Home / US Education / John Harris Loflin on the recent failure of an Indy mayor’s charter school, Indiana Math and Science Academy South–a Gulen network charter

John Harris Loflin on the recent failure of an Indy mayor’s charter school, Indiana Math and Science Academy South–a Gulen network charter

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Below is research that activist
John Harris Loflin recently wrote concerning the failure of one of the Indy mayor’s charter schools, the Indiana Math and Science-South. 
John’s research, insight, and history into
the Indiana Math & Science Academy—South is well worth examining.

The Indiana Math and Science South was one of the Gulen-led schools in Indianapolis.   I devoted 10 pages to Gulen in Hoosier School Heist (you can read my
interview with NUVO here) and have discovered that one of
Mike Pence’s buddies is now lobbying for Gulen in D.C.  I will post more on that later.  I am busy writing the follow-up to Hoosier School Heist, which will
detail the latest in Indiana school reform corruption.  There is a lot I missed the first time or
didn’t have time to include, and many other billionaires have entered Indiana
in the quest to dismantle public education. 
Please read John’s piece (also available here) and visit his website.  Doug Martin

A deconstruction of the closing of Indiana Math & Science Academy – South

Dear
Chairperson Mr. John Mutz and members of the Indianapolis Charter School Board

I went online to take a look at the school’s data to
see if it gave any insights on why the school, which opened in the fall of
2013, closed. The IDOE’S Compass site has no records for IM&S South. IDOE
told me they take defunct schools off the site. https://compass.doe.in.gov/dashboard/overview.aspx

Therefore, I am writing to get information about the closing so I can
share it with my peers, and other concerned residents on the Southside and
around our city. I know each would like all the details about the closure of
the public school their tax dollars supported.

I
would appreciate receiving all missing data that would normally be on Compass
and that is not already on the OEI’s very thorough collections of data http://oei.indy.gov/indiana-math-science-academy-south/.
Please send me data that would be present on Compass under the following
categories: the teacher count by ethnicity and years of experience, average teacher salary, educator ratings, and
Expanded Annual Performance Reports–covering the 2013-2017 school years of
each category.

Also, please send the names of Barrington residence
and parents who were on the IMSAS Board and the Internet links to school’s
financial records and its 501c3 status records.

Without
this information how can we citizen voters analyze  the status quo and make informed decisions
about how the Office of  Educational
Innovation’s bevy of charters are fulfilling the purpose of public education:
critical citizenship?

Please
appreciate that public concerns about quality, and issues of accountability and
transparency will be minimized as the community learns of the details of the
IMSAS story.

Money Matters: From $20.000 to $1,868,400

This
information will also be shared because of my concern with the finances
surrounding the IPS No. 64 Harriet
Beecher Stowe/
Indiana Math & Science South (IMSAS) scenario.

No. 64 was originally located at 3000 Cottage
Ave., opening around
1913. In 1953, the school was relocated in
a brand new building,
costing an estimated $452,801 (“Two new schools
open,” 1953), at 2710 Bethel
Ave. in the same Barrington neighborhood. IPS began considering closing No. 64
in late 2010.

IPS sold No. 64 to Mr. Ron Merrill and Mr.
Bill Thomas, the owners of Euclid Machine Co., (2575
Bethel Ave.) for just $20,000 in June of 2011. 
IPS also sold a lot next to the school for only $100.  This was so stunning, the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) titled their story on the
transaction, “New owners aim for big profit after buying IPS school on the
cheap.”

At
this time, according to Resource Commercial Real Estate (https://rcre.com), the 2 story brick 46,710 sq. ft.
school on 2.02 acres on Bethel is going for almost a whopping $2 million
($1,868,400.00)! See: Indiana Commercial Real Estate Exchange http://www.icrex.net/

This inspires the questions: Was the Concept Schools/IMSAS buying or
renting No. 64? In either case, what were the monthly amounts and to whom was
it paid?

