Blog | September 8, 2021

Helping More Kids is Our North Star

By Jim Schumacher, The Mind Trust’s Board Chair

When I moved back to Indianapolis with my family in 2011, one of my priorities was figuring out how to get involved with the community. I researched and spoke to local leaders and, when it came to the education space, it was clear that The Mind Trust was a leading organization. I reached out wanting to learn more, met with David Harris, and was fortunate enough to be able to join the board soon after.

I believe education is one of the most valuable tools anyone can acquire. It’s a great honor to be involved with an organization that works to provide all students with equal access to high-quality education. The possibility of The Mind Trust grew out of what I see as strong political leadership. That started with Bart Peterson, who left big shoes to fill when he passed the baton of Board Chair to me a few years ago.

Indianapolis is a city with the size and demeanor that makes systems-level change possible on a much shorter timeline than other places.

Jim Schumacher

Bart prioritized education reform at a time when it was not politically expedient. That’s a real values test. He could easily have punted education down the road and left it to future mayors. But he didn’t. Bart and David’s leadership and courage laid the groundwork for all the progress our city has realized over the past two decades, including what The Mind Trust has been able to accomplish. Indianapolis is a city with the size and demeanor that makes systems-level change possible on a much shorter timeline than other places. We’ve been able to avoid many of the knockdown, drag-out fights that consume other cities and stall progress. Leadership at the city, district, business, neighborhood, and nonprofit level consistently unite and find common ground to do what is right for kids. None of what we have today would have been possible without the example and dedication of people like Bart and David.

In reflecting on The Mind Trust’s first fifteen years, I’m most proud of the partnership we have cultivated with Indianapolis Public Schools. Innovation Network Schools have been a game-changer and have allowed our vision of autonomous schools to scale quickly driven by family and community interest. It is tempting to take Innovation Network Schools for granted, but they didn’t just appear. It took an enormous amount of work from a variety of stakeholders—this really speaks to the type of Midwestern common sense for doing what is best for students that I see prevailing in Indianapolis time and again.

On the other side of the coin, I hope we don’t rest on our laurels. No matter how well we do, we can always do better. Helping more kids do better ALWAYS needs to remain our north star. The needs of families and students have considerably changed since The Mind Trust’s founding and we are strategizing and thinking critically about how to reach as many students as possible across Indianapolis.

No matter how well we do, we can always do better. Helping more kids do better always needs to remain our north star.

Jim Schumacher

Thinking forward, I want us to double down on our community engagement work. Family involvement is absolutely critical. Anyone who wants to impact education should be supporting family empowerment. Disregarding or downplaying parent voice will only delay the progress we collectively seek. Another potential obstacle we need to keep in mind is that education is an inherently political sandbox. Politics are only getting more complex and partisan loyalties continue to alter who supports what at any given time. But I go back to our city’s greatest strength: our ability to work together and get along. If we keep our north star in mind and focus on the families we aim to serve, I believe these next years will see an acceleration of the progress we’ve already witnessed.

At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t end by highlighting what I see as the secret to The Mind Trust’s success in its first fifteen years. For anyone who has partnered with us in the past fifteen years, it’s probably not much of a secret: our team. The opportunity to work with The Mind Trust and this team of incredibly smart, talented, dedicated people is regularly the highlight of my week. I’m incredibly fortunate to serve as The Mind Trust’s Board Chair and I’m excited to see everything our team will be able to accomplish in the coming years.