In your wheelhouse?

Dateline: Tue 17 Apr 2012

If they built this city on schools and not rock and roll, or more accurately, sports, what a swell town it would be.

In that vein, please consider attending this Thursday's Meridian-Kessler All-Neighborhood Meeting which is all about education. Place: DeveloperTown at 5255 Winthrop Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The program will begin at  7 p.m. and is slated to end at 8:30 p.m.

The lineup is terrific, according to the email announcments being sent by the MK Neighborhood Associaton:

"Meridian-Kessler is pleased to welcome a panel of education experts to discuss public education in our neighborhood. 

  • Mary Louise Bewley, Director of IPS School Community Relations (specifically to discuss IPS-CFI (84), IPS-Arts Magnet (70), IPS-School 91, IPS-Reggio School, and Broad Ripple High School)
  • Jason Kloth, Deputy Mayor of Education, representing Charter schools
  • Delana Ivey, President of Parent Power
  • Carol Craig, retired IPS teacher and principal
  • David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust
  • Karega Rausch, President of Stand for Children"

My MKNA newsletter also lists Indy Star columnist Matt Tully as moderator; he's done more than anyone else in communications to promote the discussion on the status of the city's schools. Areas of discussion will be Indianapolis Public Schools Center for Inquiry (School 84); the arts magnet at IPS 70; IPS 91, a Montessori school; the Reggio School, Broad Ripple High and "other options." The mayor's man Jason Kloth will discuss charters.

This is a freebie, so take advantage.

My only disasspointment is that Kelly Bentley is not on this panel.  She is the former IPS board member and longtime IPS booster (graduate herself, proud mom, all that) who has become a take-no-prisoners critic of Eugene White's leadership and IPS' top-heavy and extremely well-paid administrative staff. Her comments are always worth a listen, and guess what? She does not do PR for anyone.





Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"My only disasspointment is that Kelly Bentley is not on this panel. She is the former IPS board member and longtime IPS booster (graduate herself, proud mom, all that) who has become a take-no-prisoners critic of Eugene White's leadership and IPS' top-heavy and extremely well-paid administrative staff. Her comments are always worth a listen, and guess what? She does not do PR for anyone."

I agree with you completely Ruth. IPS continues to cut hundreds of teacher jobs annually (increasing many class sizes to ridiculous numbers) while at the same time supporting a "lifestyles of the rich and famous" top-heavy bureaucracy.

So much of the time, we are reading/hearing in the Indianapolis news media about supposed "solutions" from the very people who have created these problems.

2012-04-17 13:44:00

ruthholl [Member] said:

WB, I briefly heard on radio today -- 93.1 fm -- that IPS is going to cut some of those high-end jobs. Let's keep our ears to the ground....
Abdul once posted the salaries of all those heavy hitters. It was shocking to see how many are six figures. And from what I hear from those inside, a lot of times the bigger jobs are simply "cover your ass" and keep on collecting the big bucks.
Thanks for your comments, as always.

2012-04-17 13:48:28

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Dr. White has a long history of protecting admins. It's a cottage industry.

Kelly knows her stuff. On this issue, she's not bitter. She's mad. School governance in Indiana is an impossible mix of requirements. If more school board members paid attention like Kelly, instead of becoming parrots for superintendents, we'd be better-off. Alas, we're not. And too often if a board member asks questions, (s)he is labled "obstructionist" or "micro-managing."

Pay close attention to who throws around those labels. It's usually administrators--or their sock puppets.

Kids always lose in that equation. Always.


Meanwhile, the Mind Trut, deputy mayor for education, et al....can cuss and discuss this all they want. IPS is impossibly broken. The sooner we realize it the more kids we can help.

2012-04-17 15:20:58

hendy [Member] said:

IPS isn't impossibly broken. It just needs a new tax base and a consolidation of the township, Carmel-Clay, and a few other districts. The duplication in staffs is abysmal.

Then we could watch Tipton County, Shelby County, and others become the new white flight suburbs. Growth! Profit! Cornfields of new housing additions! It's all waiting!

