They want math and reading teachers to build the art into their courses. They want the arts filtered into science and social studies.
That’s why the K-8 school is angling to become one of the first Indianapolis Public Schools allowed to adopt a new governance model, free from the mandates that the district imposes on most of its schools.
“Our arts teachers are fantastic and our academic teachers are fantastic,” principal Nathan Tuttle told the Indianapolis Public Schools board at a meeting earlier this month. “But we do not implement full arts integration in the academic classroom as it stands right now, because there’s not a lot of funding to train all of our academic teachers in arts integration.”
The innovation school model, which gives principals many of the flexibilities of charter schools but keeps the school within IPS, was introduced in the district last year.
If Edison’s application to become an innovation school is approved by the board, it would be one of the first higher performing schools to do so.
The school would be following in the footsteps of the Cold Spring School, an environmental science magnet school that became an innovation school earlier this year as a way to give teachers more time to focus on science.
Innovation schools leaders have full control over their funding, so they can make choices like what curriculum to use and what teacher training fits their needs. The teachers are not unionized, however, which is controversial and allows leaders to make decisions like extending the school day without negotiating with a union.
The move would be the latest big change for the arts magnet school, which recently moved from the north side to the southwest side and added middle school grades. At least some teachers and parents are eager for the school to have the freedom that would come with the conversion.
Kathy Gaalema, a second-grade teacher who has worked in the district for 33 years, told the board she supports the plan because it could give teachers more time to focus on art in academic classes and more tailored training.
“Being an innovation school would allow great opportunities for us,” she said.
Candace Kingma, a parent and president of the parent-teacher organization at Edison, also told the board that she trusts the school leadership and supports the change.
“An arts education can enhance a child’s overall learning,” she said. “It’s also my belief that a move to an innovation school will greatly enhance our arts program.”
Edison is looking to convert to innovation status voluntarily beginning next fall. It’s still early in the process, and the board is not expected to make a decision for several months. If the school is converted to innovation status, it would be overseen by a nonprofit board Tuttle is currently assembling. The IPS board would cede day-to-day control, but it would be able to cancel or renew the agreement based on the school’s performance.
Edison would be only the third IPS school to convert to innovation status by choice. Although there are several existing innovation schools in the district, they are largely charter schools that joined the network or failing schools that were restarted with new managers.
Innovation schools are part of a broader vision for the district that aims to give all principals more power over how schools are run. Aleesia Johnson, who oversees innovation schools, said the long-term goal is to create better performing schools across IPS.
“When the people who are most connected and closest to our students and families have the ability to make decisions,” she said, “that will positively impact the experience our students have.”