Senior staff writer
“The red in this room is unforgettable.” That comment was made Oct. 5 by Indiana State Board of Education facilitator Charles Schlegel in front of nearly 200 persons, including several Manual alumni who want to save the school. Sponsored by the Gateway Community Alliance, the meeting at Zink Distributing informed the attendees of various pathways to save Manual, Emma Donnan Middle School and Thomas C. Howe High.
The schools have been operated under state-mandated control by Charter Schools USA for six years, but the contract expires at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Manual has risen to a state grade of C, while Donnan and Howe are F schools.
One Manual alumnus emphasized that, “We have an active alumni association, and the school has improved … we are here to say that we want this school to stay open.”
Another Manual graduate sought to return the high school to its original role as a vocational-technical school so that Southside businesses would have a new supply of skilled employees. Schlegel informed the audience that the board has authorized a school transition task force to gather local input and develop recommendations.
“I want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to provide all information to the task force for their recommendation to the state,” Schlegel said. “I urge you to share your ideas and talk to others who are interested in energizing the conversation.”
The task force consists of: Aryrn Schounce, Garfield Neighbors Association; Jackie Cissell, Charter Schools; David Freitus, board of education; Jamie Van De Walle, Indianapolis Public Schools; Jessi Chrisentary, parent representative; Karen Lighthouse, community representative; and Jessika Osborne, staff representative. Schounce and Cissell were at the meeting Friday.
Future meetings for input on Manual and Donnan will be Oct. 29 at 6 p.m., at Manual, 2405 Madison Ave., and Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Burrello Family Center, 2345 Pagoda Drive in Garfield Park.
The options for Manual and Donnan (Grades 7 and 8) are: (1) be returned to IPS; (2) direct Charter Schools or other entity to seek a charter; or (3) close or merge with another local school. Kindergarten through sixth grade at Donnan is operated as an “innovative school.” IPS is on record of closing Manual and Howe, even if either school succeeds as a turnaround school; however, Schlegel said the task force is seeking clarification from IPS.
The task force is mandated by law to look at all relevant factors in developing the criteria to make its recommendations to the board of education. Schlegel surmised that could include academics, enrollment, finances, facilities and location.
“You only have to be south of Washington Street for a quick minute to know that this is a Southside school,” Schlegel said. “I want to recognize that as a factor and that the task force, based on input from groups like this, needs to talk that up.’ Enrollment at Manual has leveled to around 730 students.
“The degree to which you will show that Manual is really taking a turn for the best is important for the task force to know,” he said.
Organizations and stakeholders in Manual and Donnan are urged to submit ideas and information to the task force through Schlegel at charlie@school communityinsight.org or by calling 317-222-6620. Updates are available at www. faceboodk.com/schooltaskforce or Twitter @schooltaskforce.