     Urban school reform and land development

The selling of schools “on the cheap” by the
school commissioners is especially problematic since our IPS is in constant
financial trouble. The public have been aware of these types of real estate
deals for awhile. Note the 2013
article, “Urban school reform is really about land development
(not kids).”

 

In
light of such national concerns and especially due to the present controversy
over the closing/selling of our IPS high schools, all of this is worrisome. Again, transparency is vital and
very important considering the
recent poor showings on Indy’s charters
(Elliot, 2016) and the
NAACP (2017) critique which are reflected in the plummeting popularity of
charters around the country (
Borsuk,
2017)
. https://edsource.org/2017/charter-schools-take-a-hit-in-nationwide-poll/585949

The Barrington community: In context

That
few in town–except for perhaps long-time southsiders like I am–can appreciate
Indy’s south east side shows how historically marginalized the Barrington area
has been.

Thus,
it is necessary to place the concern of this deconstruction of the IMSAS
situation over/upon the historical/cultural/political context of the Barrington
neighborhood.

  

Here’s the story: Although the area of
town called Barrington has been around for over a century, According to Mr. Joe
Smith Sr., Barrington grew significantly in the mid-1950s. As the government
created its Ft. Harrison Army Finance Center in 1955, Barrington was built up
to provide housing for the center’s employees (Smith, 1980)—most likely
custodial, maintenance, and food service workers.

                                                

    Up south Naptown

Taking
into account the insight of local and nationally acclaimed activist Mari Evans
in that, “Many Black folk thought of Indianapolis as urban, ‘Up South.’ It was
better than being ‘down South,’ but it retained many of the negative
propositions of the deep South and was not yet enlightened or ‘progressive’ as
the West or East Coast counterparts. Conservatism and racism were alive and
compatible” ( Loflin, 2007). Barrington
was already down south in an historically “Up South” Naptown.

    Our city’s Southside and its relationship
with our city’s Northside African Americans

As
a lifetime  Indianapolis resident of over
7 decades, I can’t remember a time when the members of Indy’s North side
African American community were welcomed south of Washington St. This comes
from 2 facts:

1.    Our Southside has a legacy of racism and segregation that continues today. Ask a majority of Black folks who live on
Indy’s Northside (where most do: see point 2 below) and they will tell you they
do not come south of Washington St. that much. Or, put it this way: you do not
see Confederate flags flying on the Northside—you will on the Southside. This
is not with-out reason. Read UIndy’s Dr. Michael Cartwright’s essay, “Rich
local Southside heritage lives on in forgotten areas.”   http://kinumedia.org/vorcreatex2/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Rich-local-Southside-heritage-lives-on-in-forgotten-areas.pdf
2.    Indianapolis is one of the 21 most segregated cities in
America

(Baird-Remba & Lubin, 2013). What makes Indy even more “unique,” it is not
only segregated by race, but also by class.
Washington St.  (US 40) and the parallel
railroad tracks divide the city north and south. www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/5560477952/in/album-72157626354149574/
Note on the map, the super majority of red dots (white people) below Washington
St. In the past, as today, these citizens are majority working class.

The point here is that
the Southside, Greenwood north to downtown, has historically  not “cotton to black folks” adding to the
cultural and economic isolation of Barrington and contributed to its
speciality—a uniqueness, I argue in this analysis, was not respected and validated,
and so unfortunately went unappreciated by the charter board, OEI, and the
Concept Schools organization.

Due to the Attucks documentary, we can now openly discuss
the history of our IPS:

From Attucks (1922-1927) to IPS 64 (1953) to IMSAS
(2013-2017)

Manual
opened at 501 S. Meridian in 1895. In 1953 it moved to 2405 Madison Ave. Manual
basically moved to stay white racially though also avoiding the poor white
families moving in some near Southside neighborhoods where Manual student lived
(Loflin, 1980). The changes in demographics, which also brought more Black
families from the South into the established community around Shapiro’s and the
Concord Center (and Barrington) resulted from the Second Great Migration
(1940-1970). 

     It was the 1950’s

As
our near Southside changed, its German community moved farther south and its
Jewish community moved farther north.  
The suburbs were developing and Indy shopping malls (Eastgate, 1957 and
Glendale, 1958) opened.

