Tonight’s briefing session: 10-27-2015

The outcome may not have been perfect, but I think that the community’s involvement in the current agenda before the board has had some positive effect.  Following the forcible removal of Larry Vaughn, a well-known community activist, the board heard several other thoughtful delegations from community members on both sides of the issue.  There was a sizeable crowd present.  All seats appeared to be taken, and there were a few folks standing in the back and out in the lobby.  There was some media coverage of the issues before and after the meeting via WRTV6, Chalkbeat, and WFYI.

The result?

  1.  The board agreed to postpone voting on the move of school 70 to locate CFI #4 in Meridian Kessler.  That vote will take place FOLLOWING community conversations with schools scheduled November 2, 3, and 4.  However, voting on the closure of the Key School will continue as planned for Thursday.
  2. The board also agreed to retain some critically important policy language that speaks to diversity and inclusion:

“The Board believes that a high quality education is most effective in a diverse setting. Therefore, a major purpose of this policy is to promote diversity and avoid the isolation of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. Diversity for purposes of this policy refers to the inclusion of students of both genders and different racial, ethnic, socio­economic, limited English proficient, and other special needs backgrounds. IPS must respond to the needs of all children in a setting that does not isolate, stereotype, or fail to educate them effectively. Diverse and integrated schooling has inherent educational value from the standpoint of education’s role in a democratic society. The survival and vigor of democracy depends upon an educated citizenry with shared concerns about the welfare of society, its members, and the democratic principles that govern it. Diversity brings different viewpoints and experiences to classrooms discussions and thereby enhances the educational process. It also fosters racial and cultural understanding, which is particularly important in a racially and culturally diverse society. In addition, research shows that integrated education expands post­secondary opportunities for diverse populations. A policy that supports quality education in a diverse and integrated setting for all students will positively affect students who will live and work together in a culturally diverse society and enhance their educational success.”

The same policy language also directs the Superintendent to enact targeted recruitment if there is under-representation of any student groups in magnet enrollment.

Rather than do away with all of the policies addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion, the board agreed to have a revision drafted for consideration on Thursday which will include the language above.  (YAY!!)


Here are my commissioner comments in their entirety:

“Tonight’s agenda is problematic on a number of levels.  It’s problematic because 1) it marginalizes children of color in order to accommodate a small select group of white, middle to upper class children and families – 2) the process by which we assign students to magnet schools in this district does not alleviate DOCUMENTED disproportionate numbers of white students in our most desirable magnet programs and 3) it’s a huge problem for me that no input was sought from school communities and families on this important decision to close a school, move a school, and locate a new CFI about a mile away from an already existing CFI school.

So, to my first point, the proposal from the administration that was just introduced to the board last Monday will close the Key School (80% minority pop), move school 70 (90% minority pop), in order to be able to locate another CFI school on the north side. Despite the claims from the IPS administration that the students on the waiting list primarily live on the north side, only about ¼  to 1/3 of the 310 kids waiting live in Meridian Kessler, Butler Tarkington, or Broad Ripple areas.  Besides, the north side already has several high performing school options including CFI 84 (which is 82% white) and the Butler Lab School, (58%) white.  Keep in mind that the entire district is 20% white – which speaks to a high concentration, or disproportionality, in relation to the overall enrollment of students in the district. 

This move is continuing a pattern of “building grabs” that was initiated last year when Gambold, the CFI-feeder high school, was moved from out on west 38th Street to displace an existing program at Shortridge High School. 

My second point is that we need to examine the root cause of this inequity.  How did we get to this point?  It lies in the way in which students who apply to magnet schools get placed into the schools.  This week we will be asked to vote to remove language from an existing policy on assignment to magnet schools- board policy 5120 – this language reads, “5. The Superintendent shall evaluate the extent to which the applicant pool for each magnet and option program reflects the diversity of the District as a whole. If an identifiable group of students is substantially under-­represented in the applicant pool for any magnet or option program, the Superintendent shall direct targeted recruiting of applicants from the under­-represented group before the random selection process begins.”  I see a huge problem in removing language from this policy which serves to protect the kinds of demographics that we see now.

