9:27 PM EDT, June 6, 2012
The private companies about to take over four IPS schools say they didn't realize how bad things were when they started the turnaround process a year ago.
The two companies, Ed Power and Charter Schools USA, presented their turnaround plans for the four IPS schools during a State School Board meeting Wednesday.
"I have not been in a school more abandoned than Arlington High School," said Marcus Robinson, CEO of Ed Power, which will begin running Arlington High School on July 1.
The CEO of Charter Schools USA -- which will take over Emma Donnan Middle School, TC Howe High School and Manual High School -- said an assessment of the schools during the past year was similar to a doctor thinking he'd be treating a patient with stage one cancer, only to find stage three cancer.
"Actually I would say it's even more serious than that," Charter Schools USA CEO Jon Hage said, after being asked about the cancer comment. "Students not achieving year over year is something we should all be outraged about."
"We see kids throughout the corridors who are not in classes, who are not being held accountable," said Robinson, referring to Arlington. "That to us is not school."
Robinson set some ambitious goals for Arlington, pledging to graduate 70 percent of students, without relying on waivers, within four years. Robinson said he plans to address accountability by implementing mandatory summer school for students not passing state exams, as well as tracking students with their ID cards.
"We have technology that will allow our hall monitors and our safety and security officers to be able to scan that ID and know exactly where that child is supposed to be in the building," Robinson said.
It remains unclear how many students will be in the turnaround schools in the first place. So far, the turnaround schools have seen just half the estimated enrollment signed up to stay.
Charter Schools USA believes that's because IPS has been preventing them from sharing information with students and parents.
"I can't imagine, based on what we're getting ready to invest in these schools, that if those kids knew what was happening, 50 percent of them would leave," Hage said.
Charter Schools USA planned to address that problem by adding fourth, fifth and sixth grades at both Emma Donnan and Howe, but the board denied that proposal because grade expansion wasn't part of the turnaround process.
"We think it's necessary educationally and it's not something the board can support today," Hage said. "But we believe it's still the right educational thing to do."
Both Charter Schools USA and Ed Power said they will push for grade expansion in the future, and the state superintendent said it can't be ruled out.
"You heard board members say, 'We're open to further discussion when we know more," said Dr. Tony Bennett. "I think that's the path."
And IPS spokesperson released the following statement in response to the accusations by Charter Schools USA regarding the transition process:
"Charter Schools USA continues to falsely accuse IPS of obstructing the takeover process. IPS has answered all requests for information from the organization. While we are attempting to assist Charter Schools USA in launching a successful school year, IPS will not be responsible should that organization be unable to open schools smoothly."