The Ranking of the Fishers and HSE High Schools

HSE LogoHSE Schools (HSE) are stated to be among the best, so it is with interest that you should want to know how the two HSE district high schools ranked within the Indianapolis area according to US News & World Report!

Both schools made the list, but neither was at the top. In fact, the top spot on the list went to Zionsville Community High School, which was ranked second within Indiana overall. Neither school made the second or third place on the list either. Second went to HSE’s biggest rival, Carmel High School, which placed fourth for the state. Third was taken by a smaller school, Herron High School, which placed fifth in the state.

So where did HSE’s two high schools land? It was no surprise to me that Fishers High School (FHS) landed ahead of Hamilton Southeastern High School (HHS). Fishers High School was fifth in the Indianapolis area and eighth overall in Indiana. Hamilton Southeastern High School landed sixth in the Indianapolis area and just squeaked into the top ten in the state in the 10th spot.

While both schools made top 10 in the state, neither made top 100 nor top 500 in the country. In fact, Fishers High School ranked 632 in the country and Hamilton Southeastern High School was well below that at number 826.

I’ve created a chart that lets you compare a lot of the data that was reported on the two high schools and have included Carmel and Zionsville comparisons:

FHSHHSCarmelZionsville
National Rank632826305244
Indiana Rank
81042
Indianapolis Area Rank5621
Student-Teacher Ratio22:122:118:121:1
Enrollment 3250311850001928
Took at least 1 AP Exam59%63%58%78%
Passed at least 1 AP Exam40%40%50%68%
Math Proficiency64%64%71%66%
Reading Proficiency83%81%86%85%
State Testing Performance98.4%97.1%99.7%
98.7%
Graduation Rate97%97%98%97%
College Readiness45.245.851.970.6
Free Lunch Program12%8%6%3%
Reduced Lunch Program5%4%2%2%
Gender Distribution (Female)
51%49%49%49%
Minority Enrollment27%25%24%14%
STEM High School Rank237

While it is often said that the Hamilton Southeastern district high schools are the best in the areas, the data clearly presents a different picture if you based your opinion on performance. While the scores for the high schools are great, Carmel and Zionsville have proven that improvements can be made.

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Note that the Hamilton Southeastern Schools District (HSE) has two high schools. One is called Fishers High School (FHS) and the other is called Hamilton Southeastern High School or HSE High School (HHS). The sharing of the district name with a school can be confusing!

Support Me – Even Though I’m Not Here…

This week an issue came up more than once , so I thought it worth writing about. Many things that I believe are obvious, clearly aren’t for many other people. One such issue is the expectation to gain support for something when you don’t bother to show up.

If you are running for a position, or if you are asking people to do something for you, then it would be expected that you would be present when asking or when decisions are being made. Surprisingly, there were two incidents that people failed to show.

The Goat Incident…

At a City Council meeting, a local school asked for approval to have goats at the school. When the issue came before the city council, nobody from the school that could answer questions about the goats attended. Due to concerns including the potential of goat stampedes, the city council ended up discussing and finally delaying a decision.

At the June city council meeting, talks about the goat request from the school were addressed again. The difference this time was that a representative from the school attended and was able to answer questions. After the meeting a city council member commented that the thing that made the difference for the voting was the fact that a person from the school attended. Clearly, if the school was expecting to get support from the city council, they needed to be represented at the city council meeting.

The Board Meeting Incident…

This past month, a member of the HSE School Board resigned. The existing school board members get to determine who will fill the position for the rest of the term. Twenty-four people applied to be considered for the open position.

Because it was stated that the school board would determine the replacement, you’d expect these 24 candidates to do what they could to influence the board members. There was only one school board meeting between the application deadline and the time the decision would be made.

Being that these candidates were apply to be a part of the school board, you’d expect that all twenty-four would attend the next meeting. After all, what better way to solicit a vote that to attend a meeting with the people who would be making the decision. Attending the meeting would also be a chance to see some of the discussion and topics that the board was currently addressing.

Sadly, only about a half dozen, or roughly 25% of the candidates attended the board meeting in person. It seemed the other roughly 75% wanted to be voted into a position to attend future meetings even though they were unable to attend this one.

The school board announced at the meeting the four finalists for the position and asked them to stand. Only two of the four finalists stood. It is assumed the other two were unable to attend. They, like the other candidates not there, had hoped for support, even though they were not there. Of course, the two that were there had the opportunity to talk to existing board members and be seen by the administration.

