Press Releases | June 26, 2014

The Mind Trust awards three Innovation School Fellowships to help top leaders launch high quality IPS schools

INDIANAPOLIS -The Mind Trust awarded its first three Innovation School Fellowships to a longtime Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) educator who led a dramatic school turnaround; a former senior analyst with the U.S. Department of State who has studied youth engagement in entrepreneurship as an antidote to terrorist group involvement; and a team that includes one of the nation’s best education entrepreneurs and a seasoned school administrator.

The Mind Trust’s Innovation School Fellowship leverages Public Law 1321, which passed in 2014 and allows IPS to replace underused or chronically low-performing schools with “Innovation Network Schools.” Those schools have contractually guaranteed autonomy from district regulations and access to district resources.

Through the fellowship, The Mind Trust selects education leaders to start Innovation Network Schools, awards them a full salary and benefits, and provides expert support, empowering them to design and launch excellent schools. The Mind Trust announced the fellowship in April in partnership with the IPS Board of School Commissioners, IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee and the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office. Lilly Endowment Inc. recently made a grant of $1.5 million to The Mind Trust to fund the fellowships, as well as expenses The Mind Trust will incur supporting fellows’ work. The Mind Trust will award up to nine fellowships over the next three years.

“Innovation School Fellows Lauren Franklin, Earl Martin Phalen, Marlon Llewellyn and Heather Tsavaris represent the very best in education leadership,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, who served on the Selection Committee for the fellowship. “We’re excited to see the winners begin their work and launch schools providing excellent educational opportunities for our students.”

Background on Innovation School Fellows
Fellow Lauren Franklin, a K-12 alumna of IPS and 15-year district educator, has spent the last four years as principal at IPS’ Francis W. Parker Montessori School. In that time she transformed the school from an F to an A in the state’s letter-grading system by coaching staff, providing professional development, using data to inform instruction, and hiring excellent educators. Franklin plans to launch a Montessori inspired school serving students in kindergarten through 12th grades. It will be the second K-12 school in IPS and among only a handful of high schools in the country to include a Montessori model. In addition to the Montessori component, Franklin plans to provide intensive wraparound services and enrichment outside of school hours, including counseling services, healthy meals, and activities such as theatre and drama.

Earl Martin Phalen and Marlon Llewellyn will work as a team to launch IPS’ first “blended learning” school combining cutting-edge technology with excellent classroom instruction to tailor to kindergarten through sixth grade students’ individual needs. This proposed traditional neighborhood school will be based on the same model as the public charter school Phalen launched in 2013, the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academy. In just a year, this Indianapolis school has increased the percentage of students on track in math by six-fold and nearly doubled the percentage of students who are on track in reading.

Phalen, who graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School, has worked with school districts throughout his more than 20 years of experience as a nationally decorated education entrepreneur. He has been recognized for his groundbreaking education work through several awards, including the President’s Service Award from President Bill Clinton, and his initiatives have been cited in media outlets from TIME to MSNBC. Among Phalen’s other initiatives is Indianapolis-based summer learning program Summer Advantage USA, whose students gain an average of 2.1 months of learning in reading and 2.9 months of learning in math throughout the 25-day program.

Llewellyn, a seasoned educator who came to Indiana for a scholarship to Ball State, is Dean of Scholars at Arlington High School. Llewellyn has nearly a decade of experience working in school districts, including Indianapolis Public Schools, and is an inaugural graduate of Marian University’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership, a training academy to prepare principals and teachers to improve struggling schools.

Heather Tsavaris studied the motivations of young people joining terrorist groups as a senior intelligence analyst with the U.S. Department of State. She learned that many young people were compelled by a sense of belonging and an opportunity to contribute to a cause. Tsavaris, an MBA, also learned that entrepreneurship provides youth the same sense of positive contribution and can divert them from involvement in terrorist organizations. Her school will build on this theory and create a learning environment centered on entrepreneurship that deeply engages students. This model will motivate students to learn, challenge them to be critical thinkers, and help prevent them from participating in negative behaviors, such as dropping out of school.

“The Innovation School Fellowship is another great tool to improve schools in our neighborhoods and further cement Indianapolis’ position as a national leader in education reform and improvement,” said Mayor Greg Ballard. “These innovative new school concepts, when implemented, will help prepare our children for future success in life and make Indianapolis an even more attractive place to live.”

The fellows will begin work in July. As a team, Phalen and Llewellyn will both serve as fellows, although Phalen will not accept a salary through the fellowship. They will receive a one-year fellowship and will launch their school in 2015. Franklin and Tsavaris each will receive two-year fellowships to give them the time needed to develop their new school models and will launch their schools in 2016.

Final approval to launch Innovation Network Schools will come from the IPS Board of School Commissioners.

“We’re thrilled to award our first Innovation School Fellowships to such impressive leaders with outstanding track records of success and strong visions for excellent schools,” said David Harris, Founder and CEO of The Mind Trust. “The fellowship will provide a pathway to unleash their talent to benefit more students within IPS.”

The Mind Trust will accept Statements of Intent for its next fellowship starting August 15 through the deadline of January 18, 2015. Full applications are due on March 1, 2015.

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 helps to launch high quality schools and initiatives that address key education challenges in Indianapolis through its Charter School Incubator, Education Entrepreneur Fellowship and Innovation School Fellowship programs. The Mind Trust 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 built a network of 17 world-class education organizations in Indianapolis, impacted more than 93,000 students through its work, and 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