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

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