Further, the tiered system of preference that determines who gets seats in our magnet programs perpetuates inequity.  The first seats go to siblings of currently enrolled students.  After they are placed, then seats go to kids living within the proximity boundary, which right now is a mile.  After that a larger geographical boundary is considered, and finally preference is given to IPS employees children.  Only then are remaining seats available to the broader magnet school applicant pool.  This current tiered system of preference does nothing but perpetuate huge gaps in access for students of color, and all but ensures that our magnets do not become more racially integrated.  One of the intended purposes of magnet schools nationwide was to integrate urban school systems, and other cities have achieved some success.  That is not the case in Indianapolis – and it will not be if we are eliminating language from our policies to address under-representation.

Third, in the age of ‘IPS transparency’, I am very disappointed in the fact that the IPS board (or, at least, I) was unaware of this plan until last Monday.  Even more disconcerting is the fact that families at all of the affected schools are not scheduled to have any discussion until the week after the vote is already done. 

Look, I am just one voice up here.  When I am done speaking, the audience will be inundated with plenty of reasoning as to why this is a good idea. A lot of that commentary will choose to focus on grade level configurations on the setup of different buildings.  Comments may also include data about the high number of minority children enrolled in other schools or magnet programs – WHICH – is NOT disproportionate BECAUSE IT CLOSELY REFLECTS THE OVERALL ENROLLMENT OF IPS AT 75% MINORITY.  But it’s past time for us to confront the real, underlying issues at hand here.  Are we going to continue to marginalize and disenfranchise our 75% black and brown kids for the comfort and convenience of a few?

I WILL NOT.”


Thanks, community, for your support and attention to what is happening with IPS.  Stay engaged!!  The vote on the fate of school 70 and the new CFI will be taken at 6pm on November 9th.  It is also a public meeting allowing for comment.  I hope that you all will continue to make your voices heard.

(My views are my own and do not reflect those of the IPS board as a governing entity.)

Comments or Questions?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

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Who are IPS’s magnet schools supposed to attract??

As I outlined in my previous post Black Lives Matter, based on data taken directly from the Indiana Department of Education’s website, the IPS district has an overall black enrollment of 50%, a white enrollment of 20%, Hispanic enrollment of 23% (although that is technically not a race, but an ethnicity).

However, certain magnet programs in certain neighborhoods seem to have enrollments of white students that are disproportionate in relation to the numbers above – in particular, the highly popular Center for Inquiry (CFI) magnet programs.

There are currently three CFI schools:

CFI downtown at 725 N New Jersey……67% WHITE, 14% BLACK

CFI Meridian Kessler at 440 E. 57th…….82% WHITE, 7% BLACK

CFI in King Park/Fall Creek 545 E. 19th…….35% WHITE, 46% BLACK

(All data obtained from Indiana Dept. of Ed. Compass website)

Keeping the above demographic information in mind, why is the IPS administration proposing the addition of a fourth CFI school to be located at school 70, currently a performing arts magnet school at 510 E. 46th Street, about a mile away from the CFI school already existing in the Meridian Kessler area?  School 70’s student body is currently comprised of 75% BLACK students.  The entire school/student body of the existing school 70 will be moved to the Key School located at 777 S. White River Pkwy West Dr.  In order to make all of this possible, the students that are attending the Key school currently (69% BLACK) will have to find a new school – because the Key School program, a longstanding (20+ years) program based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, will be CLOSED.

The most damning part about ALL of this??  The parents at all of the affected schools will not have a chance to discuss until AFTER the board votes.  The parents at each school are not scheduled to be officially informed by the IPS administration until the first week of November.  The vote will be taken on October 29th at the Action Session, 6pm, 120 E. Walnut St.