Between
1927 and 1949, Manual had no African American students. By 1951, due to
Indiana’s 1949 School Desegregation Law, Manual had, in number, 100 black
students. In 1961, it still had, in amount, 100 black students (Loflin,
1980).  In fact, the ’49 law panicked
some white parents who being afraid their child/ren would be sent to No. 64, filed
a lawsuit against IPS (Naptown Nonsense in the Schools,”
1952).

The
1953 openings of both No. 64 and Wood enabled IPS to get around the 1949 law
(and Brown vs. Board). This helped
keep Manual white—keeping Barrington’s African American students in Barrington
and at No. 64—and sending Barrington’s 9th-12th grade
students to the more distant Wood instead of west down Raymond St. to the new
Manual.

     Coincidence or a plan? Three “new”
Southside schools open on August 31, 1953

As
mentioned above, No. 64 was originally located in the early part of the 20th
century at 3000 Cottage Ave. In 1953, the school was relocated in a
brand new building at 2710 Bethel Ave. in the same Barrington
neighborhood. 

As
also mentioned, the new Manual opened in 1953.  In the old Manual building, Harry E. Wood HS
opened in 1953 too.

We
can’t forget, our IPS circumvented/circumscribed Brown vs. Board until 1970 when, with the anticipation and threat
of a federal court desegregation order, the segregationist school board began
to fully integrate the district. 1970 is the same year UNIGOV was enacted: Coincidence or a plan?

Also,
this is the 1970s when white IPS families began leaving the district (i.e.,
“white flight”) and our IPS enrollment went from about 110,000 to today’s +/-
30,000 students.

The ethnic/cultural/political disconnect at IMSAS

“For a span of my
memory this has been a city of opposing wills, two faces firmly set toward
different directions—one covertly determined to maintain the status quo, to
continually block any access to power, or to parity; the other advocating an
active morality and its right to inclusion as an equal entity rather than a
colonized one. This has been a city of perpetual confrontation, however
cloaked, between the powerless and those who influence, control, and engineer
the city’s movement in the inexorable and often ruthless march toward
‘greatness’…”    

                                   ~ Mari
Evans, a local nationally acclaimed poet, writer and activist

Seeing support for the benefits of African
American school leadership on the all-around success of urban schools where the
majority of students in those schools are African American (Delpit, 1995), it
makes sense to mention the factors of ethnic/cultural/political background of a schools leadership as
a possible contributor to the failure (Howard, 1999) of a school like IMSAS.

This
raises the question: Was the ethnic/cultural/political disconnects between the
Concept School’s leadership team and the ethnic/cultural/political
characteristics of the Barrington families and their community a factor in low
enrollment and thus closure?

     A poor decision

Though
the Concept Schools model is struggling here (Elliot, 2016), the IMSA North (7435 N Keystone Ave) and IMSA West
(4575 W. 38th St) schools are not as bad as IMSAS. The decision to find general
and prime locations on major streets for these 2 IMSA schools was smart.
Through the lens of this analysis, placing an IMSA off the beaten path in a small
marginalized/segregated community with a distinct culture like Barrington was a
poor decision.

I
am sure Mr.  Mustafa Arslan,
superintendent of Indy’s Concept Schools, is well educated and cares about
children very much. In retrospect, Concept Schools’ picks of school leaders for
IMSAS were poor choices.

IMSAS’s
first principal, Ms. Cathy Sparks, was well educated in science as a Purdue graduate
and so prepared for the IMSA’s STEM orientation. I assume she was trained well
as a school leader at Marian and IMSA West where she was able to show her care
for students as vice-principal. At IMSAS she raised the schools IDOE grade from
F to D.
* What was as important,
she raised the 3-year net income sub-indicator from a -$163, 555 to a +$130,228.
That’s a big difference. http://oei.indy.gov/indiana-math-science-academy-south/.
Nonetheless, her ideas and the school climate she initiated were not
sustainable. 

