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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Ten “Hmmm…” Moments from the HSE School Board Meeting on Feb 13

The February 13th, 2019 Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting was one of the longer meetings. This meeting had a number of topics covered including the video retention policy, an update to the non-discriminatory policy, approval of a bond, approval of a contract, and then updates by the superintendent and board members. In this short blog post, I’m going to cherry pick ten items from the meeting that were interesting or might make you say “hmmm…..”.

Hmmm…. 1: The Never Ending Video Retention Discussion

The topic of streaming and retaining videos is one that I believe to be a no-brainer. Other districts retain videos of the board meetings and don’t indicate any date for them to go away. Other organizations do the same. As such, it is mind boggling that the topic was brought up again and nearly 30 minutes spent bantering it around before a vote was taken. At one point Mr. Boyer even commented that there were more important things for the board to be talking about than this, yet he continued to talk about this instead of calling for a vote! Look for this to be reviewed and hopefully finalized in next month’s meeting!

Hmmmm…. 2: Sexual Harassment at Fishers High School

Wow! A couple of community members, including to FHS students, spoke on alleged sexual harassment at Fishers High School and the idea that a person was being allowed to participate in a sport they were removed from as a result.This discussion by itself is enough to make you go “hmmm….’. It left many questions. You can watch the following video starting after about minute 12:00 to hear the comments. With the exception of Mr. Boyer, the board did not comment on this topic.

Hmmm…. 3: “I won’t be reporting these kinds of things in the future”

It is an unusual thing for a student to present to the school board in the main part of the meeting. As such, the two FHS students presenting (in my previous “Hmmm) deserves its own call out. The bigger “hmmm”, however, is hearing a Fishers High School Student stating that as a result of the school district’s actions they don’t feel comfortable reporting future issue such as the one discussed. This is the exact opposite of the environment the school district has been trying to create. Hmmmm….

Hmmm…. 4: “That was in our 3 year plan anyway.”

Most people likely missed the subtle comment made by Mr. Harrison, one of the technology people for the district. The board was presented with a contract that included a charge of over $10,000 for electronic equipment to add close captioning in real-time to the video streaming. It is odd that time was spent for the school board to discuss this topic because Mr. Harrison made the comment that it was in his 3 year plan to buy the hardware anyway.  Hmmmm…..

Hmmm….5: On the agenda, off the agenda

On the draft agenda from the January 30th meeting, there was an item (5.01) for Ms. Chavez to report on a policy. Ms. Chavez prepared a 15 minute report to present to the school board on diversity. In the agenda for the February 13th meeting, this was dropped for a standard item on policies and Ms. Chavez was shifted to speak as a community contributor, which is restricted to just 3 minutes. I’m not privy to the details of what was promised by the board, but do see the draft agenda on the January 30th Board Docs and the final agenda for February 13th. Ms. Chavez did her presentation in 3 minutes, which was impressive. Wondering what additional information she could have presented will may you go “hmmmm….”.

Hmmm….6: High School Choice

Just when you think it is done, it’s not. While time is running out. the administration opened up a survey to try to determine the impact of adding transportation. Adding shuttle buses between the two high schools is being considered, which would allow families that can’t afford to provide their own transportation to be able to still make a choice on which High School they want their child to attend. It seems high school choice is not yet completely nailed down…hmmm….

Hmmm…7: A new school, but no net new teachers

Southeastern Elementary will be opening next year. With a new school, you’d expect that the district would see an increase in the number of overall classrooms and thus an increase in the number of teachers. In addition to 26 new positions at Southeastern Elementary, there is also a need for teachers at other schools. Specifically,  Cumberland Road would need to gain 4 teachers, Sand Creek Elementary needs to gain 1, and Riverside Intermediate needs to gain 5 teacher. A total 0f 36 positions need to be filled in the lower grade levels.

A flow chart was created (shown below) to make sure that the hiring for these positions is equitable across the schools. Teachers in the district had until February 25th to apply for these Kindergarten through sixth grade positions. After that, the positions will be opened for consideration outside of the current teaching staff. this expanded opening is expected to happen by Spring Break. At the meeting, it was stated that there was going to be a lot of movement of teachers across the district.

