Westside Education Task Force
We collaborate to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address the educational attainment and opportunities for residents of Near West and West Indianapolis.
The Westside Education Task Force (WETF) is currently working to create a collective impact structure to bring together various stakeholders and partners to enhance the quality of education in both Near West and West Indianapolis. The plan will incorporate goals, strategies, and indicators that address the education of learners that are:
- Birth–2nd grade
- Elementary/Middle School (Grades 3–8)
- High School (Grades 9–12 & GED)
- Community Supports & Resources (All levels)
- College & Career (Adult and Continuing Education)
In October 1998 the IUPUI-WESCO Partnership Steering Committee organized a WESCO (Westside Cooperative Organization) Education Forum. The purpose of the WESCO Education Forum was to inform Near Westside community residents of the impact of a recent court order to overturn a desegregation order that had been in place for 20 years. The desegregation order required the busing of African American children from the inner city to township schools.
This, along with other economic factors, resulted in the decline of many of the communities located inside the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) district and the closing of seven public schools in the WESCO community. An important outcome of this forum was the formation of the WETF.
Since its inception, the WETF has also been responsible for organizing additional Education Forums, creating a Community Education for the near Westside Vision Statement, coordinating Education Study Circles, conducting surveys of the educational needs and interests of residents, collaborating with IPS staff and the superintendent to improve educational opportunities in WESCO, and promoting the development of George Washington Middle School into a community school.
In the fall of 1999, the WETF, led by the late Daniel J. Fugate, played an important role by advocating that the IPS School Board and IPS administration re-open a public school in WESCO. Mr. Fugate had long been an advocate for bringing a school back into the community. Community meetings were sponsored by the WETF, and for the first time Westside residents met with the IPS superintendent to voice their dreams for a neighborhood school. The WETF received a commitment from IPS that George Washington High School, one of the most visible community symbols in WESCO, would reopen in the fall of 2000 as a middle school.
The Office of Neighborhood Partnerships played a role in the development of the new school through the creation of the George Washington School Transition Team. The team, consisting of WETF members, social service providers, neighborhood association officers and residents, and IUPUI representatives, provided guidance to the principal and IPS staff as decisions were made for the new school. The Transition Team gave the community a voice during this time and continued to push for the incorporation of the community school model at George Washington.
Following the 2000 school year, the WETF supported the school’s efforts to become a model community school. During the fall of 2001 the school officially changed its name to George Washington Community School (GWCS). The school received the inaugural National Community School Award in 2006. GWCS was also recognized by the Knowledge Works Foundation as “one of the nation’s best examples of a school as center of community.” Currently, IUPUI has approximately 18 different programs and classes engaged in the school.
In addition to the engagement with what is now George Washington Community High School, the WETF also worked with the community to advocate for the reconstruction of Wendell Phillips School 63 at Mozel Sanders Park. It is now the committee's vision to tailor the community school model for all neighborhood schools and strengthen the continuum of education, Early Childhood through Adult and Continuing Education, for both the Near West and West Indianapolis neighborhoods.