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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Indy’s weekly newspapers lead in presenting real school reform ideas

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I got a call from Norm Heikens, the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Associate Editor. He and his editors had read my April 12th column wondering when The Mind Trust and other education reformers would start to understand the area IPS serves.

Hiekens asked if I’d share some thoughts on the subject with his readers.

Though plenty of business leaders read this column and your Recorder weekly, many more don’t read the Recorder or even know it exists.

I reminded IBJ readers that the IPS area, which contains just 32.8 percent of the city/county’s population, is a racially diverse area where the majority of households are poor, low to moderate income single parent families and those living alone.

I said the Mind Trust and IPS “reform” plans focuses too much on process and politics; ignoring ideas that would really interest, engage and motivate the majority of district residents.

Any IPS reform plan, in my view, must contain these critical components.

Far too many in IPS (teachers, administrators, other staff) exhibit an attitude of superiority over parents and the community. That arrogance must end!

IPS must adopt a culture of “we’re all in this together to help students.”

This culture, this attitude, must be embraced by everyone – School Board, Superintendent, administrators, classroom teachers, support staff, bus drivers, even security personnel.

If you think I’m overstating this, take the nationwide revulsion over that IPS student bullied for being gay. The student’s principal told the Indianapolis Star that the bullied student brought it on himself.

What inexcusable arrogance! Sadly, that attitude exists throughout IPS.

When IPS (or any school) administrator or official believes a bullied student is the cause for being bullied, it reinforces my strong view that there must be a radical culture transformation in IPS.

Indianapolis must create a Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Not just for IPS, but for every public/charter school in Indianapolis.

I’ve heard so many horror stories, from parents and community members, who tell me of being misled, misinformed and lied to about policies and procedures in IPS, township and charter schools. Its critical parents know and understand their rights for every district and school.

And it’s equally important that all Indianapolis parents be told and understand their responsibilities to get their kids to school, on time; and ways to help their kids succeed.

If they’re serious about improving IPS (and all the city’s public schools), then the business/civic community must make sure there are sufficient programs and services in place, inside schools or in neighborhoods, to help parents fulfill their legal and moral responsibility to further their children’s education.

Employers shouldn’t force a parent to choose between losing pay to personally visit their child’s school on official business. Employers must provide flexibility for parents to be engaged.

We live in an iPad, digital, visual, texting society. Yet many IPS classes still rely on 19th Century teaching models. Mind Trust ignores creating new styles of teaching that motivates students resistant to current teaching methods.

Specifically to IPS, thousands of their recent graduates attend Ivy Tech and the area’s for-profit post secondary institutions. The blue collar character of the IPS area demands a rigorous, modernized vocational curriculum preparing students for 21st Century high tech blue collar jobs. Not everyone is college bound, but IPS must have the curriculum to appeal to non-college bound students.

The Mind Trust argues that for IPS to succeed, most of their schools should be transformed into charters. Yet, charters have the same spotty record as IPS. Some great schools, some so-so schools, some atrocious schools.

UniGov denied Indianapolis a unified school system, which virtually every other major city has. Indianapolis is served by IPS and 29 other school corporations or charter school operators.

Charter schools are proliferating so fast, that in a couple of years there could be as many charters as IPS has school buildings.

In any other Indiana school district, it’s proper to discuss how many schools are enough for a district’s future population. But here in Indianapolis, we refuse to have that discussion.

Schools aren’t businesses subject to marketplace whims. The IPS area, unlike any other district in Indiana, has endured more than its share of educational upheavals in the past 50 years.

Finally, not just for those living in the IPS area, but everyone in America’s 11th largest city wants stability and quality from their public schools.

And note to our invisible IPS School Board. Instead of sulking after you read this, let’s engage in a dialogue of how you can adopt these suggestions to improve IPS for the better. I dare you to engage!

What I’m Hearing

in the Streets

I don’t know how, but one of America’s most radical, racist haters of President Barack Obama, a woman named Orly Taitz, called our WTLC-AM (1310) Afternoons with Amos program to confront Indiana’s new Secretary of State Connie Lawson. The self-styled “queen of birthers” used an assumed name “Lena” on the air and began to spill her hate of President Obama, charging him with criminal acts “investigated” by Arizona’s loony toon Sheriff Joe Arpacio.

But when I humbly asked Taitz to confirm she was the one who testified in February before the Indiana Election Commission to get the President stricken from Indiana’s ballot, Taitz hung up in cowardice.

Later on Taitz’s website she decried how I’d treated her saying I’d “slambed” (that’s how she spelled it) the phone on her. I guess spelling and facts aren’t important to the birther bigots in this country.

See ‘ya next week!

You can email comments to Amos Brown at acbrown@aol.com.

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