Mr. Boyer asked the question of how many positions the district was going to lose at existing schools to make up for the new school. The response was that the 36 open positions, replace 36 existing positions. No new positions are being created even though a new school is being filled. That should make you go hmmm….!

Hmmm…8: Redistricting in a couple of years

Yes, you heard right. There could be another redistricting within a couple of years. This topic was raised when issues around High School Choice were raised and the need to consider different high school lines. If Durbin Elementary is updated or rebuilt, then it could take on a couple hundred additional students. This would cause a small shift in the redistricting that just occurred to take advantage of the space. The shift in the elementary schools would then roll out and impact the other schools that were being fed into. Changes to Durbin Elementary could happen within just a couple of years. Dr. Bourff seems to be pushing for this change sooner rather than later.

Hmmm….9: Posting recent videos…Maybe Not?

Previously it had been indicated that meetings in the new board room were being recorded and could be made available. At this meeting, it was stated that the board meetings that were being recorded before the streaming starts, might not be posted to the public. It was indicated that there would be a cost associated to getting the videos posted due to the need to add closed captioning and processing them to fit within the BoardDocs agenda structure. The technology group was going to need to see what the cost and effort is going to be. This would mean that some of the contentious meetings such as this one and the mid-November meeting would never go live. Hmmm….how convenient.

Hmmm…10: “In the public, not with the public”

It was stated by the board that the meetings are in the public, not with the public. This is important for those attending school board meetings to understand because it means that while you might have information that could help the board in the discussions they are having, you can’t share that information. It also means that if you want to speak, you have to request time in advance and present without the expectation of getting feedback. This means you can present questions, but you cannot expect answers. As many people saw in the February 13th meeting, the board can engage with members of the public if they want. They don’t, however, have to engage with everyone that takes the time to present.

In Conclusion

The February 13 HSE School Board meeting was definitely interesting. My notes are not perfect, but they give you an idea of just some of the many topics that were covered. Not all school board meetings are as exciting as this one, but with everything happening in the district, I expect there will be a few more exciting meetings in the coming months.

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Transparency Versus HSE Schools Video Retention Policy

The HSE School Board has been discussing their video retention policy for months now. The previous school board overwhelmingly voted for videos to only be retained for 45 days before being removed. One board member indicated that for transparency the videos should be left online indefinitely. Because it wouldn’t be until later that videos would start to be posted, the old board decided the incoming board could review the policy and decide on changes.

The new board is now in place and the video retention policy has been discussed a couple of times. If the policy is going to be changed, it is expected to happen next month.

Why should the policy change?

First, why not retain the video indefinitely? Other school districts and organizations leave their videos online. Storage is cheap, and storing them provides the ability to go back and find what was discussed. There have already been examples referenced by the new board to the interest in looking at old videos, something they can’t do because they don’t exist.

The primary argument for removing the videos has been that the written board minutes are the official record of the meetings. While this is the case, the official minutes in the current written form are lackluster at best. This is best illustrated with an example. At the November 14th meeting, there was an agenda item related to the HSEA (the teachers’ association). The official minutes documents this as follows:

6. HSEA Relationship with Board
Information, Discussion: 6.01 HSEA Relationship with Board of School Trustees

Janet Chandler gave a brief presentation to the board.

Parent, Cathy Goldman addressed the board, calling into question board reaction to social media postings.

That is the official tracking of this board item as recorded in the minutes and approved on November 30th. From these official minutes, you’d never know that this item caused the school board room to be packed. The room was filled primarily with teachers who were concerned with a public posting by an existing school board member. The parent comments reflected the same. Had there been a video of the event you’d have gotten the details that were like what is in the following poorly recorded video:

As you can see in the video, a lot was said that isn’t reflected in the minutes. More importantly, with a 45 day retention policy, an official video of this meeting would now be gone, expunged, lost in history. While a few board members might like to see it go, it could be argued that there were important points being made that would also be lost.

This is just one example. As someone who has attended a lot of school board meetings, I could list other examples of where discussions in the board meetings were not reflected in the minutes. Such a list could be an entire article on its own. I won’t do that at this time.

Will the policy change?