In addition, I am sure Mr. Hasan Akkaya, the
second principal of IMSAS, is a fine person, and is also well educated and
cares about children.  Regrettably for
Barrington families, he was unable to sustain the momentum of school
improvement set my Principal Sparks.*

This
fact is an issue and raises the question: Is having a non-Black school
principal of Turkic ethnicity and Turkish nationality (Mr. Akkaya) both
culturally (Howard, 1999) and politically inappropriate for:

·        
a
predominately African American urban school,

·        
located
in a unique community like Barrington,

·        
on
the Southeast side of an “Up South” city like Indianapolis–which Mari Evans
notes is

where African Americans have to

o       
“…advocate an active morality and
[their] right to inclusion as an equal entity rather than a colonized one,” in
order to counter those European American elites who are
                 

o       
“…covertly determined to maintain the
status quo [and]

o       
to continually block [African Americans] from any access to power, or to parity…”?

In
light of the inclinations of this analysis, the answer to the question is yes. It’s inappropriate. The next
question is: What was the Indianapolis
Charter School Board thinking?

Locally, the Concept Schools program was not without
issues:

_____________

*Why didn’t Concept
Schools keep Ms. Sparks? Research supports the positive effects of consistent
school leadership for urban schools. As well, remember, after she left the sub-indicator
lowered to – $129,797 and IMSAS dropped back to an F ranking.

     The Concept Schools model is good, but good for
acculturation, not liberation

Mari
Evans, Indy’s voice of conscience, adds more context to the situation. She notes
this about our city and its mid-west conformist nature: “…though what is more
acceptable, more comfortable [in Indianapolis], is a high level of
acculturation” defined as “to alter … through a process of
conditioning” (Hoppe, 1989; Evans, 2006).

Indeed,
the Concept Schools model–at least on the surface–has potential: STEM focus,
personalized learning, college readiness for all, longer school days, community
partnerships, even home visits. See: http://www.conceptschools.org/concept-model/

Still,
from the stand-point of this analysis, it is culturally and politically
inappropriate for IMSAS to perpetuate the acculturation of African American
students in a school that was even named
after a European American
(Harriet Beech Stowe) by an all-European American
IPS board around 1913.

The
school’s name, in itself, epitomizes the past to present story of #64: the
marginalization and subordination of an authentic identity of an American minority
and their community to one seen more politically and economically appropriate
by the local dominate culture.

“Indianapolis,
I tell my friends in other places, is a city where the preservation of
Euro-American cultural traditions and the enhancement of those traditions has
been consistent.”                                                                                    

                                                                                                                 
~ Mari Evans

Yet,
the DNA of the IMSAS school ideal does not promote a critical awareness of
Indy’s colonizing ethos about which Mari Evans warns is a mindset hindering
critical citizenship.

“Education
is never neutral, Paulo Freire informs us; it either colonizes or liberates.
Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the
integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and
bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by
which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover
how to participate in the transformation of their world.”                                                
    

                                                                                    
~ Patrick Finn on Paulo Freire

Simply
put, the Concept Schools’ model lacks a political consciousness via a critical
pedagogy (Duncan-Andrade & Morrel, 2008) which their black and brown, and
poor white students need in order to look out for their own self-interests and
the self-interests of their communities.  

Inherently,
STEM curricula promote critical thinking; it’s just not about power and the
political reality marginalized urban students face daily. Cultural competency
is not enough.  Advancing culturally
relevant teaching as politically relevant teaching (Loflin, 2008) is what is
needed for IMSA students like those living in Barrington.      

“Education
is a political act. Teaching is political work. In this respect, building a
knowledge base about the community is a central part of working in schools: it
gives you a better understanding of the students and shows you value their
background and are on their side.”  

                                                                              ~ Prof. H. R.
Milner IV (2017). 

Directly,
the approach does not prepare its staff to have an “attitude” (Finn, 1999), a
“political act” where students know you “…are on their side.” It is this disposition
that is needed for an education that is experienced as emancipatory by oppressed minorities.  To consider what an education for liberation
looks like, see:

Who’s responsible when a charter school closes?