On the Amos Brown show on Friday, October 23, IPS Superintendent stated that the reason that the school 70 location was chosen was because most of the kids on the CFI waiting list live nearer to school 70.  However, a map made public by IPS showing the distribution of all kids on the CFI waiting list simply does not corroborate that statement:

map8

To quote Amos Brown’s assessment of the distribution shown by the map, “Of the students on CFI’s waiting list who live in IPS, but 25% live in the Butler-Tarkington, Meridian/kessler or Broad Ripple neighborhoods. Some 37% live south of 10th and 16th Street. A figure that rises to 64% when you include students wanting to attend a CFI who live between 38th and 10th and 16th Streets. Just a quarter of the so-called demand for CFI lives in the so called priority northside areas IPS seems to be catering to. In fact looking at the a chart of where School 70 and where CFIs waiting list students live, it make a strong case for putting a fourth CFI school at the Key School location just south of downtown.”  (Excerpt from Amos Brown – 1310 Podcast)

In fact, before Amos aired this particular show, I made that exact same suggestion – why not put the new CFI at the Key School location?  My suggestion was summarily dismissed.

Why does it appear that the black community of Indianapolis is getting the short end of the educational stick…time and time again??  Even though black students comprise 50% (the majority) of the total student body of the IPS district?

About a year ago in 2014, we saw a similar “building grab” when Gambold (the IB High school which these CFI programs feed into) displaced a program and its student body at the prestigious and historical Shortridge High School.  The reason?  The principal stated that he was not getting good parental involvement out on the far west side.  He needed a building that was more “centrally located”.

In my opinion, there appears to be a pattern developing here.  School buildings that are located in middle to upper class (especially north side or gentrifying neighborhoods such as Fall Creek) can be given the boot at any time to make way for a school that serves predominantly white students.

Another significant root to this problem lies in the way that applications for admission to magnet programs are honored.  There is a tiered system of preference in place that dictates how students are placed into the magnet schools they’ve applied for:

magnet lottery logic

As you can see, the siblings of already existing students get first dibs on the available seats.  Second dibs go to those families that live with a mile radius of the school (although there is an argument about whether to draw that circle in even closer to the school).  Proposed for a vote next week is a third tier which would give preference to families who have been on a waiting list for multiple years and never gotten into their school of choice.  The fourth tier of preference refers to the school’s geographic boundaries (different from the smaller proximity circle).  The fifth and final tier of preference goes to children of IPS employees – and in the case of the Butler Lab School and Shortridge High School – preference to children of Butler University employees.  Only after all of these preferences are met will the magnet lottery consider admitting students from the wider, general pool of applications.

After reviewing the current board policy on student assignment to magnet programs, I found an interesting point that needs to be brought to light:

5. The Superintendent shall evaluate the extent to which the applicant pool for each magnet and option program reflects the diversity of the District as a whole. If an identifiable group of students is substantially under-represented in the applicant pool for any magnet or option program, the Superintendent shall direct targeted recruiting of applicants from the under-represented group before the random selection process begins.

As demonstrated above, the student bodies of CFI are not in proportion with the overall demographics of the district.  This board member wonders the extent to which this policy directive has been carried out, or will be carried out, in order to seek more integration in our magnet programs.  However, it is worth noting that this would only apply prior to the random selection process, which I assume would mean AFTER the application of all of the tiers outlined above.

Would you like to weigh in on this topic at the meeting next week?  The board is scheduled to have a briefing session on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm, in which discussion will take place on the agenda items.  On Thursday, October 29th at 6pm, the board will vote on (but not really discuss) the agenda items.  The public has the right to sign up to delegate (speak for 3 minutes) on any topic on the agenda, or offer general comments.  Worth noting is the fact that Thursday’s action meeting is televised, but Tuesday’s briefing is not.  You can sign up by filling out the form at this link:

http://www.myips.org//cms/module/selectsurvey/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=267

Alternatively, you can sign up by calling 226-4418.

