Mind Trust sees strong early interest in innovation fellowships

School 88 last year instituted Project Restore, a program invented by a pair of IPS teachers. (Scott Elliott)

With a week still to go before its first deadline, more than 200 educators have already expressed interest in a $100,000 fellowship for innovators to develop concepts to turn around troubled Indianapolis Public Schools offered last month by the The Mind Trust in conjunction with Mayor Greg Ballard’s office.

Mind Trust officials said they are pleased with the early response. About 66 of the 207 prospects have attended informational meetings or webinars about the fellowship. The next webinar will be held on Tuesday. Go here for details.

The first deadline is also next week. A relatively simple statement of intent to apply for the fellowship is due by May 15, followed by a full application by June 1. A selection committee aims to make its choices by June 25.

The fellowships will be granted to up to three applicants per year and The Mind Trust, a non-profit that supports educational change efforts in Indianapolis, has committed to raising funds for up to nine fellows over three years. Each will take a sabbatical year to work on their ideas for how to dramatically improve schools.

The idea is modeled after another successful Mind Trust initiative, its education entrepreneur fellowship. That program provides a year of support for successful applicants to develop education reform ideas on the condition that they launch them in Indianapolis. Seven fellows having been selected from 3,500 applicants since 2008, with applications coming from 48 states and 36 countries.

In March, the legislature gave IPS the power to hire charter schools or other independent teams of educators to run low-rated IPS schools with more autonomy that a typical IPS school. It was controversial, as teachers unions raised concerns that IPS teaching jobs could be reassigned to outside organizations, forcing teachers out of the union and out from under the job protections and pay minimums of the district’s union contract.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has said he hopes IPS teachers are among those who come up with new models designed through the fellowship. If so, they could follow the path of Project Restore, a school reform model invented by two School 99 teachers now operating also at School 88. Project Restore drove strong test score improvements at both its schools.

Besides pay and a year away, fellows will receive health benefits and office space.

If IPS selects one of the models created by the fellows, Ferebee said he envisioned a three to five year evaluation plan would likely accompany the contract, with expectations of progress by the end of the second year.

Information about how to apply is posted on the Mind Trust website.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.