The
recent NAACP (2017) critique of charters for Black children raises the question
of the possible effects of school closings on Black children.

“Black
students are particularly susceptible to being impacted by school closures.
From the year 2000 to 2012, Black students were 29% of all students enrolled in
U.S. charter schools, yet 45% of all students in charter schools that closed
during those years were Black.” The report goes on to assert, “…but beyond the
disruption they create for students, families, and communities, a study of
three cities found that students in closed charter schools do not typically
move on to higher performing schools.” (See p. 18).

This examination of the IMSAS situation
appreciates the fact that, “Many Mayor-sponsored charter schools are serving
student populations from chronically low-performing schools.” This critique
also understands that it takes time for an OEI, “…school to reach a high level
of student proficiency on standardized assessments,” and that most are
successful in developing good test takers. Yet,
when an OEI charter does fail, who is accountable and in what way/s is this
responsibility accepted, and both the resulting lessons learned implemented and
measured?

A personal commentary:

IMSAS was an experiment, plain and simple; it was also a
failed experiment

From
my personal perspective and opinion, even the men at the barber shop can see
this was a failed experiment enabled by an initial well-meaning, yet misguided
decision. I sense IMSAS was created as a result of outside forces.   This was a top down decision. 

Did
the families of Barrington’s children self-organize to close No. 64 in 2010?
Did they self-organize to search the nation for a charter school entity, deciding
on and inviting Concept Schools to come in and start an IMSA at No. 64? I can
only assume that this did not happen. I say this because if  the Barrington folks had been allowed to co-establish
their own authentic neighborhood school and co-administered to meet the self-interests
of Barrington, there would have been absolutely
no way the community would have let their school fail and be shuttered.

Regardless, the Concept Schools’ approach did not
work at IMSAS. They were unable to engage the children and win the hearts and
minds of the families of the African American working class. This failure
simply extends the years of political manipulation, i.e., using No. 64 to
postpone the mandates of the 1949 Indiana Desegregation Law (
Naptown Nonsense in the Schools,” 1952),
continuing local Jim Crow schools into the 21st century–and thus years of educational neglect by IPS,
and now the mis-calculations of our Indianapolis Charter School Board and Office
of Education Innovation.
 

Today,
we have a tale of two “Barringtons,”
one with a new problem built on top of old unsolved problems…This is not the leading-edge
“New Indianapolis” as city fathers claim. 

John Harris Loflin

Harry E. Wood High School

Class of 1961

References

Baird-Remba,
R. & Lubin, G. (2013). 21 Maps of Highly Segregated Cities in America.

Delpit,
L.  (1995). Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New
Press

Duncan-Andrade, M &
Morrell, E. (2008). The Art of Critical
Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools.

New York: Peter Lang.

Evans, M. (2006). Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective. Chicago: Third World
Press.

Finn,
P. (1999). Literacy with an attitude:
Educating working class children in their own self-

     interest. Albany: SUNY Press.

Hoppe,
D. (Ed.). (1989). Ethos and Creativity. Where
we live: Essays about Indiana.
                 

Howard,
R. (1999). We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know. NYC: Teachers College Press.

Loflin,
J. (1980). A critical history of Harry E. Wood High School. Unpublished paper.

Loflin,
J. (2007). Indilemmapolis, IN: As affluence increases, so does poverty and
despair.

Loflin,
J. (2016). A history of IPS, Part I:
1865-1930.
Video presentation of the Charles E. &

     Virginia P. Loflin Center on the history
of the Indianapolis Public Schools.

Milner,
H. (2017) Building community knowledge. Educational
Leadership
. 75(1): 88-89.

NAACP.  (2017). Quality Education for all…one school
at a time. Task Force on Education—

Naptown
Nonsense in the Schools. (1952, September 20).  
Indianapolis Recorder.  p. 10

Smith,
J. Sr. (1980, May 15). Personal interview. p. 5-7.

Two
new schools open as kids return to class. (1953, September 5). Indianapolis Recorder.    

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