The Lesson to be Learned….

For most of the school board candidates, it ended up not mattering that they didn’t show up, because they were not a part of the four finalists that the board announced. It will be interested to see at the next school board meeting if the candidate that is voted into the position is one of the two that did attend, or if the board supports a candidate even though they didn’t take the time to show up to a meeting.

From the city council meeting, the lesson to be learned is that if you want a request approved, then it is critically important that you have someone present to support your request. If you can’t take the time to show up to support your own request, then how can you expect others to support it?

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Will the Fishers Nickel Plate Trail Cost $108 Million?

$108 million is a lot of money, especially for roughly four and a half miles of asphalt trail. However, when you start adding underpasses with LED systems, buying land rights, building barriers to block buildings, adding statues and art structures, creating entertainment centers for teens, create access from side roads, build risen platforms for viewing planes or “getting engaged”, or do a variety of other ideas that have been suggested for the trail, then the costs start adding up.

The original cost of the trail within Fishers was $4.4 plus some additional costs for road crossings. A couple hundred thousand was also planned for track removal. This is the number that as of today is still posted on the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs.

Recently, the city released a study indicating the incremental cost of doing both a trail and tracks. Being that the tracks already exist, it is really should be a study about showing the incremental cost of adding a trial while keeping the tracks! While the city had time and money to pull together this comprehensive report, they have been unable up to this point to provide a similar plan to what the trail along is going to cost. Being that they have already approved a tax increase for the trail, it is worth wondering why a similar plan had not already been done for the trail alone.

Being that the plan for the trail alone has not been made public, and being that no such plan can be provided when requested, we are left speculating the cost on our own. It is clear based on the fact that the city has already indicated that the initial cost of the first of three phases will be over $10 million, that the $4.4 million online is bogus, even though the FAQs still list it.

If you look at the Nickel Plate master plan, you’ll see that the original estimate was complete fantasy. While the plan doesn’t necessarily state that the items it contains will ever be constructed, the fact that they are included implies they will be. In addition to what is in the plan, there are also other costs that have been overlooked, such as adding sidewalks from the side roads at 106th and at 131st to get to the trail. With creeks and other obstacles, these side sidewalks will come with high price tags as well.

Taking a look at the plans, here are a few high ticket items that will skyrocket the price:

  • At 96th Street, a raised sidewalk leading to a raised platform and bridge over 96th Street, which is a major intersection requiring serious bridge work.
  • The plan shows a visitor center as a connector to the trail as well. This doesn’t exist, so while it isn’t part of the trail, it will be an addition multi-million dollar cost to Fishers and the tax payers.
  • The road crossing at Hague near 96th Street is a relatively high traffic road, a standard crosswalk will be done instead of going over or under. However, the plan shows a crosswalk with “container gateways,” seating and place making, and LED lighting built into the ground for lighting. This along with the landscaping will create additional costs.
  • Trail nodes, shelters, pull off zones, and other special elements will be additional costs that go way above the asphalt.
  • The addition of restrooms, water for dogs, hang out areas, and features such as swings are also presented in the plan.
  • Just South of 106th is an Art Park by the Scale-Up Plaza and additional small park listing. This is all surrounded by the new Hub and Spoke and other buildings, so from the plan, these items seems less like a community part and more like a feature of the businesses in that area.
  • The initial $10 million might already account for the costs of the play ground and sensory garden between 106th and 116th as well as the trail plaza, underpass, underpass ramp, and trail commons area in the downtown area. One thing that is clear based on the plan is that the downtown section will be shadowed by buildings on both sides including at least 3 parking garages. The Cove, the LED lighting, the tiered seating, the cultural commons, and the sculptures and innovation coves will all need to be paid for.
  • In the Tech area of Fishers, there are plans shown for a boardwalk, outdoor working pavilions, hammocks (over water), umbrella power stations, a meet-up environment with tables and chairs, and a ‘beach’ area.
  • Further north, there are proposed recreation courts and a teen center. This teen hangout could include a multi-level building including game courts as well as an obstacle course.
  • An education center that includes a tree house and art wall.
  • nature centers that provide overlooks (although I’m not sure to what)
  • Parking lots along the trail.
  • Possible power and data WiFi hubs as well as lighting and power.
  • And so much more…

When you add all of these items together along with the base cost of the tail, the number starts growing astronomically. The city has not committed to doing everything in the master plan; however, they did present the plan. As such, without serious disclaimers, an expectation is being set. Will it cost $108 million? I was told it by a city council member that it wouldn’t come close to $30 million. He implied it would be much less, but in seeing a plan without numbers, I’m wondering if he really meant it was going to go way over that amount!

