Future of Schools

New Indianapolis Public Schools contract offers (small) raises for most teachers

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Indianapolis Public Schools teachers will get a raise this year, under a contract approved by the board Tuesday.

The contract is retroactive, so teachers will get a windfall of pay going back to late July. Raises will range from $400 per year for experienced teachers to nearly $2,400 per year for teachers in their third year. The most experienced educators are not eligible for raises but can receive bonuses.

The contract, which covers the 2017-18 school year, was ratified by the union Monday, and approved by the board at its meeting Tuesday. It is not as generous for experienced teachers as the one it replaces, shrinking the potential raises they can earn. But it also avoids the pain that teachers endured during pay freezes that lasted from 2011 to 2015.

Since the district is operating at a deficit, negotiating raises for teachers at nearly every level of experience was a win for the union, said Indianapolis Education Association President Rhondalyn Cornett.

“We did the best we could with what we had,” she said. “I feel like we got blood from a turnip to be perfectly honest.”

Most teachers will get a raise of a little over 2 percent, said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Teachers also will not have significant increases in health insurance costs, he said.

“We also wanted teachers not to be frozen … which is difficult to rebound from,” Ferebee said. “We are still working through years of frozen salaries now to try to get our teachers at a better place.”

The raises are based on individual teachers moving up the pay scale because of positive evaluations and their experience in the district. But the amount teachers earn at each rung of the scale changes under the new contract. It gives teachers in their second year a much larger jump in pay than last year. It also reduces potential pay increases for teachers later in their careers.

Under the contract, teachers who are rated effective or highly effective and who have worked in the district at least 120 days during the prior school year will receive raises. The bottom ($40,000) and the top ($59,400) pay for teachers will hold steady. (Teachers already at the top of the pay range will be eligible for one-time bonuses of $1,188 this year.)

The middle of the salary scale will change, however, with teachers earning about $1,293 more when they move up a step. That’s a change from last year, when teachers got different raises (ranging from $200 to $2,300) depending on where they were on the pay scale. The changes are required so that the contract complies with new state regulations.

Another notable change in the contract is a pilot program that will allow the district to place newly hired teachers anywhere on the pay scale — in consultation with the union — regardless of experience. That opens the door for the district to pay extra to hire teachers for hard-to-fill positions, such as for the new high school career academies, special education or at particularly hard-to-staff schools.

“We just know that there are certain content areas or positions that demand a higher compensation,” Ferebee said. “It is a trend in the market we are in now. Teachers shop employers. They are looking for the best compensation to support their families, and IPS needs to be in the mix.”

The idea of allowing superintendents to pay some teachers in their districts more than others is controversial. State lawmakers have repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, proposed bills that would allow districts to pay some teachers more than the union-negotiated pay scale.

Earlier this year, the district used a little-known provision in state law to remove teachers at John Marshall Middle School from the district union. IPS leaders told Chalkbeat it was so they could pay teachers more. An email the administration sent educators offered math teachers $7,000 and science and English teachers $5,000 to transfer to the troubled school.

The contract also includes bonuses of $2,500 to $5,000 to entice high school teachers to stay with the district as it reconfigures high schools.

The contract continues to offer teachers stipends of up to $18,300 for positions that are part of “opportunity culture,” a leadership program where skilled educators work with multiple classrooms.

The hourly pay for teachers involved in workshops, curriculum-writing and tutoring increased slightly. The minimum rate rose to $20 per hour, and the maximum increased to $40 per hour, depending on the task.

Finding a home

Denver school board permanently co-locates charter elementary in middle school building

Students and staffers at Rocky Mountain Prep's first charter school in Denver cheer in 2012. (Photo by The Denver Post)

A Denver elementary charter school that was temporarily granted space in a shuttering district-run middle school building will now be housed there permanently.

The school board voted Thursday to permanently place Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest charter school in the Kepner Middle School building, where it is sharing space this year with three other school programs. Such co-locations can be controversial but have become more common in a district with skyrocketing real estate prices and ambitious school quality goals.

Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest is part of a homegrown charter network that has shown promising academic results. The network also has a school in Aurora and is expected to open a third Denver school next year in the northwest part of the city.

Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest was first placed at Kepner for the 2015-16 school year. The placement was supposed to be temporary. The district had decided the year before to phase out low-performing Kepner and replace it a new district-run middle school, Kepner Beacon, and a new charter middle school, STRIVE Prep Kepner, which is part of a larger network. The district also temporarily placed a third charter school there: Compass Academy.

Compass has since moved out of Kepner but the other four schools remain: Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest, Kepner Beacon, STRIVE Prep Kepner and the Kepner Legacy Middle School, which is on track to be completely phased out and closed by June 2019.

In a written recommendation to the school board, district officials acknowledged that permanently placing Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest at Kepner would create a space crunch.

The Kepner campus has the capacity to serve between 1,100 and 1,500 students, the recommendation says. Once all three schools reach full size, officials expect the schools will enroll a total of approximately 1,250 students. Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest currently serves students in preschool through third grade with a plan to add more grades.

“DPS facilities staff are currently working with all three schools to create a long‐term vision for the campus, including facility improvements that ensure all three schools have what they need to continue to excel,” says the recommendation from Chief Operating Officer David Suppes and Director of Operations and Support Services Liz Mendez.

District staff tried to find an alternate location for Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest but were unsuccessful, the recommendation says. The district does not have many available buildings, and competition for them among district-run and charter schools can be fierce. In northeast Denver, seven secondary schools are currently vying for the use of a shuttered elementary.

Future of Schools

Indianapolis needs tech workers. IPS hopes that George Washington will help fill that gap.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy

Indiana companies are looking for workers with computer expertise, and Indianapolis Public Schools leaders want their students to fill that gap.

Next year, George Washington High School will launch a specialized information technology academy designed to give students the skills to pursue careers in IT — and the exposure to know what jobs even exist.

“Half of what kids aspire to be is either someone they know does it or they’ve seen it on TV,” said Karen Jung, president of Nextech, a nonprofit that works to increase computer science preparation in K-12 schools. Nextech is partnering with IPS to develop the new IT program at George Washington.

For teens who don’t know anyone working in computer science, meeting role models is essential, Jung said. When teens see women of color or artists working in computer sciences, they realize there are opportunities for people like them.

“Once we put them in front of and inside of workplaces … it clicks,” Jung said. They believe “they would belong.”

The IT program is one of three academies that will open in George Washington next year as part of a broad plan to close nearly half of the district’s high schools and add specialized focus areas at the four remaining campuses. In addition to the IT academy, George Washington will have programs in: advanced manufacturing, engineering, and logistics; and business and finance.

The district is also moving to a model without neighborhood high schools. Students will be expected to choose high schools based on focus area rather than location. This year, many current high schoolers were required to reapply in an effort to make sure they enroll in academies that fit their interests.

The district will host a showcase of schools to help parents and students with their selections. The showcase runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Indiana State Museum.

Stan Law, principal of Arlington High School now, will take over George Washington next year. (Arlington will close at the end of this year.) He said the new academies offer an opportunity for students to see what they need to master — from soft skills to knowledge — to get good jobs when they graduate.

“I want kids to really make the connection of the purpose of high school,” Law said. “It is that foundation for the rest of your life, in terms of the quality of life that you are going to live.”

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Stan Law

When the IT academy launches next year, students who select the program will be able to spend about one to two classes per year focused on information technology, said Ben Carter, who runs career and technical education for IPS.

Carter hopes the academies will reshape George Washington and other IPS campuses by connecting potential careers with the work students do everyday at school. Students who share a focus area will be in a cohort, and they will share many of the same core classes such as English, math and history, said Carter. Teachers, in turn, will be able to relate what students are studying in their history class to projects they are working on in the IT program, for example.

To show students what a career in information technology might look like, students will have the chance to tour, connect with mentors and intern at local companies.

“If I’m in one of these career classes — I’m in software development, but then I get to go to Salesforce and walk through and see the environment, to me as a student, that’s inspiring,” said Carter. “It’s like, ‘oh, this is what I can have.’ ”

He added. “It increases engagement but also gives them a true sense of what the career is.”