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Aggressive Petitioning and Transportation: School Board Meeting

El'ad Nichols-Kaufman, School Board Correspondent

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On April 24, the IPS school board met in an agenda planning session.  Before the meeting began, there was a community meeting about transportation which was attended by several students. In this meeting, it was announced that the proposal which will be voted on Thursday will move IPS to a two tier system. high schools will start at 7:20 and elementary schools at 9:20. Shortridge was granted an exemption to the high school start time, and will start at 9:15. This has raised some questions about how all the schools whose time was moved were neighborhood schools from more impoverished areas.

Some people also came to criticize Durham, a contractor which runs seventy percent of IPS’s buses, and how it was mismanaging the transportation system. Others spoke about how IPS had miscommunicated to parents and family about whether or not Shortridge’s start time will be changed, and how the process did not actually accept community feedback. Dr. Ferebee, the superintendent, claimed that IPS never said that anything was finalized, and that Shortridge always could have stayed at its own time. Most people who spoke agreed that IPS should keep families in the loop about what is actually happening.

Superintendent Ferebee talked about issues caused by the delaying of the referendum. Because IPS’s budget crisis has been put off to be solved until later, there will need to be $22 million dollars worth of cuts made to IPS schools. Should the referendum not pass, Ferebee mentioned that the district might  have to cut transportation entirely, and possibly end all non-essential services to focus money to classrooms. This is because state and local tax revenue flowing into IPS has been decreasing constantly over the last few years, and a cap on property tax which keeps IPS from raising more money.

The other major issue debated in the meeting was the conversion of SUPER school 19 into an innovation school. The school exists currently as a magnet, and its administration wants to gain more money and autonomy to change its program. It has been gathering signatures on a petition to show community support for the move. However, one community member read a letter from a teacher at the school who feared mentioning her name to avoid being fired. The letter talks about how members of the school administration have yelled and threatened teachers who refuse to sign the petition, and how the petition has been put in the place of a sign in sheet at parent meetings, with all parents told that they must sign. Many of these parents don’t speak good english, and can’t read that it is not an ordinary sign in sheet. A few other teachers gave an identical set of remarks in favor of making the school an innovation school.

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