Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Generally Positive Feedback For Big Changes At IPS

The Indianapolis Public Schools board meets last summer. The board has since added a new member – one of several big changes the group agreed to Thursday night. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

The Indianapolis Public Schools board meets last summer. The board has since added a new member – one of several big changes the group agreed to Thursday night. (Photo Credit: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana)

Some would argue that Thursday was a historic day for the Indianapolis Public Schools district.

As was reported on our site, the IPS School Board approved a teacher pay increase of 12.1 percent – making base pay there one of the highest in Marion County. This is the first raise IPS teachers have seen in five years.

In addition, the board also voted in a new member among their ranks – Eli Lilly and Company executive and former Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Michael O’Connor – in addition to giving the go-ahead for a new strategic plan focusing on autonomy.

RTV6‘s Anne Kelly breaks it down:

It’s a three-year plan that will would alter the way IPS operates. It lays out 22 goals for the district, including giving schools more autonomy to decide where their money goes and hiring a more diverse staff (that better mirrors the student population).

The plan also calls for a major improvement in the district’s high school, with IPS aiming for a 20-percent increase in kids taking Advanced-Placement (AP) classes and a 25-percent increase in students who graduate with honors.

Reaction to all of the above was generally positive from the various stakeholders:

Scott Elliott at Chalkbeat Indiana described the mood of the meeting as “jubilant,” quoting participants who saw the moves as “a potential turning point for the city’s schools:”

“When we heard what we were going to be able to do, I got chills,” board member Mary Ann Sullivan said. “We are breaking through so we can really be competitive.”

State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, who represents the Seventh Congressional District in Indianapolis, said he was particularly excited about the pay increase.

“I want to commend Dr. Ferebee, the IPS Board of Commissioners and the Indianapolis Education Association for negotiating the first raise for our teachers in five years, increasing the starting salary for new teachers and adjusting the scale to help retain mid-career teachers who are likeliest to leave,” Hendry said in a statement. “I’m encouraged that agreements like this one send the message that we must value teachers to keep them in our classrooms.”

Hendry is currently working on a proposal he’s put forth to address concerns about pay in attracting the state’s top students into the teaching profession. He is one of many who have argued that the financial return on a teaching degree is one of the biggest contributing factors to the current teacher shortage in Indiana, as well as nationwide.

This was atop the minds of many, including one concerned and cautiously optimistic parent who spoke with Kris Turner from the Indianapolis Star:

Eugenia Murry, a parent at George H. Fisher Elementary School, said the district made some strides in helping attract quality teachers, but more needs to be done.

“The most important factor in improving our children’s education in the classroom is quality teaching,” said Murry, a member of Stand for Children Indiana, an education advocacy group.

“There were some attempts to help make that happen in the IPS plan, but we think this area needs more work. The district is in the midst of a teacher shortage and needs to take big steps to address that.”

IPS will host a launch event for its new strategic plan Saturday at the Brightwood Community Connector.

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