Press Releases | April 22, 2014

The Mind Trust launches new initiative to help talented leaders grow great schools in IPS

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners and Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee are pleased to join The Mind Trust in announcing a new initiative that will leverage the talent of excellent leaders, the power of a new law, and the support of district resources to multiply the number of high quality schools serving students in IPS.

The Mind Trust’s Innovation School Fellowship will maximize the impact of Public Law 1321, which passed during the 2014 legislative session and was championed by both Ferebee and Ballard. The historic new law enables talented leaders or management teams to start high performing, autonomous schools, called "Innovation Network Schools," in vacant or unused IPS buildings or in place of persistently low-performing schools. These schools will have key conditions for success: freedom for educators to innovate and accountability for results.

The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit launched in 2006, has extensive experience vetting and supporting top-notch leadership talent through its two other incubator programs -the Charter School Incubator and Education Entrepreneur Fellowship – which are designed to launch or grow excellent schools and transformative education nonprofits in Indianapolis. The Mind Trust will leverage this experience to help increase the number of great schools within IPS though its third incubator, the Innovation School Fellowship.

The fellowship will provide select leaders who commit to launching Innovation Network Schools the critical time and support needed to ensure those schools thrive. Innovation School Fellowship winners will receive a full salary and benefits ($129,000 in total) so they can spend a year planning their schools’ design and rollout. Research and the experience of the best school leaders across the country have shown that having a planning year is critical to a new school’s success.

Innovation School Fellows also will receive significant support during their planning year, including feedback on their school-design plans from national and local experts; opportunities to visit best-in-class schools across the country; access to a national network of school-incubation leaders; and sessions with IPS officials to learn district operations.

"IPS is excited to partner with The Mind Trust to help ensure outstanding education leaders have the opportunity to start excellent schools in the district," Ferebee said. "We know that adequate planning time and expert feedback are critical components of new schools’ success. The Innovation School Fellowship will provide these leaders with the toolbox they need to build life-changing schools for our students."

Innovation Network Schools will operate under contract with IPS and will have access to district buildings and other resources. They will not be managed by IPS or bound by many state laws and other common restrictions related to school-based decision-making, giving them the autonomy and accountability that are hallmarks of high performing schools.

"Improving access to high quality schools is not only a moral imperative but also a key driver in making Indianapolis neighborhoods more attractive places to live," Mayor Ballard said. "This partnership will help improve the educational outcomes for many children throughout Indianapolis."

Indianapolis has a deep pool of potential Fellowship candidates because of its rich array of great teachers and leaders within local district and charter schools and other education innovators. The Mind Trust has launched or expanded five charter-school networks in Indianapolis through its Charter School Incubator and has helped to launch seven break-the-mold nonprofits in the city through its Education Entrepreneur Fellowship. This work has helped make Indianapolis a magnet for bright, innovative people to work to improve our city’s schools.

"The Innovation School Fellowship will build upon the momentum The Mind Trust has catalyzed to entice the best education talent to Indianapolis," said David Harris, The Mind Trust’s Founder and CEO. "By equipping great leaders to launch high quality schools, The Mind Trust and IPS will advance our mutual goal of providing more students the opportunity to succeed."

Anyone may apply for the Innovation School Fellowship. Applicants could include, for example, teachers and leaders within IPS, teachers and leaders from other district schools or public charter schools, or other innovators with the skills needed to launch new schools.

Applicants’ statements of intent are due May 15, and final applications are due June 1. Winners will be selected by July to allow them a full planning year to launch new schools in the 2015-2016 school year. The Mind Trust will work with a committee of local and national experts to select winners. Ferebee and members of the IPS Board of School Commissioners will play a key role in the selection process by serving on the selection committee.

"We are very excited and thankful for our partnerships with The Mind Trust and Mayor Ballard’s Office that we are cultivating to support the innovation process. Giving our schools the autonomy they need to implement new and creative programs will benefit our students and allow them to achieve greater levels of success," said IPS Board of School Commissioners President Andrea Roof.

The Mind Trust plans to award up to three fellowships this year and additional fellowships in subsequent years. For more information on the Innovation School Fellowship, visit

The Mind Trust is a nonprofit striving to ensure that every student in Indianapolis has the opportunity to receive an excellent education. The Mind Trust has built a network of 17 world-class education organizations in Indianapolis by recruiting some of the nation’s best, established programs and helping to launch new schools and initiatives through its Charter School Incubator and Education Entrepreneur Fellowship. The nonprofit also advances bold plans for transforming the city’s education system and works to engage the community in efforts to drive education change. Since its founding in 2006, The Mind Trust has impacted more than 93,000 students through its work and has raised more than $37 million to advance education reform.

Indianapolis Public Schools strives to be the flagship in innovative urban education, preparing all students to be successful in the global economy. IPS, one of Indiana’s largest school districts, offers the broadest range of magnet and option programs in the state. Among other exciting learning opportunities, international baccalaureate, performing arts, and various career-specific and college readiness programs are available to all students. IPS operates 60 schools, serves over 30,000 students and employs over 6,000 employees. The evolution of the district continues; and a new direction is being charted. Learn more about the new IPS by visiting