Do you have questions or comments for me directly?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

In an attempt to end on a good note:

In other (national) news, it appears that we will soon be seeing an end to the era of “high-stakes” testing, with Obama’s goal being established that no more than 2% of classroom time be used in taking tests : http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/10/24/obama-schools-test/74536886/

Have you subscribed to my blog yet? You will be notified by email when a new blog comes out. You can do so by clicking the tab in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Watch for my next blog – it’s gonna be a doozy!!

“Conversion to Innovation”

Next month, in October, we will get further information and have discussion on the biggest steps toward school ‘autonomy’ yet.  District schools, next year, will be encouraged to move into an Autonomous status (principals will control their own budgets) and then to move toward Innovation School status.  As an “Innovation” school the school will have obtained a 501 C-3 (non-profit) status.  This means that they will operate entirely independently from the district, have their own board, employ ther own teachers.  Once innovation status is obtained, the Mind Trust will give the school $50k.
Here are screenshots, showing the details:
auto3

This is a three-tiered system:

auto1

Schools will be able to move from Traditional > Autonomous > Innovation status in the following manner:

auto2
More information on the timeline and process:
auto4
The community is largely unaware of this plan at this point in time.  
Help spread the word: the above are slides from public documents concerning this plan, obtained from IPS board docs, from meeting held September 16, 2015 at Broad Ripple High School: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public  Share this blog, or share the link…but the community should be informed of this process so that they can engage.
**UPDATE** I made corrections to some of the language in the original blog.  I was mistakenly under the impression that this would be voted on by the board next month.  I was informed that this would not require a board vote…because it is borne out of the strategic plan.
These views are my own and are not affiliated with the IPS district or board in any way.

Annie ain’t got no…interview??

Annie Roof, IPS board president last year, was denied the opportunity to interview for a board vacancy. My thoughts…

Before I get started, let me first say that it was a pleasure to hear from three candidates this evening who interviewed for the board vacancy.  They were all smart, intelligent, capable people – well suited for a role in IPS governance.  I’d really be fine with any one of them joining the board.  That decision will be made tomorrow, and I’m already at peace with that decision, however the votes may go down.

There were four applicants, though.  Only three of the four were selected to interview tonight.  And in my humble opinion, the one candidate who was cut prior to the interview process was single-handedly the most uniquely qualified person in terms of sheer experience.

Annie Roof, who just ended a four year term on the board, and who served as the board president last year, was the fourth applicant, and she was denied an interview.

ADR

We did get emails in support of Annie.  Several, in fact.  We could have gotten hundreds, but I don’t think it would have mattered… No consideration was given to constituent support demonstrated in the emails, just as no consideration was given to the fact that Annie’s recent board experience would have allowed her to hit the ground running.

Some of you might think that I am advocating for a friend.  That this is personal on my behalf.  While I do indeed consider Annie a friend now, that friendship was not built with sugar and spice.  Annie and I had our share of disagreements in the time we served on the board together. Annie’s IPS voting record speaks to her independent streak – we certainly did not see eye to eye on every issue.  I find her ability to respectfully disagree and not hold grudges to be a rare, and refreshing quality.  If anything, her independence might have restored some balance to a board that is, at times, divided – without compromising the fact that there is a clear majority.

The meeting tonight in which we interviewed the candidates was sparsely attended.  Really, I think there was one single attendee besides the media.  Granted, there was a simultaneous meeting regarding teacher pay that probably trumped in order of importance for people who would regularly attend these types of things…but the 2016 election is quickly approaching.  Four seats (out of a seven member board) will be up for election in November 2016.   If you don’t know the politics of your public school board, now would probably be a good time to start acquainting yourself.

My thoughts are my own and do not reflect those of the IPS board in its entirety or any other organization.

If you’d like to contact me, I can be reached at:

gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

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

Autonomy for Automatons 101

There is an IPS ad-hoc committee meeting to discuss ‘autonomy’ Friday, July 3rd, 1pm, in the board room.