In all seriousness: you have a school district full of poor people. Lots of single parents, and for most, both (who have them) must work. Start by giving them a funding chance, consolidate, and bring pride to kids that try. There was a reason that we gave a free public education to kids and charter schools are robbing them of that chance so that no one needs to fix the fundamental problems.

2012-04-17 18:38:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Yeah, Hendy, it is impossibly broken. Can't possibly be fixed.

It's just that simple.

That's not a happy conclusion. It is a conclusion derived from solid knowledge of the budget and organization of IPS. There arne't enough fingers to plug the holes in the dikes.

On top of the institutional challenges you cite, the district is still hemorrhaging cash. The patient cannot be saved.

If IPS was a horse, it'd be very sick, and we'd shoot it.

2012-04-17 21:03:44

hendy [Member] said:

TTT, with all due respect, you've given up because you can't see past your anger. Indeed it must be fixed. Forget what you feel about Dr White. Take a deep breath. It didn't nearly fall apart in a day, and it's not going to be fixed in a day. One mountain at a time.

First, support those kids. They're the next generation. Get behind them, instead of in front of them. Then, PAY THE GODDAMN MONEY IT TAKES. Yeah, more than it needs to be. Yeah, painful. Yeah, it's a huge bill that's come due because it's been sleazed on for two, maybe three full decades. But do it now, before a fourth decade's bill comes due and the stack of cash gets that much taller.

Then, embrace those kids. I'm not kidding. They're unloved by a lot of people, the Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome. Put the blame where it's due. Not the kids. Then pay the bill. Now, please.

2012-04-18 08:00:57

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

IPS is like the elderly lady in the commercial who cries, "I've fallen and I can't get up."

Yeah, mostly I agree with TTT.

But I do agree with many points made by Hendy. It is about the kids and about the socio/economic conditions - the social injustice - that has created the conditions they must try to overcome to be successful in life.

I grew up like a lot of these kids and I know how difficult it is, as a child, to summons a mind-set of wanting to build a decent life when one's parents could care less.

But a huge overall bureaucracy with self-serving education bureaucrats is not helping the problem. The administrators and school board dine on lavishly catered meals at their meetings while grade school principals and teachers have to beg for toilet paper for their kids.

IPS wastes/misuses enough money that throwing more into the pot isn't a solution that is attractive to me.

And.....somehow, someone smarter than I am has to figure out a way to care for these disadvantaged kids 24 hours a day, not just the seven hours a day they are in school.

If IPS is completely dismantled, I am skeptical that any real progress can be made with helping these children unless and until someone figures out a way to make their home lives more safe, healthy and nurturing.

2012-04-18 12:28:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I had my time in the barrel, Hendy. I'm not angry, I'm terribly disappointed.

The central office is too large, and they control all the big decisions. They have the board majority in their laps. There is suppression of anythought that doesn't echo Eugene's. ("Meddling!" "Micromanagement!") His several good points are overwhelmed by his ego and his bad points. In a bottom-line game, he was long ago expendable, and every day he stays, he drags down the whole system. Like swimming Lake Michigan with lead boots.

I've read this book, participated first-hand in another incarnation. It will crash and burn. The components are corrupted.

No chance at all to survive. The quicker we stop baling, and abandon, the sooner it can get rebuilt. The fantastic work being tried by multile groups, is almost lost in the vastness of it all.

You rebuild this mess by gutting the central office. Honestly, all we need at that level, in this wasteland, is a Super or two, and some accounts payable/receivable folks, and some solid HR admins. Banish the press office, which costs a quarter-mil a year. Get rid of all the "curriculum coordinators." Push decisions down to the principal level. And get rid of the bad principals that Eugene--and predecessors--have been shoving around for decdes. This is not now and never was a problem of bad teachers. If bad teachers are in place there is only one component that can get rid of them--a building admin who puts in the necessatry time to document the push-out. And there are so few good building-level admins that they're swamped.

Sorry, sorry facts.

2012-04-18 13:51:10

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

TTT. You know what you are talking about. Ditto.

2012-04-18 14:10:48

hendy [Member] said:

Ok, I'll go out on a limb. My aunt was president of the IPS school board. She was the one that capitulated to the litigation in Judge Dillin's court. There are a few things that I have some personal knowledge of. But let's do look at facts.

