In the State of the District Address on Sept. 20, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson gave an update on the Rebuilding Stronger Plan that had previously faced criticism from educators and families.
The plan consists of school configurations that closed six buildings over the summer. The district recently filed a lawsuit against the state arguing that the district is exempt from selling buildings to charter schools for $1.
“For as long as I can remember, our most exciting and comprehensive offerings were concentrated in neighborhoods that were whiter and wealthier. Now, for the first time, every family in our city can access our best stuff. What was once a privilege is now a right,” said Johnson.
Her address spoke to the future of equity and diversity amongst all IPS students to receive the same type of opportunities across the district.
Johnson said this all adds up to a range of offerings and a power of accessible choice for all families that has never before been possible.
“For too many years, we’ve watched as vital resources were shifted away from some of the students who stand to benefit most: non-native English-speaking learners, students with disabilities and a crucial group of early learners,” said Johnson.
“We can do better. We can invest in solutions that make it possible for working parents to support their families while their children learn; solutions that accelerate learning for our students today.”
Johnson expressed her gratitude to the community for passing a capital referendum and highlighted the district’s recent academic achievements.
The graduation rate has risen steadily over the past few years to 80%, cutting in half the gap between IPS and the state; 90% of teachers who taught in schools that closed have remained within the district.
“In my past few annual addresses, I’ve come to you with stories of heroism in the face of a global pandemic. I’ve come to you with hard budget realities and asked you to support a referendum that our classrooms and teachers relied on. I asked for your ideas and your patience as we’ve re-envisioned our district,” said Johnson.
“With more and better choices but fewer schools, I’ve asked for grace as we implemented those changes.”
IPS’ four high schools now have their own girls flag football teams. IPS and Wayne Township are also piloting a Colts- and Nike-sponsored league.
Johnson said the district will offer more elementary and middle school sport camps and clinics next year and more academic choices for students. Middle school students now have access to band and orchestra, world language, algebra I, computer science and music classes.
Additionally, the district is offering more pre-K options and more high-demand instructional models for elementary school, such as Montessori and dual-language immersion.
“It’ll take all of us fighting for what our students need, but there are solutions, and together we have them. Indianapolis has shown me that time and time again,” said Johnson.
Parents like Samantha Hughs and Tanesha Wright are now more supportive of the district’s plans than they previously were.
“We’re getting used to everything, and I know my son is learning how to adjust to the new changes. He said he keeps hearing about schools changing grades, and he’s just happy there won’t be any little kids when he’s in middle school,” said Hughs.
While Wright is also hopeful, she is eager to see the district’s plans fulfilled through more physical changes.
“I can physically see some changes, like I know they just redid some things at Arsenal, and it’s a process for everything. I’ll tell you that I see the vision, but it’s going to take more than just complaints behind closed doors to make sure that that vision aligns with what we want for these kids,” said Wright.
Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.