The State Board of Education (SBOE) approved a task force’s recommendation for Manual High School to become a full charter school. The decision capped five community meetings with stakeholders who sought to save Manual and Howe high schools and Emma Donnan Middle School which have been under a state mandate and operated by Charter Schools USA since 2012.
Board members voted 7-3 and were swayed favorably by (1.) community input/survey with two-thirds majority favoring a charter school; student achievement, especially at Manual that came from a ‘failing” school to a “C” school; the sustainability of CSUSA; and IPS on record as not wanting Manual or Howe high schools even if they become “passing” schools; The future of Emma Donnan Middle School is solid because it now becomes an innovative school for 7th- and 8th-grade students, like its current operation for K-6.
Letters of intent were previously sent to the Indiana Charter School Board in anticipation of SBOE’s historic action March 6. Those who spoke up in favor of Manual seeking a charter pointed out that state-mandated CSUSA takeover of Manual has resulted in higher student achievement and a positive impact in the community. Pastor Judy Frackenthal of nearby Garfield Park Baptist Church provided the strongest public statement about today’s Manual High School.
“I was adamantly opposed to charter schools and I wasn’t happy when Emma Donnan and Manual were turned over,” she said. “But then the schools reached out to us. Our church was invited to participate in faith-based meetings. We helped make a difference because the charter schools invited us into their building. Seeing these schools turnaround … the kids are excited about learning, they respect themselves and they care about each other.”
However, there were spokespersons, including Indianapolis Public Schools interim Supt. Aleesia Johnson, who urged the state board to delay their decision for 30 days. Johnson pointed out that the composition of the IPS board has changed since its 2017 report that called for not accepting Manual or Howe back. She said the board is prepared to reassess its position.
Some SBOE members leaned that way but ultimately supported the task force’s recommendation because of IPS’ past failings. Johnson also brought forward a legal representative of IPS who reviewed several items pertaining to Manual becoming a charter school, including debt service through 2028 and any potential lease on the buildings.
Task force member Aryn Shounce said in front of the SBOE that the “process was flawed” and that “we deserve to make a real choice and allow IPS time to make a presentation to the community alongside CSUSA.” Board member David Freitas stated, “This is a long-term success story; everything is going in the right direction, and we need to support that direction.”
The board defeated motions by board member Gordon Hendry to postpone a decision and to take a vote on each school separately. He also wanted to change the nickname and mascot of Manual which died due to a lack of a second.