Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

State Board Hands Control Of Takeover Schools To Indy Mayor's Office

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz chairs the February meeting of the State Board of Education.

Nearly 18 months after the State Board of Education brought in new management for five  schools with low test scores, the same body Wednesday voted to hand oversight of four of those schools to the office of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

“We plan on working closely with all stakeholders in our community to ensure the success of these schools,” Jason Kloth, the city’s deputy mayor of education, told board members ahead of the unanimous vote.

The handover, Kloth added, will be contingent upon the Department of Education giving the city funding to hire the staff they’ll need to oversee the outside groups currently operating Arlington, Howe and Manual High Schools and Emma Donnan Middle School.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Jason Kloth, Indianapolis deputy mayor of education, presents his case for his office to oversee four schools that had been previously taken over by the state.

As we’ve written, Ballard’s office — as the only mayor in the nation to sponsor charter schools — is uniquely positioned to handle the new responsibilities. And as the Indy Star‘s Scott Elliott has noted, it’s a win-win for the Indianapolis Public Schools’ board, the mayor and new state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

“It gets [Ritz] out of the awkward spot of having to manage takeovers she doesn’t believe in,” Elliott wrote.

Both of the organizations currently running the schools — private company Charter Schools USA and non-profit EdPower — expressed their support for the switch.

“We think this makes sense. We think it provides for local control and support,” said Jon Hage, the president of Charter Schools USA.

Board member Mike Pettibone voted in favor of the handoff, but also repeated a call for the state to define what success means for the takeover schools.

“Is there an exit strategy to this that the schools are reinstated to IPS?” Pettibone asked. “Or is there not an exit strategy?”

IPS board member Caitlin Hannon says she’s looking forward to working with the mayor’s office.

“We’re grateful for their willingness to collaborate,” Hannon said.

Kloth says the move will come at no additional cost to local taxpayers. He says the state would redirect redirect federal dollars to the city to cover the new oversight costs. Kloth says the city would receive no more than $260,000, and will likely receive less.

(This story was updated from first posting with comments from Kloth, Pettibone and Hannon.)


  • Ron

    Did Ritz have a say in this? Or is this the SBOE’s way of stating they do not trust the ability of the new administration to effectively oversee and provide the level of stewardship necessary to ensure long-term success?

    • Karynb9

      My impression is that Ritz was in favor of this, too. She likes the idea of more local control. She isn’t a fan of the whole “state takeover” idea in the first place. It will be interesting to see if an arrangement is somehow made to get the Gary takeover school out of state hands as well.

      • kystokes

        Ritz is in favor of it — although she didn’t cast a vote from the chair. The current arrangement has no bearing on Gary, and (per Ritz at today’s meeting) Gary city officials have no interest. State board members acknowledged this was a special circumstance and wanted this not to become a precedent.

        • Indy Parent

          Kyle, was there any discussion at the SBOE meeting of whether the Mayor’s Office would add a staff member so that they would have the capacity to field requests for assistance from takeover school parents if or when they need to go beyond the school or takeover operator level to resolve student issues? That’s the piece that seems to missing if the district and IDOE are out of the picture. The office isn’t currently staffed to answer charter school parent phone calls.

          • kystokes

            The Mayor’s Office says it’s going to create the position of Director of Turnaround Schools, at the same level of the org chart as their current Director of Charter Schools (Brandon Brown), who works for Kloth.

            As for how to pay for that… The money Kloth refers to in the last graf of my post is actually federal money that goes to the state to handle turnaround schools. So, at max, Kloth says the city would get $260k for the new oversight & the new staff member. But that may be a gross overestimate. I get the impression they’re at the early stages of figuring out the money part.

  • inteach

    Mayoral control of schools has an ugly track record. Just look at Chicago and New York.

  • Alex M

    Was there an answer to Pettibone’s question regarding what success means? If the charter school organizations are able to improve upon the test scores by a certain amount (whatever amount is deemed successful), would they continue to renew their contracts, or take the schools back over? It would seem the best course would be to keep the successful team in place if they are able to prove themselves. I’d hate to see the schools regress over ego.

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