I have come to hate the word autonomy when it is used in the context of education.  Why?

Quite simply, because it is the most overplayed word in the world of “ed reformers”.  Maybe Indianapolis ed reformers, especially.

Everyone reading this blog probably knows how language can be carefully massaged and crafted until it means something entirely agenda-specific.  This is precisely what has happened to the word, and the concept, of school autonomy.

Let me explain.

On the face of it, the concept of school autonomy is a very promising one.  So promising, in fact, that I used the word quite a bit in my 2012 campaign to describe a utopian ideal where teachers, principals, students, parents (AKA the school community) had a great deal more influence over…everything.  Staffing, Curriculum, Title I Funding – to name a few.  To me, the word autonomy connoted a school community freed from many of the top-down processes of the bloated IPS central office.  Sounds pretty good, right?  I thought so.

As time has passed and I’ve gained experience in my role as a commissioner, I’ve come to learn that autonomy is really a code word for something much darker and more sinister.  The word has gradually been co-opted.  Instead of reflecting a wide variety of options that could be weighed carefully and selected based on what suits our city’s needs, the ed-reformers in this city use the word ‘autonomy’ to refer to anything associated with the PORTFOLIO SCHOOL MODEL, which is the true agenda of the current IPS board majority.

THE PORTFOLIO SCHOOL MODEL is the brainchild of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), run by Paul T. Hill – whose educational background is in political science, not education.

Since the current board majority and administration have been doing the bidding of the powers-that-be in Indianapolis, the Portfolio School Model has already begun to be implemented here in IPS, despite the fact that true discussions on “autonomy” have not taken place yet (The first meeting of the ad-hoc committee takes place Friday, July 3rd at 1:00pm at the Ed Center.  Yes, it is an IPS holiday.  I know, crazy, right?)   Here is proof from the CRPE website that the portfolio model is already being implemented in our city, without any input from IPS stakeholders whatsoever:

CRPEportfolioprogress

And this, from a CRPE white paper:  CRPEportfolionetwork

Dear constituent (taxpayer, parent, teacher, student, resident of Indy)…do you see this as a problem?  The utter foundation of public schooling as you know it is being shifted without your knowledge, let alone your input.  Remember in my last blog post when I shared with you that “the citizens of the District are to be viewed as the ownership and clients of IPS, to whom the Board is primarily responsible and for whom the Board acts”?  This comes directly from IPS policy, and I am giving you a direct example of a violation of that policy.

Google ‘Portfolio Schools’, look beyond the barrage of CRPE links, and read for yourself how this has played out in the network of cities mentioned above.  There are plenty of examples like this article about Philly.
The Portfolio Model operates on the premise that a free market approach will “weed out” lower performing schools by replacing them with private options – whether they be for-profit or non-for-profit charter schools or vouchers.

Kenneth Saltman of the National Education Policy Center (2010) has conducted research on the portfolio school model and this is his conclusion:

