Imagine…

I’m inviting my readers to an imaginary place where Gayle gets to draw some real-life comparisons and entertain some fantastical thoughts, most of which start with the word Imagine.

These are in direct response to our board meeting last week – the highlights of which are a $3 million dollar CASH price tag for the Phalen Academy deal for next year at school 103 (that $3m is not inclusive of the free building, free utilities, free transportation, free food service, free Special Education and ELL services), passed 6 to 1; an approval to create a one time exception to our own policy to alow a partnership with the for-profit, miserably failing charter school company Charter Schools USA, which operates Emma Donnan, Howe, and Manual High School (passed 6 to 1 also); and also a myriad of other deals including TFA, TNTP (both at Marian University) and a new Principal/Leadership training program at Marian also.

So, my friends, imagine with me…

  • Imagine if this board and administration were willing to invest in our own schools, our own students, our own leaders, and our own teachers in the same manner in which we keep investing IN OUTSIDE ENTITIES.

(Phalen Academy will be receiving at least 1.2 million dollars more than school 103 received to educate the same children.)

(We spend millions upon millions of dollars on outside consultant groups while our teachers beg for relevant professional development.)


  • Imagine if IPS had the unmitigated GALL to try to sell themselves as a product capable of turning around student achievement if our only data showed that the longer we educated black and brown kids, the worse they performed?  Imagine what that media firestorm, and the headlines would look like, if it was IPS instead of Charter Schools USA.

  • Tech and Crispus Attucks are both performing better than any of the Charter Schools USA schools.  Imagine if those two school leaders were given the same amount of consideration…

  • Imagine how you would feel, as an IPS principal or teacher at an exceptional elementary school, when you discover that Phalen Academy, which has no proven track record in terms of an official letter grade from the state or other reliable indicators of student performance, gets a half million dollars before their doors even open while you continuously buy things with your own money to make your school a great place for kids.

You might say I’m a dreamer.

But, since you’re reading this, I know I’m not the only one.

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Thoughts, concerns, questions, are we dreaming in tandem?

Please email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

It goes without saying that this is a personal publication.

How Sweet It IS…to be Phalen Leadership Academy

2015-4-28 IPS_PLA_1321 Agreement

I just had to make you all aware of the sweetest deal in the history of sweet deals.  Next week IPS will be briefed (Tuesday night at 6pm) and vote (Thursday night at 6pm) on a contract with Phalen Academy to take over the operations of school 103, on Indy’s far east side.

For more history on how this deceptive deal came to pass, please see my previous blog post on the Innovation Network Process.

Let’s dissect this agreement, shall we?

What IPS provides: A free building, complete with water, sewer, electricity, heating and cooling, snow removal and lawn maintenance, factilities maintenance, security services, transportation.

IPS even throws in a few copier machines for good measure.

IPS also will provide the staffing and oversight for ALL SPECIAL EDUCATION and ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER programs.

WHAT IPS PAYS:  This is where the contract gets a little murky for me.  If you are a mathmetician or a lawyer, and I’ve made a mistake reading the contract, please let me know.  Here is what I gathered from the document:

$635.91 PER MONTH, per student, payable on the first business day of each month (CONTRACT DOES NOT SPECIFY DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR, SO I’M ASSUMING 12 MONTHS PER YEAR)  $7630.92 per student.  That is equivalent or more than the entire financial allotment per student that IPS would be receiving based on the funding formula.

PLUS:

A “FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT FEE” Which Begins at 10% of the Monthly Payment amount, then decreases by 1% each year following… So add $63.51 per student per month…

In case you didn’t think the deal could get any sweeter than that…

PLUS:

$175,000 “PREOPERATIONAL FUNDS” TO GET STARTED WITH!!

I’m beside myself. If we poured this many resources into ANY OF OUR schools, we’d all be passing the stupid tests.  What are we doing that mirrors this for our own teachers in our own buildings??

As always, if you have comments or questions – email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com

Thoughts are my own, not reflective of official district viewpoints…obviously.