You point to Dr White as an ineffective leader, and that his management have a direct bearing on the malaise. For a moment, I'll concede the point. Not because I don't like him, because I do.

I want you to look at the demographics. Start with 47% of children coming from homes with single parents. Then 28% of them below the poverty level. 100% of the high schools built before 1968. Seen a new football stadium recently?

Contrast that with North Central, who has a new, if slightly budget-cramped natatorium. Look at the cost of Carmel HS's football stadium, which is a healthy fraction of the entire building budget for IPS. There are deep funding inequities here, based on bad models. The retrofit for IPS building is huge, because these buildings were built when steam heat was part of the law, as were coal-burning boilers. Things have been changed over, but look at the costs.

The map of the IPS follows the old, pre-Unigov boundaries, the old city limits. That's why Wash Twp Schools has this unbelievably jagged historical boundary, handily landing some pretty choice residential properties inside its boundaries, robbing the IPS.

In Center Twp, many of the buildings are government, or 501c3/6 corps, and produce no tax revenue at all. Or they're Lilly where tax abatement is mandated because Lilly $$ is so important that we alter the geometry of the city to accommodate them. This is called by politicians, "progress". I call it: unequal protection under the law. But it's legal... because we know who buys the laws.

There are lots of kids that need special care in IPS that aren't found in other townships, and I don't have the numbers because they're NOT RELEASED. I can only repeat hearsay, so I caveat this; by student population, IPS has about double or more of the special needs children. And they do their best to service those children's needs, which are in some cases, substantial.

Does it matter where the bureaucracy has their office? There's going to be one. For Wash Twp, it's over on 86th St just E of N Central. Lovely building. If it's on Ft Wayne St, do we care? It's about effectiveness. Yes, it's top heavy, but you're only picking the easiest, most visible target. What they need is demographics-- or in lieu of that, real, actual tax dollars and a commitment from the legislature to stop crapping on them.

2012-04-18 17:42:33

Kelly Bentley [unverified] said:

Ruth and others--thank you for your kind words.

IPS is broken. That doesn't mean there aren't some great teachers, schools and programs, because there are, but they are suffocating under a dysfunctional district structure that does not support excellence, creativity or innovation. And even more of a problem is that no one is being held accountable.

@hendy--you bring up some very valid points, but poverty does not cause bloated bureaucracies, does not cause schools to have ineffective (boarding on incompetent) school leaders, and does not cause a complete lack of accountability. People cause these things. People who make their living off the backs of children.

2012-04-19 07:41:54

hendy [Member] said:

People cause everything. The costs for poor people are higher, coupled to higher infrastructure costs, and lower demographic income.

Poverty is actually expensive, because people's basic needs have to be met. School lunch programs. Remediation assistance. Special education evaluation costs and care. Lots of buses with special ramps, or special buses dedicated to the needs of physically challenged individuals. Specially trained teachers and assistants to help with programs. Some of these costs have federal remediation, it's true. But poverty is actually expensive, because a minimum common denominator is required.

It's nice to have a soccer mom. But soccer mom is working, bringing home the meals because the other parent is absent. Kids are left alone. You don't see gang tagging in Westfield. That's because the gangs hang around the center of Indy. Kids can't participate in sports because their parents can't afford it. The IPS sports facilities are old, tired, and in the case of some of them: laughably small. But the kids try, and they try again.

These people aren't making money from their dependents. There isn't an entitlement mentality-- people are struggling. Unemployment is high, as is the cost of daycare and after-school care. Remember: 47% of the children in IPS have a single parent or guardian at home. Try this. It's no fun, and it's really expensive in terms of the time you can spend with your kids, pay the bills, wash clothes, put food on the table, and live.

Go on. Kick out your spouse. See what a wonderful time you have with your children. 47%.

2012-04-19 18:34:41

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Hendy, I can only speak for myself, but I agree with your diagnosis of the problems. However, I also feel the current administration is not doing well under the circumstances and is not showing any capacity to improve.

2012-04-20 23:14:00

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