Four months before the Indianapolis Public Schools hand over four schools to a private turnaround operator, the state is accusing the district of “manipulating and obstructing” the transition.
Turnaround director Jim Larson charges IPS has created a series of obstacles, from not turning over student records to removing computer monitors and food-service equipment.
“Over 100 students in the last week, we found out, have been pulled into magnets from one of the turnaround academies,” he says. “But in another turnaround academy, the number has actually gone up 100 — it‘s actually over the current level of enrollment. And so until we see that data, we don‘t know where the students are coming from.”
State school superintendent Tony Bennett says he visited Manual High School last week, and saw dirt trails apparently left behind by now-missing equipment. He says he‘ll take action to ensure IPS‘s cooperation.
Larson says the student records are a critical issue. The private companies want to be able to contact students and their parents to encourage them to stay with the retooled schools. He says IPS has turned over academic records, but not contact information — and no disciplinary records other than to identify students who have been expelled.
IPS spokeswoman Mary Louise Bewley fires back that it‘s the state that‘s rushing to judgment — she charges board members haven‘t contacted IPS at all.
“IPS meets multiple times every month with the turnaround schools staff,” she says. “We have shared information with them that they have requested. If anything, we‘re finding it difficult to get reciprocating information from them.”
She says any relocated equipment was paid for with federal money, not state tax dollars.