast and as far as their money would carry them – to places where the schools remained homogeneous.  The combination of busing and white flight over the decades has arrived at our current enrollment of around 30,000 students.

Why is this history important?  What is on my mind?

The fact that my husband came home shaken at the news of a former student murdered this past March.  He did not graduate.

The multitude of stories that have been confided in me by students over the years – the pre-teens who have mothered their younger siblings, the boys whose entire futures have hung, heavily suspended,  in the split-second space of a trigger pull, the 12 year old girl, robbed of her innocence, telling me about the miscarriage she had two years ago.

The 15 year old boy that the police killed over the weekend.  No dash cam.  No body cam.

Are our educational opportunities in Indianapolis still segregated, many decades after were we ordered to change?

In every school, do we not only see faces of every race represented – but do children with varying degrees of social capital and resources attend school together?  Do they not only learn from the same teachers, but maybe more importantly, learn from each other?

To take it a step further, what are the adults and the decision makers doing to create the conditions for this to take place?  Where are schools being intentionally designed to serve children of all races and economic means?  Give them equitable sets of “tools”?

If you see it, please let me know. Give me some examples.


Sidener (gifted and talented school) is 49% white, 26% black

CFI (school 2) downtown is 67% white, 14% black

CFI (school 84) Meridian-Kessler is 82% white, 7% black

CFI (school 27) King Park/Fall Creek is 35% white, 46% black

The entire district is 20% white, 50% black, 23% Hispanic

Source: IDOE Compass


Above I have illustrated the demographics of some of IPS’s more “in-demand” magnet programs.  If we were truly desegregated, ALL of IPS schools would roughly be microcosms of our overall demographics in the district.  Instead, we see pockets of white students concentrated in certain schools.  District policies, such as the sibling preference policy and the neighborhood/proximity boundary preference policy ensure that these demographics don’t change much.

All I see are the conditions being created for: the expansion of gentrification, and the perpetuation of a system which continues to impoverish and further disadvantage some… and we all know that those invisible lines of socioeconomic status – are usually marked with black and brown pens.

This society was built on oppression.  The U.S. was founded on inequity and inequality.  Need proof?  Women not being allowed to vote.  Blacks being considered three-fifths of a person.   It’s systemic.  Does our educational system continue to foster this oppression?  I think many of us would like to turn our cheeks and say, “No, this is just a part of our sordid past.  This is not happening – not here, not today.”

But it IS here, and IT IS TODAY.

What are we going to do??

Maybe my anguish won’t let me see the positive right now…too many traumatic endings for me to process.

My thoughts are my own and do not reflect any entity or any other person or sets of people.

Thoughts? Email me:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com