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A Proud Graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools Laments “A Sad Day”

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Shannon Williams is proud to be a graduate of the Indianapolis Public Schools. She now writes for the Indianapolis Recorder, where she published this article about the current plan to shrink the district.

She writes:

There are countless emotions tied to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), and even more emotions now associated with the district due to the proposal to close or repurpose three of its high schools.

It is a lot to analyze — even for the most astute. Nonetheless, IPS is a major issue, and quite honestly has been a major issue for many years.

I am a proud product of IPS. I wear my time in the district as a badge of honor, not as something I am ashamed of, like many expected of my peers and me at the time, and like some people expect of the current students. Public schools. Even then, so many years ago, there was a stigma associated with the district. That stigma has continued; some years are worse than others, but there has seemingly always been a stigma attached to the district.

In the past, the stigma often came from people outside IPS’ administration and staff. Now, some people wonder if the district’s powers-that-be are actually the ones who look adversely at its student population.

“Arlington High School is located at 46th and Arlington. John Marshall is at 42nd and Post Road. These are areas with primarily Black and Hispanic families — they are impoverished areas. To close schools in some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods is a clear (indication) that you don’t care,” James Turner said passionately. Turner spent his entire formative years as an IPS student. He was also so dedicated to the district that he and his wife made the decision to enroll their children in IPS. In addition, Turner worked for the district, first as special needs assistant, then a graduation coach and later as dean of students.

In addition to the elimination of schools in neighborhoods that desperately need them, Turner thinks centralizing Indianapolis high schools to a handful of locations can be a safety hazard for students.

“You have students from Haughville, 42nd and Post Road, Hillside — all these kids will be at the same school. There will be neighborhood beef amongst the students because not all neighborhoods get along; some kids represent the places they live and are willing to fight for their neighborhood. There will be safety hazards — even for the students who are there simply to learn.”

In 2014 Turner ran a compassionate grassroots campaign for a seat on the IPS board of commissioners. He was defeated, but he remains committed to “ensuring the safety and success of our babies” by staying engaged in news impacting IPS’ students.

She wonders why no one like Turner was invited to be part of the Task Force that made these recommendations. She wonders why the Task Force was composed of big business types and big names, with no one from the community.

Good question. No one on the Task Force had an emotional tie to the Indianapolis Public Schools. They looked at them as a business deal. They didn’t understand the value of neighborhood schools. They didn’t care about “legacy” schools, where older siblings and parents went to school. They also don’t care about public education.

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