The Indiana State Board of Education is handing authority over four troubled Indianapolis schools to the city's mayor.
The board's unanimous vote Wednesday will give Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard control over Arlington, Howe and Manual high schools and Donnan Middle School at the end of the current school year. The mayor's office will have oversight over 33 total schools, including 22 charter schools now open and seven more opening in the next two years.
"We now can move forward with working to improve these schools and collaborating with community stakeholders to offer high-quality education for students," Ballard said in a statement.
The four schools Ballard is taking over were previously part of Indianapolis Public Schools. The state took control of them last summer following six straight years of failing performance.
Florida-based Charter Schools USA was hired by the State Board of Education to manage Howe, Manual and Donnan. Indianapolis-based EdPower, a school management arm of the Charles A. Tindley charter school, was hired to manage Arlington.
"I'm a firm believer that local oversight at the local level is always in the best interest of the schools," said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. "We are very comfortable with the local focus."
In 2011, the state's assistant superintendent said the schools were "in various stages of dire situations." The Board of Education later decided to hand the schools over to the state because of poor classroom performance. Department of Education staff visiting Arlington High School found classrooms with no discipline, students resting their heads on desks and no academic questioning of students by teachers.
Ritz emphasized that the state Board of Education still has ultimate authority over the schools. The state has contracts with the four takeover schools that last through the next four years, and the board will be discussing an exit strategy for when the contracts end, Ritz said.
The school takeovers were a first in Indiana history. Private companies are currently managing the four schools the mayor has been given authority over.
The state Department of Education and the city of Indianapolis will work out a memorandum of understanding to detail the transfer of the schools to the city, said David Galvin, a spokesman for the department.
"(The mayor) has the same authority as the state Department of Education would have had," Galvin said. "He has purview over the contracts and the performance of the schools and he presides over the schools.