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Some of the capacity crowd at IPS Board Meeting that decided students’ fate

Despite a packed IPS School Board meeting that spent nearly two hours listening to impassioned, eloquent pleas from students at both Shortridge High School and Gambold Prep High School, the IPS School Board didn’t listen and voted 4-1 to approve a radical, unprecedented plan to move, some who say “evict”, current Shortridge high school and middle students,  some 706 students, in favor of moving Gambold’s 164 students into Shortridge.  The moves take effect in the 2015-2016 school year.  IPS’ move, created in a plan pushed with little or no public debate and consideration by IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee evoked a firestorm of anger and shock among Indianapolis’ African-American community.

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More of the large crowd in the IPS Education Center Lobby

The emotion and anger exploded in an impassioned Afternoons with Amos program where the unprecedented action was explained. (Community outrage may grow once people find out the rationale IPS gave for the plan, the loss of white students from the northside isn’t supported by the facts. Details on that breaking story below.)  During the Afternoons with Amos broadcast, Amos told listeners than in his working with IPS since 1976, this was among the most outrageous actions IPS had ever approved. Outgoing IPS School Board member Michael Brown, who vehemently opposed the plan, said this is the first time in his sixteen years on the Board that IPS had moved students out their current school, without any sort of school closing. Brown expressed his disgust and anger at his fellow board members decision.  Anger was also expressed on the program by State Senator Jean Breaux.  Sen. Breaux warned that with Republican attempts to cut funding to urban districts like IPS, the Board and Supt. Ferebee’s eviction action could hurt Democrats ability to help IPS stave off those cuts.  City-County Councilman Joe Simpson also condemned IPS’s decision which greatly impacts the neighborhoods in Simpson’s district.  Listeners expressed their anger and disgust during the two hour program. Several callers took Board member Sam Odle to task for being the only African-American to vote for the proposal. Listeners not only blasted IPS and the Board, but education reform organization Stand for Children and school reform organizations quick to stand up for white parents and quick to ignore Black and minority parents concerns.

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Students were the best ambassadors. A Shortridge student speaks

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A Gambold Prep student expressing his views to the School Board

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Shortridge is the Oldest Free Public High School in USA. Opened in 1864. This Current Building Opened in 1927

IPS was caught flatfooted and didn’t expect the vehemence of community anger. One reason is the place the school holds in the hearts of Indianapolis residents. Shortridge is the oldest free public high school in the United States. The school first opened during the Civil War in 1864. All races were welcomed then, but when the current Shortridge building was opened in 1927, Blacks were banned by the then segregationist IPS policies. The issues of race and access have been tied to Shortridge during the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and later when the school was closed in a huge controversy in 1981 dueing the height of cross district busing. The school was reopened as a middle school in the late 1980’s; then as a high school in 2009. IPS tried to explain that current Shortridge students can stay at the school, but they have to be part of the new International Baccalaureate curriculum.  IPS did, via Twitter, say that Shortridge middle school students didn’t have that option.  They’d have to transfer to other middle schools within the district. IPS’ action to respond to the community over Twitter and not appear on Afternoons with Amos, was an insult to the listening audience and community. NEW INFORMATION: One of the major rationales for Supt. Ferebee and the board majority evicting current Shortridge students and replacing them with students from Gambold is because predominantly white parents in northside neighborhoods of Meridian-Kessler, Mapleton-Fall Creek, downtown and Broad Ripple were demanding that Gambold’s quality International Baccalaureate programs be centrally located so that white high school age students would stop fleeing IPS.

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A special assistant to IPS Supt. Ferebee checks in students before they speak to the School Board

But using enrollment data from the new school year provided by IPS, Afternoons with Amos has uncovered that only a quarter of IPS’ overall white enrollment lives in those northside and downtown neighborhoods.  Among sixth graders, just 25.1% of white sixth graders live in those neighborhoods, and 32.8% of white 7th and 8th graders do.  Most white IPS students live nowhere near the those northside areas and downtown.  That finding will cause many in the Black community to question how this move helps the majority of white students in IPS.  Anger and disgust over the Shortridge controversy does nothing to stem the continuing loss of African-American students.  Now critical since IPS lost 8.2% of its African-American students enrollment from last school year to this.  Click the Media Player to Hear the Passion and Community Passion and Anger Over the IPS Decision to “Evict” Current Shortridge Students at the end of the 2014-2015 School Year. ©2014 WTLC/Radio One. Part One Runs 60 Minutes.    Part Two Runs 33 Minutes.