Community meetings planned for tonight at Broad Ripple High School and Wednesday at Arlington Community High School could be the first steps toward a state takeover of those schools.
Manual, Northwest, Howe Community and Washington Community high schools and Donnan Middle School — are set for next month.
“The point is for people to give suggestions for how the state can help their schools,” said Emily Acklin, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education.
Under the state’s school accountability laws, schools that fall in the lowest category of “probation” because of low test scores for six consecutive years can face sanctions from the state Board of Education. The seven IPS schools are among 18 statewide that have been on probation for five straight years and are awaiting this year’s test scores to see whether they failed to measure up for a sixth straight year.
The sanctions can range from a required reform plan from the state board to a takeover of the school, in which the state hands control of its operations to an outside group. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has said he would like to see some schools taken over.
IPS spokeswoman Mary Louise Bewley said that if there are going to be turnaround efforts at IPS schools, the district should be allowed to manage them.
“We think we have the skills and the expertise to do that,” she said.
Takeover is not guaranteed. The state board must wait until test scores come out this summer to determine whether schools saw enough gains to escape sanctions.
For high schools, end-of-course exam results likely won’t be released until July, Acklin said. The state board expects to announce in August which schools will be taken over.
Even at schools that ultimately are identified for state takeover, the change will not be immediate. The Department of Education is still evaluating proposals from companies and organizations interested in managing troubled schools. Contracts won’t be signed until the end of the summer at the earliest, Acklin said.
As a result, the upcoming school year has been labeled a “transition year” for takeover schools, during which an outside group will begin working with the existing school staff on a plan for the 2012-13 school year. In the fall of 2012, the outside group will receive per-student aid to operate the school independently of IPS and will have the right to make key decisions, including the hiring and firing of teachers.
“We hope to see a lot of community members attend these meetings to let the Department of Education know how we feel about these schools,” Bewley said.
Those who attend the public meetings can make suggestions for other turnaround approaches besides takeover, Acklin said. The state board has the latitude to choose options such as merging schools or dictating a reform plan for the existing staff to follow.
“If there is another choice, it could go into effect right away,” she said.