My number of $108 million is pulled out of the air; however, it is more likely at this point than the published number from the city, which was the $4.4 million. At $108 million, that is about $1,100 per person or roughly $4,500 for a family of four. That’s a lot higher than the $170 cost originally implied for a family of four.

While grants could pay for some of this, that is unknown at this time. Without a budget and with the city showing they are willing to raise taxes to get what they want, it seems like the checkbook is open and a blank check has been signed.

You and I, the residents of Fishers, will be left to pay the tab when it comes due, starting with the increase in our upcoming property taxes. In reviewing my property taxes, it seems the only area where the rates increased were with the city. Unless something changes, I expect that increasing city taxes will become a trend.

Parting comment…
I would love to have this trail and all it offers. However, like all things I pay for, I want to know the cost up-front so I can compare it to other opportunities, such as adding sidewalks to some of our major streets, adding more SROs to our schools, fixing pot holes, or adding parks to other parts of the city. I’ve said it before, raising taxes and starting a project this big without having a budget or spending cap is fiscally irresponsible.

Is $108 million the estimated cost for the trial? The number is pulled out of the air, so it is highly doubtful. Having said that, it is much more likely to be $108 million than the number that has been posted in the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs.

The White River and Fishers

When it comes to the discussions of what is happening with the White River, there are lots of plans being created that stretch from the top of Hamilton County all the way to the bottom of Marion County. With Fishers being in the middle, you’d expect it to be included in the plans.

Fishers is included in the plan, with a lot of changes proposed that include a boat launch, two pedestrian bridges that cross the river, walking trails, and a lot of planned activity ideas. The issue, however, is that this would all be a part of Conner Prairie, and not likely public access. Conner Prairie has a map of their future plans that includes many features that tap into using the river. Once they have made their official public announcement, then I’ll be able to share a diagram showing many of their updates and the expected locations.

As a member of Conner Prairie, I find the bridge, trail, and other ideas to be great improvements; however, it would have been nice to see ideas for White River improvements applied throughout the other areas of Fishers. The Public level of access to the White River from Fishers is minimal, with primary access at 116th Street and South. Ironically, most of the Conner Prairie plans are in Carmel – the West side of the river.

The Fishers City Council is focused on the rail trail and the new park on Geist, but it would be nice to see additional focus put on the White River and the opportunities it offers. Right now, the primary access from Fishers is a boat launch at 116th Street, Heritage Park, and behind the Riverside schools. Adding access to the river at 146th Street would allow a person to canoe, float, or kayak down to 116th or even 96th Street. Additionally, adding easier access to the river at Heritage Park would make it easier to get in and out of the river. It would also open up tubing from 116th Street to Heritage Park.

Outside of Fishers, there are a lot of popular destinations on the river. I mentioned many of the parks in a previous post. The following image from the White River planning committee list many of the popular destinations. It would be great to see more added that are located in Fishers!


A Vision for the White River : Live Events Happening

The White River flows along the entire West side of Fishers. This is a fantastic asset that has a lot more to offer than a strip of old railroad tracks.

A group has been working to build a plan for the improved usage of the White River through Hamilton and Marion counties. I’ve posted a little bit about what they’ve been doing and will be posting more in the future. Of immediately importance, however, are a number of planning engagements over the next few days that will allow anyone to come and provide input to their plans. At these events you will gain insights into what has been happening on and around the river as well as the plans that are forming. The following image includes the dates happening this week:

UPDATE: Due to the weather, the meetings for 1/30 at MIBOR and Sun King Brewery have been postponed to 2/13 at a location to be determined.

When I’ve attended one of these events in the past, there was not a formal meeting, but rather a chance to see some of the plan and provide direct input to the group. This has included home owners asking that the plans leave their land alone to adventurers asking for more activities to be created. There are also those simply looking to understand more about what is available in the area.

These meetings are this week (the week I’m writing this), but the planning will be ongoing. You can always get more information or find the latest gathers on the MyWhiteRiver.com site. As mentioned, the planning covers the area shown in the following image: