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Indy Chamber Forming IPS Operational Analysis Task Force

Posted by chamberadmin on July 21, 2017

We all know that the stakes are high for the future of the Indianapolis Public Schools – for tomorrow’s workforce, our competitive position in the knowledge economy, and creating a livable city where people and employers can thrive.  With Indianapolis among the most difficult cities to escape the cycle of poverty, improving education is the surest path towards upward mobility.    

For all these reasons, the business community must be a partner in progress with IPS.  We need your help as we continue to help the district maintain focus – and funding – in the classroom.

The Indy Chamber supports the findings of the IPS Facilities Task Force on restructuring the district’s high schools, and we’re organizing a new volunteer team to move the plan forward.  Superintendent Ferebee and the Task Force recommend reducing the number of schools from seven to four to reduce overhead costs and avoid cuts to important academic programs.     

In case you missed it, the Facilities Task Force approach would close two high schools at the very edges of the district – Broad Ripple (where many students come from other parts of the city) and John Marshall (already slated to become a middle school).  It would reopen Arlington and Northwest as middle schools, sell two administrative buildings, and strengthen programs at the remaining high schools to offer “career academies” to better prepare students for college and the job market.    

Read our statement on the plan here.   

The Indy Chamber believes IPS must focus all effort and resources on teaching students, not running nearly-empty buildings.  The business community has rallied to help IPS “work smarter” in a challenging fiscal climate.  In 2013, the Chamber organized a group of corporate and civic leaders to conduct an Operational Analysis of IPS.  The district has executed nearly 90% of this blueprint for efficiency, saving millions of dollars a year and slashing central office expenses by more than a third.    

The work of the Facilities Task Force represents the final major strategy of the 2013 Operational Analysis.  Closing schools is controversial, but common sense with fewer than 5,400 high schoolers spread among seven schools with room for nearly 15,000.   

If the IPS Board of Commissioners approves these moves, it will help erase the roughly $20M annual structural deficit faced by the district.  But realizing – and maximizing – these savings will take more than just a ‘yes’ vote from the board in September.  We need a strategy backed by private sector input.   

Once again, the Indy Chamber is forming an independent Operational Analysis team, this time to help facilitate conversation around the use of the properties that remain after restructuring.   

Our goal is to work in partnership with the IPS Facilities Task Force to: 

  1. Validate the recommendations presented by the IPS Facilities Task Force;
  2. Evaluate the parameters and process for the reuse of buildings including Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall High School;
  3. In doing so, develop an approach that offers financial value to the district, to reinvest in academic, while respecting the historic and civic value of the properties and neighborhood needs; and
  4. Advise on the communications strategy and community outreach and education in hope of garnering community support of our recommended actions  

The Indy Chamber is currently in the process of organizing this Operational Analysis team and are looking for interested parties to volunteer.  Specifically, we are looking for roughly 15-25 individuals with expertise/experience in the following areas: 

  • Real Estate
  • Community Development/Engagement
  • Communications
  • Finance
  • Education Policy  

We expect this team to meet at least twice a month until the September IPS board meeting.  These meetings should last 60-90 minutes, with a tentative schedule as follows:

  • July 26th 10-11:30*
  • Aug. 9th 10-11:30
  • Aug 23rd 2pm-3:30pm
  • Sep. 6th 10-11:30
  • Sep. 20th 10am-11:30am  

(School closure release or findings issued on Friday September 22nd or Monday September 15th.)   

If you or someone at your company would be interested in volunteering for this team please contact Lisa Roper at your earliest opportunity at lroper(at)indychamber.com or 317.464.2250. 

IPS has positive momentum: Graduation rates and test scores are up, more students are taking advantage of early college credit and real-world job programs, and enrollment has stabilized as families have an array of educational options to explore.  But budget realities put this progress at risk if changes aren’t made – please consider lending your expertise and insight to this effort.