GEO Academies returns to Indy to give high school students college experience

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A charter school is returning to Indianapolis, years after it was forced to close.

GEO Academies runs public schools that provide students a college experience while in high school. Their mission is to beat poverty. That message is placed on every entrance at their main office. It’s a message Founder Kevin Teasley takes seriously.

“Providing quality schools in challenging communities,” said Teasley.

And it’s one that former student Jamal Abdulrasheed appreciates.

“By the time I graduated high school I had nearly 30 college credits,” said Abdulrasheed.

This isn’t the first time GEO has called Indianapolis home. Eight years ago, the Indianapolis charter locations closed due to accountability. Teasley says under new management is when the charters closed. Teasley says GEO was the first charter school in the city in 2002. He says a lot of what the foundation was doing was aspirational, now he says he has facts to back up what they’ve been working on sense.

Two weeks ago, the Indiana Charter School Board voted to authorize the new school. James Betley, the Executive Director, sent a statement saying the board wishes all the best for a successful opening in 2020.

The Indiana Charter School Board evaluates each Application that it receives in three categories: evidence of capacity, education plan, and business plan. Our review, conducted by both internal and external evaluators, is based on four corners of the Application, including a review of the past performance of any schools previously or currently operated by the Applicant, a capacity interview with the founding group, and public comments. The Application submitted by GEO Academies met the standard for approval in all three evaluation categories: the group has extensive charter school operational experience with evidence of success in the proposed early college educational model, with established partnerships with Ivy Tech, which allows students to earn a high school diploma coupled with the acquisition of significant, transferrable credits towards an associates or bachelor’s degree, and presented a thoughtfully conservative business plan supported by access to the financial resources and human capital of the existing organization. In addition, prior to submission of the Application, the founding group spent time working with community partners, including Indiana Black Expo, to assess the need and community demand for the school.

GEO’s model encourages high schoolers to take college classes while in high school.

“The college professor will not hold your hand,” said Teasley.

The charter currently runs schools in Gary, Indiana and Louisiana and soon on Indy’s far east side.

“100 percent of our students are taking real college courses,” said Teasley.

In partnership with Ivy Tech, Indiana Black Expo invited GEO to open the location.

“Both approached us at the same time,” said Teasley. “We’ve got great partnerships with Ivy Tech, we’ve got great partnerships with IUPUI, we’ll develop one with Butler, we’ll develop one with University of Indianapolis and Marion.”

Tanya Bell, the President and CEO of Indiana Black Expo, said in a statement:

Indiana Black Expo is very excited that GEO Academies is expanding its successful early college model in Gary and Baton Rouge to serve students in Indianapolis. This expansion comes at a critical time where our city is having critical conversations about upward mobility and the eradication of poverty so that all of our children can succeed. IBE has a history of partnering with various school districts, educators and administrators across the state of Indiana to ensure student success. We will continue to do so. We look forward to supporting GEO’s efforts.

“Right now, our Gary school is in the top 18 percent when it comes to college and career readiness in the state of Indiana,” said Teasley. “We’re in the top 18 percent, but it’s the lowest income community in the entire state.”

GEO pays for tuition, textbooks and transportation for its students. It’s an opportunity that Abdulrasheed says gave him the confidence to become an attorney.

“I had already walked on campus before, spoken to professors, done real college work, so it just gave me a sense of confidence that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Abdulrasheed.

The new school is a second chance for GEO Academies and students on the far east side.

“Hey, this is an expectation for me and it’s within reach,” said Abdulrasheed.

Enrollment is now open for the GEO foundation. They’re expecting 200 9th graders next fall.

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