Although the strategy is being advocated by some policy centers, implemented by
some large urban districts, and promoted by the education reforms proposed as
part of the Obama administrations Race to the Top initiative, no peer-reviewed
 studies of portfolio districts exist, meaning that no reliable empirical evidence
about portfolio effects is available that supports either the implementation or rejection
of the portfolio district reform model.
Nor is such evidence likely to be forthcoming.
Even advocates acknowledge the enormous difficulty of designing credible
empirical studies to determine how the portfolio approach affects
student achievement and other outcomes. There are anecdotal reports
of achievement gains in one portfolio district, New Orleans. The New Orleans results,
however, have been subjected to serious challenge. Extrapolation of research on the
constituent elements of the model is not helpful because of the complex interactions
of these elements within the portfolio model.
Moreover, even when the constituent elements are considered as a way to predict the
likely success of the model, no evidence is found to suggest that
it will produce gains in either achievement or fiscal efficiency. Finally, the policy writing
of supporters of the portfolio model suggests that the approach is expensive to implement
and may have negative effects on student achievement.
In light of these considerations, it is recommended that policymakers and administrators
use caution in considering the portfolio district approach. It is also highly
recommended that before adopting such a strategy, decision makers ask the following questions:
What credible evidence do we have, or can we obtain, that suggests the
portfolio model offers advantages compared to other reform models?
What would those advantages be, when might they be expected to materialize, and how
might they be documented?
If constituent elements of the model (such as charter schools and test
based accountability) have not produced advantages outside of portfolio systems, what
is the rationale for expecting improved outcomes as part of a portfolio system?
What funding will be needed for startup, and where will it come from?
What funding will be necessary for maintenance of the model?
Where will continuation funds come from if startup funds expire and are not renewed?
How will the cost/benefit ratio of the model be determined?
What potential political and social conflicts seem possible?
How will concerns of dissenting constituents be addressed?
If you find these truths to be unsettling, I would urge you to print of this list of questions, and attend the IPS ad-hoc “autonomy” committee on Friday, July 3rd, at 1:00 pm.  It will be held in the IPS board room at 120 E. Walnut.  Be prepared to hear the Portfolio Model packaged very beautifully, like a gift you can’t wait to open, with a bow and everything.  You’ll have to be very discerning to hear the elements of school privatization woven oh-so-carefully into the conversation, but it will be there.  You won’t get to speak…yet.  But your time will come.
The truths expressed here are as I see them, are mine alone, and do not reflect the views of any organization officially.
If you’re as concerned as I am, please email me at: gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

On Governance

What the IPS Board should be doing…and what it should not.

Some people were quick to point out that my definition of democracy varied from Webster’s – after my last blog post in which I related some of my experiences as (non)democratic.  In order to avoid further confusion, let’s review the definition of governance together now:

Governance refers to “all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through LAWS, NORMS, POWER or LANGUAGE.”

To be clear, we are going to discuss governance, or (non)governance, in reference to IPS, a formal organization.  Whether you deem it to be governance or (non)governance depends entirely on your point of view.  My point of view on this matter just so happens to be front and center, since I am still technically one out of seven people who together comprise the governing body for Indianapolis Public Schools…although I must admit, I’m feeling like I’m definitely on the fringe of the group.  Maybe even on a last-to-know basis.

I guess they don’t like my blog, y’all.  Sometimes the truth is so bright it’s blinding.  It could make you run for your momma.

Any-whoo, my views are my own and I have never purported to represent the views of the entire board… And I still think there’s something like protected free speech in this country.  So let’s go.

The definition of governance above refers to four processes of governing: through LAWS, NORMS, POWER, or LANGUAGE.  Let’s explore these, shall we?  I think it will be fun!

The laws which outline governance for the Indianapolis Public Schools can be found in Indiana Code 20-25-3 sections 1 through 15, among others.

