Press Releases | July 6, 2017

The Mind Trust names fourth class of Innovation School Fellows to help create, transform city’s public schools

The Mind Trust names fourth class of Innovation School fellows to help create, transform city’s public schools

IndianapolisThe Mind Trust, the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and Mayor Joe Hogsett, today announced the selection of the fourth cohort of Innovation School Fellows, talented educators who will design, launch and operate “Innovation Network Schools,” which transform struggling schools in IPS and create other new educational opportunities in Indianapolis.

Innovation schools are public schools that give building-level school leaders full academic and operational freedom to innovate in order to improve student achievement.  School districts, such as IPS, may partner with nonprofits and charter school operators to convert their existing schools into Innovation schools or launch a brand-new Innovation school in the district.  These new schools can also be magnet or charter schools.

The Mind Trust partnered with IPS and the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation in 2014 to create the Innovation School Fellowship to supply a pipeline of talented educators to launch and run these new, high-quality schools.  Now in its fourth year, the fellowship has attracted top educational talent from Indianapolis and across the country to launch an Innovation school in Indianapolis.

The fellowship provides educators with the resources, supports and sufficient planning time to expand their own capacity and launch a great school.  In addition to salary and benefits, The Mind Trust provides fellows with a robust portfolio of supports as they spend up to two years developing their school.   Fellows have access to an extensive local and national network of experts and experiences, executive coaching, community engagement training and the opportunity to travel to and learn from the nation’s best schools.

During the fellowship, fellows present a full plan for their school to the IPS Board for final approval to launch the school as part of the district’s Innovation network.

The new fellows are:

  • Keeanna Warren and Scott Bess (IN). These leaders will launch the second location of Purdue Polytechnic High School, a new Indianapolis high school being developed by Purdue University.  Both schools will provide a hands-on, STEM-focused education that teaches the skills and knowledge to be successful throughout careers and paves the way for admission to a post-secondary institution.  The first school, which is being developed by Bess and 2016 Fellow Shatoya Jordan, will open this fall, while the second school is proposed to open in Fall 2019 with Warren as the founding principal.
  • Sajan George (NY) and Amy Swann (GA).  George is the founder of Matchbook Learning, a visionary nonprofit founded in 2011 to tackle the daunting, yet vital task of turning around the bottom five percent of schools across the country.  They propose to launch a new school in Indianapolis, which would be the seventh prototype of a school turnaround model that has been tested and refined in Detroit and Newark, NJ.  The proposed K-8 Innovation charter school would launch in Fall 2018, with Swann as school leader. 
  • Jacob Allen and Marie Dandie (IL). These educators founded pilotED, an emerging charter school network that will offer Indianapolis students a rigorous liberal arts curriculum focused on identity and sociology to interrupt cycles of generational poverty.  In 2013, they created after-school programs in two Chicago neighborhoods incorporating a curriculum embedded in sociology and identity to change the trajectory of struggling and low-income students.  Based on a three-year record of success in Chicago, pilotED will launch a K-8 Innovation charter school in Indianapolis based on the same principles.  The school could launch as early as Fall 2018, with Dandie serving as founding principal.
  • Emily Pelino (IN) and David Spencer (IL). Pelino is executive director of KIPP Indy Public Schools.  KIPP Indy is part of the national non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools with a 20-year track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and life.  KIPP Indy launched in 2004 as a middle school, and opened an elementary school in 2014.  It proposes partnering with IPS in order to deepen its impact on the near northeast side by opening its first high school, enabling KIPP Indy to educate its students from kindergarten to the time they matriculate to college.  The school would open in Fall 2019 with Spencer as school leader.

This fourth cohort will join fellows from the last three years who have opened or are about to open new Innovation schools in IPS.  The Mind Trust worked with IPS to launch three Innovation schools in 2016 with another four Innovation schools set to launch in Fall 2017.

“IPS is excited to stand on the cutting edge of school innovation and talent development,” said IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “To invest in these dynamic leaders who are thinking courageously and imaginatively deepens our commitment to provide quality school choice options to a diverse student population with wide-ranging interests and aptitudes.”

“The educators that are brought together by this fellowship program continue to enhance local opportunities for students and strengthen our pipeline of talent – demonstrating that Indianapolis’ culture of innovation is not limited to our tech ecosystem,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “I am excited to welcome the newest cohort of Innovation Fellows, and look forward to celebrating the impact of their work in the coming years.”

“Innovation Schools are expanding educational opportunity in Indianapolis and providing students and families with more high-quality education options in Indianapolis,” said David Harris, founder & CEO of The Mind Trust. “This important Innovation fellowship is continuing to attract the best and brightest education minds from Indianapolis and beyond to help in this effort to transform public education in our community.”


(Fellow biographies and brief descriptions of each school are attached.)