If you’re as pissed as I am, come to the board meeting.  Sign up to be a delegate by calling 226-4418 (although we might have missed the deadline on this one, folks).

Innovation Network, 1321, Phalen Leadership Academy

SO… Here it is, after much prompting from others, and admittedly, some procrastination on my part.  A blog.  From your local school board member.  🙂

Why?  Let’s suffice it to say that if I felt that you were getting the whole truth and nothing but – well, then…this blog wouldn’t be neccesary, would it?

My grandmother used to say that sunshine is the best disinfectant.  To me, that means:  Transparency.  People are empowered by knowledge.  When there are not multiple layers (like an onion) that have to be peeled away before you get to the core, people are provided with true rationales and can make their own judgements.  The public school system of Indianapolis is just that: public, in every sense of the word.  It is free and open to all, and it is funded by public dollars.  Therefore, all of the doings of the governance team are public information and can be found on Board Docs by following this link: http://www.boarddocs.com/in/indps/Board.nsf/Public

During my tenure, I have come to the realization that not many are informed, even myself at times.  My hope is that this blog is informative, and the information provided here is EMPOWERING.

I need you to feel empowered.  I need you to speak up, show out, stand up.  Our kids need you to be empowered to do all of these things and more.

Let’s go.

The first topic I want you to be informed about is timely… just recently it was announced that school 103 will be operated next year by Phalen Leadership Academy.  Y’all really need to know how this deal evolved:

Last year, The Mind Trust was successful in establishing the Innovation School Network.  The board reluctantly agreed to it because the purpose of it was to take applications from individuals who had a school idea and give them a year to incubate their idea before launching a school.

The board vice president (myself) and president were a member of the selection committee.  Which meant that we were able to look at four candidates ( after the ~80 initial applications were screened) and choose three out of the four.  Yes, you heard that right, we got to see about 5% of the applicant pool.

One of the four applications we saw didn’t fit the mold.  It was an already established charter school organization – not an individual with an idea.  It was Phalen Leadership Academy.

We expressed our concerns about the intent of the Innovation School Network program.

We said we would not support it.

Phalen Leadership Academy is new to Indianapolis and does not have accountability grades from the state yet, because they did not have any students in ISTEP grades (3-8).  THE PURPOSE of the Innovation Network is to raise the school’s state accountability grade.  How can we expect to raise our state grade by putting a charter school operator in charge WHO HAS NEVER BEEN GIVEN A STATE ACCOUNTABILITY GRADE?

We voiced our concerns about the lack of available data to suggest that Phalen Leadership Academy would be capable of turning around a failing school.  We said we would not support it.

Phalen was chosen by The Mind Trust anyway (not the selection committee that the IPS Prez & VP sat on, but the corporation) and the principal awarded $100,000 salary plus benefits.  He was given a year incubation period to grow a school model which was already in existence.  Everything proceeded as if the school board had no say in the matter.

When it came time to vote in December 2014, we did exactly what we said we were going to do all along.  WE DID NOT SUPPORT IT. The motion for the partnership failed for lack of a majority, with myself, Annie Roof, and Samantha Adair White voting no.  Mike Brown was absent.  The other three voted yes.

Then a board election resulted in a change of three board members effective January 2015.  Mike Brown, Samantha Adair White and Annie Roof lost re-election campaigns.  The three who supported it stayed.

No time was wasted before the Phalen partnership was put back on the agenda for a second time and subsequently approved.

Even more disappointing than the chain of events I just described is the process by which school 103 was chosen to be the recipient of this trojan horse bestowed upon the district.

PL 1321 allows for these type of charter partnerships to take place within any failing IPS school…so there are several to choose from.  When the board was informed that school 103 was the choice, I immediately questioned the selection process.

Was any work done to determine best fit?  Were students, parents, staff, or the community at large asked to weigh in on this decision?

No, no, no.  They were not, and will not.

How’s that for autonomy?

EMPOWER, people.  Please share, and stay tuned for more enlightening tales from your local school board, at work.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Comments, questions, ideas?  Email me at gayle_cosby@yahoo.com