The bylaws are developed by the IPS school board and are our way of governing ourselves and the way we conduct business.  Our bylaws can be viewed by visiting board docs – I am including a link because it’s very tricky to find on your own and requires some navigational skills.  Once you visit you should probably bookmark it.  This site is where you will need to be if you care to view our meeting agendas or policies.  You can find the categories for bylaws, meeting agendas and policies at the top of the page.
If I could pick just a few of the most telling bylaws it would go something like this:
The school board exists to govern a free K-12 public education for children within IPS boundaries. (PURPOSE)
The Board shall have the management and control of all facilities and programs in the Corporation and the employees, students, and other persons entering upon its premises. (POWER: not as individuals, but as the governing body collective)
The Board shall focus its efforts on maintaining adequate communications with citizens of the school district:
 The citizens of the District are to be viewed as the ownership and clients of IPS, to whom the Board is primarily responsible and for whom the Board acts.
(Bet you didn’t know you had this POWER, did you?  The board was elected by the citizens of the IPS district and is therefore expected to reflect their wishes!)
Members of the Board have the responsibility to attend all Board meetings, intelligently and objectively discuss items on the agenda, make suggestions and recommendations in the best interest of the total educational program, and vote upon motions and resolutions presented in accord with their conscience. (defining expected NORMS)
It is important that Board members be non-partisan in dealing with school matters and not subordinate the education of children and/or youth to any partisan principles, special interest group, or personal ambition. (defining expected NORMS)
Individual Board members have no unilateral authority to make decisions about policies created by the Board, and Board members have no unilateral authority to supervise or direct the Superintendent but no member of the Board shall be denied documents or information to which s/he is legally entitled and which are required in the performance of his/her duties as a Board member.  (defining expected NORMS)
Since I have been on the board, in just the past couple years, I have seen a significant shift in the norms, or unspoken rules and expectations of the school board.  This really is the most important part of this particular blog entry, and one that I hope constituents will pay the closest attention to. When I first became a commissioner, we had six meetings per month.  There were two big meetings, one agenda briefing session on the 3rd Thursday of each month, and one action session on the following Thursday where votes were taken on the items we were briefed on the preceding week.  There were also four smaller committee meetings per month.  The four committees were Legislative, Education, Community Outreach, and Operations.  The intent of these committees was to provide a public forum for discussion on relevant topics before they reached the briefing agenda.
Contrast that with the current board meeting schedule: two regularly scheduled meetings per month.  TWO.  One briefing and one action session, which take place only two days apart, on the last Tuesday and Thursday of the month.
In the “AGE OF TRANSPARENCY”, the IPS board has cut our public interactions and information-giving sessions in the form of regularly scheduled meetings by 66 PERCENT.
The second norm shift that I have noticed is a new paradigm which suggests that board members fly at 30,000 feet above the district (mentioned in articles by the Indianapolis Recorder and Chalkbeat Indiana).  I am in absolute agreement with the fact that the board’s job collectively is to navigate the course, while the superintendent drives.  However, I have received way too many phone calls from disgruntled constituents who have tried to get other commissioners to listen to their concerns, to no avail.  In light of the IPS policy language illuminated earlier, The citizens of the District are to be viewed as the ownership and clients of IPS, to whom the Board is primarily responsible and for whom the Board acts,” I find this to be a morally reprehensible stance.  We are officials elected by the people to represent the people.  If we cannot hear the voices of the people we represent while flying at 30,000 feet, then we are not doing the job we were elected to do.  Unfortunately, some elected officials feel beholden to the organizations which financially supported their campaigns (or indirectly pay their paychecks, or support them in other ways) rather than to the voters, taxpayers and residents of their district.  Yep, I said it…and yep, I got that money too.  Good thing I had a wake-up call, a revelation, an epiphany of sorts.  You can read all about how that happened in a previous blog entry of mine.
Closing thoughts on governance:  If special interest groups, politicians, well-to-do investor types, tokens, and other windbags all over the city can abuse their POWER to influence NORMS and LAWS and craftily co-opt LANGUAGE to spread false tales about the good they are doing our children with this privatization scheme…

then certainly I can find POWER in truthful LANGUAGE that illuminates an immediate need to challenge purchased legislators’ LAWS and the NORMS that accompany corrupt forms of GOVERNANCE.

(UPDATE: There are some policy revisions on the agenda for the upcoming week.  Some of the aforemetioned policy may be subject to change.  I’m also taking bets on how long THIS –> The citizens of the District are to be viewed as the ownership and clients of IPS, to whom the Board is primarily responsible and for whom the Board acts”   language will remain as a part of IPS policy, now that I have lifted it up.  It certainly is not evidenced in current practices of the board majority.)

My thoughts are not reflective of anyone other than myself.  If what you have read today concerns you, please email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

The definition of governance excepted from: Bevir, Mark (2013). Governance: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.