Incoming IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson discusses goals for upcoming year


Aleesia Johnson (Photo provided by IPS)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) says it’s going to be a transformative year not just with programs, but with new leadership taking over. On Friday the board said the next superintendent will be Aleesia Johnson.

It’s Johnson’s first week as Superintendent-elect and she says it’s time to keep moving forward.

“It feels good,” said Johnson when asked how the first official days are going in her new role.

“Our runway has been laid and we won’t miss a beat. We’ll keep going, so it has felt like that this week that we continue to move forward with the many plans we had underway. My job is to make sure that everything that surrounds that classroom, that school is really setting them up for success,” said Johnson.

In her first week, Johnson already has big goals for the upcoming school year, including, a new English-Language Arts curriculum that she says is both culturally relevant and challenging.

“If students can see themselves in what they’re reading and connect it to their own lives then you can build really powerful experiences,” she said.

The high school experience is also top of her list. Johnson says this past school year was the first year that IPS transitioned four high schools to college career academies.

“Work-based learning opportunities for our students. How we continue to provide them with great supports as they think about their post-secondary plan,” Johnson explained.

Some parents and critics have wondered about Johnson’s Superintendent license. The board will make the request to the department of education for a temporary license as she works towards a permanent one.

“In the state of Indiana, a school board can request a temporary license if they choose to hire someone who is without Superintendent’s license, which is the case for me right now,” said Johnson, “Over the course of these next couple of years and my tenure I will pressure the coursework for that licensure and I’ve already passed the superintendents exam, if you will.”

IPS Community Coalition released this statement on Johnson’s hire:

Congratulations to Ms. Aleesia Johnson on being named to the superintendent position. Given that she has been with the district for four years, first as head of the innovation office, then deputy superintendent for academics, and as interim and now superintendent, there is an expectation of the dramatic growth and improvement in academic achievement, graduation rates, and equitable distribution of resources to students and communities throughout the district that she called for in her candidate remarks. We hope that she delivers quickly on the urgent need for equity within the district, as she noted in her presentation to the board during the public interviews.

IPSCC looks forward to the next chapter of IPS as the largest public school district in the state. We hope that what is best for students and teachers will be the guide for all decisions. As always, we continue to be a voice to help hold the IPS administration and board members accountable for their decisions that directly impact the children and their families in our community.

“We may not always agree on the best path to get there and we may not always agree on the path forward, but what I hope everyone will see is our commitment for great schools for our kids and our dedication to them,” said Johnson.

Success for the 30,000 students attending IPS schools is Johnson’s top priority.

“That first day of school they leave smiling and excited about the year ahead. That they feel safe, that they feel loved, they feel cared for and that they feel like they’ll be able to grow,” said Johnson.

Johnson has also outlined her organizational plan for the 2019-2020 school year. IPS says more than 1,250 people responded to an open-ended survey. Those results guided the following strategic priorities:

  • Student-Centered Teaching & Learning: Integrate SEL programs and align high-quality instructional, curricular and assessment resources.
  • High-Performing Team: Recruit and retain talent by developing staff and holding them accountable for implementation of IPS’ shared vision of excellence.
  • Racial Equity Mindset: Strengthen and expand racial-equity work to eliminate opportunity gaps and build capacity for team members to persistently interrupt and address institutional bias.
  • School-Centered Central Services: Design Central Services to transparently and effectively meet the needs of schools.
  • Engaged Families, Team and Partners: Engage families, team members and the community in authentic and collaborative partnerships to improve student outcomes.
  • Sustainable Finances and Operations: Strengthen and expand efforts to equitably and efficiently allocate resources across IPS schools.

Students will head back to class for Indianapolis Public Schools on Aug. 5.

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