I believe there are currently three school board members that will vote for transparency and the posting of videos for the long term. I believe that there are two school board members that could vote against posting the minutes for the long term, just as they voted to keep the current policy no longer than 45 days. That leaves two board members that I would be hard-pressed to predict, which means a vote could go either way. THe first of these two, Brad Boyer, is an unknown to me on this topic. In the discussion from this last school board meeting, his contribution was about reviewing policies and not really about this specific policy. It was unclear if he had a point regarding the specific video policy, which left his potion questionable. The other unknown to me is Sylvia Shepler, who had sided with the old board on limiting the video to 45 days; however, the November 30th meeting she seemed to support the idea of leaving the video live “for at least four years.” From her past votes on topics, however, I won’t speculate on how Sylvia will vote. Of course, nobody’s vote is certain until it happens.

In Conclusion….

In short, right now it is unclear how the vote for retaining the videos will go. I would strongly suggest people write the board members and push for them to support transparency and make a policy that leaves the videos live forever. Being able to go back and review discussions on topics that have happened within school board meetings is a valuable resource. Let’s hope that a majority of the board members see the value in leaving this information available. After all, if there is nothing to hide, then what’s the harm in leaving them public other than it making a number of people more accountable….

And yes, here is my rough video of the video retention discussion from the January 30th board meeting:

High School Choice HSE School Board Discussion

Hamilton Southeastern Schools has two high schools, Fishers High School (FHS) and HSE High School (HSE). While recent redistricting impacted many kids in kindergarten through eight grade, the district left the high schools alone – for the most part.

The reality is, the high schools are not balanced. To offset this, Fishers has allowed parents to choose to send their kid to the high school outside of their area within the district. The result of this is that about 8 kids have chosen to go to HSE instead of FHS, and almost 200 have chosen to go to FHS instead of HSE. This doesn’t include the additional kids going to FHS for the IB program.

The net results of this for 2019-20 can be seen in the following chart pulled from the HSE School Board BoardDocs page:

You an see that in the end, HSE is currently expecting 3342 students next year with FHS having almost 7% more at 3572. While Fishers High School is higher, the district expects growth to be on the HSE side of town, thus the lower number could change.

Where the Noise is

The issue with high school choice, however, centers on transportation. The HSE district has offered transportation for many of the high school students even if they were not in the current district lines. This was not something guaranteed, so going forward transportation will not be offered. This has caused a number of people to complain. One of the biggest issues is that many people going to HSE have to drive by FHS to get there. Another issue centers on the neighborhoods near the dividing line. In those neighborhoods, there are a number of kids that have chosen to flip schools. This puts pressure on the remaining kids that are friends to do the same so they can stick together. For those families that can’t afford or have the means to drive their child to school, this adds undo pressure. Additionally, because neighborhoods are on the line, in some cases, busses from both high schools enter the neighborhood, yet kids can only use the one for the school they are allocated.

The issue has been contentious. At the last school board meeting, there was a great deal of discussion on the topic by the new school board. Additionally, one parent spoke on the topic to the board. The following is the rough video of that meeting:

Redistricting the High Schools

Based on the comments made in the last HSE School Board meeting, redistricting at the high school level is not currently planned. The choice program, while not at the percentage the superintendent would like, is close enough to let things continue as they currently stand. The plan is to continue the experiment of choice for the next year or two.

The school district is currently working on student numbers for next year now. These numbers need to be nailed down because it determines the number of classrooms and teachers needed. If there is a need to shift teachers or hire new teachers, that needs to be done sooner rather than later. As such, any changes to district school lines need to be finalized now.

Some of the Q&A:

Question: Could buses be offered for those neighborhoods that have a busload of kids that are choosing to go to a different school?

Answer: This would cause issues. There could be others that then want to switch schools who hadn’t done choice due to the lack of transportation. Additionally, other kids could say it is unfair to bus some kids but not all.

Question: Could we extend the bussing done this year for another year?

Answer: The reasoning for adding bussing this year no longer exists next year. Additionally, bussing was never guaranteed. Kids were allowed on busses if there was space.

Question: If IB kids are being transferred between schools on the shuttles, why couldn’t we expand this to allow any kids to use the transfer buses? This might take 2 or 3 more buses

Answer: If a kid can afford to drive, they are likely to drive rather than bus to one school and then take another bus to school.

Question: Why is Fishers High School more desired?

Answer: Because kids at Riverside Junior High want to stick together as do those at some of the other High Schools. Additionally, Fishers High School is closer to where a lot of kids live.

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