In July of 2017, a new kind of school opened its doors to elementary-age students in the Near Eastside neighborhood of Indianapolis. The Thomas D. Gregg Neighborhood School became the first-ever community-led "innovation school" in Indiana. Through a “whole child approach" that includes differentiated learning, social and emotional supports and family and community outreach, Thomas Gregg stands to become a model for neighborhoods across the state.
But getting to that July day was long and arduous, and LISC's involvement helped create the conditions for community leaders to demand, and form, an authentically diverse school that would meet the academic and social needs of the neighborhood and its children.
While the Gregg School sits within five miles of the prosperous center of Indianapolis, families and children living in the Near Eastside face various challenges including high poverty, unemployment and crime rates, in addition to low educational attainment. Many families in the neighborhood have unstable housing, so students enroll, and leave, throughout the year. In the 2014-15 school year, only 68 out of 337 students passed standardized tests and the school had received an "F" rating from the state.
In 2015, Englewood Village in the Near Eastside was selected to be part of the Great Places 2020 initiative, a LISC-led project to transform strategic neighborhoods in Indianapolis into dynamic centers of commerce and community. LISC has been investing in the Near Eastside since 2008, through HUD Section 4 grants to build staff capacity at partner CDCs, equity investment in housing developments, façade grants for small businesses, and support for healthy food production, creative placemaking and childcare programs.
LISC sponsored two education summits as part of the Near Eastside's Great Places process, at which parents and local leaders laid out their fundamental desire to create a neighborhood school reflecting the rich racial, economic, and cultural diversity of the families who live there, and where all children, regardless of socioeconomic or any other status, could flourish. It would be a school to which families are excited and proud to send their children.
The education meetings, with leadership from LISC partners the John H Boner Center and Englewood CDC, led to the creation of the Near Eastside Innovation School Corporation (NEISC), a 501c3 to oversee the operations of the school. The Gregg School was designated an "innovation school," an initiative that gives schools more independence and local control. While innovation schools are usually operated by charter school networks, the Gregg School is led by representatives of the community in collaboration with teachers and a veteran principal.
Since opening in July, Thomas D. Gregg has extended the school day, creating new blocks of time for teachers to collaborate and adding a second educator to many classrooms. Onsite staff from a local community center help parents with challenges like finding jobs or getting stable housing. As LISC and all the people behind the new Thomas D. Gregg Neighborhood School have proved, it takes a village to raise, and educate, a child.
Photo credit: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat.org
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Executive Director: Bill Taft
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Indianapolis, IN 46204