Frequently Asked Questions?

What is a Transformation Zone? 

  • Indiana law allows districts to develop “transformation zones” to dramatically transform low-performing schools. Under Transformation zones, schools operate under a different organizational structure and receive specific innovations to improve performance. The Transformation Zone in South Bend will be called the South Bend Empowerment Zone (SBEZ or Empowerment Zone).

  • Empowerment Zone schools are still district schools.  Through a contract, they remain accountable to the South Bend School Corporation publicly elected school board through a five-year performance contract.

  • The Empowerment Zone has a shared governance model that gives Zones the best of district leadership and community voice.  The Zone’s shared governing board is the board of a newly formed community-based non-profit organization founded as a partnership between the district and community to support the schools in the Zone.

Why should schools be excited about the Empowerment Zone? 

  • Teacher and Leader Empowerment: The Zone affords educators the opportunity to design and sustain a professional learning community specifically tailored to the needs of their students and the adults who serve them.

  • Resource Flexibility: In the Zone, schools have more flexibility over how they use their resources.  They may decide to keep the services they have been receiving from the district, or they may opt in to some district services and opt out of others that don’t fit their needs. They may also decide to adjust their schedules or staffing plans to better fit their needs.  Zone schools can also access philanthropic and community partnerships to develop innovative teacher leadership opportunities and student service models that enrich supports, e.g., sharing additional social workers or counselors across campuses.

  • Zone-Specific Support Structures: Schools in the Zone will receive targeted support from Education Resource Strategies, Instruction Partners, and other partners to better utilize their resources, strengthen their instructional programs, and better meet the needs of students and teachers.

How can Transformation Zones help improve school performance?

  • Clear and integrated autonomy will allow schools to make strategic choices – about the calendar, schedule, curriculum, teacher leadership roles, and budget – that create a unified, coherent instructional program that is well-tailored to a specific school’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

  • The Zone structures will allow educators to choose the specific strategies – including internal professional development models and/or coaching support from external partners – that help them actualize their school’s vision. These supports help ensure schools have the resources they need to use autonomy well.

  • By including clear and defined ways for staff members to have a voice and giving schools flexibility in their approaches, educators can deepen their investment in their school’s strategies.

What is the role of teachers in the South Bend Empowerment Zone?

  • Educators and staff in the Zone schools remain employees of SBCSC and retain collective bargaining rights.

  • School teams are empowered to develop school-level plans aligned with their students’ needs, and educators have a formal voice in this process. Each school will create a “Teacher Leadership Teams” made up of elected teams of teachers who work with the principal to develop these school plans and ensure thoughtful implementation.  

Are South Bend Empowerment Zone schools still part of the district? 

  • Yes, Zone schools remain district schools and teachers and principals remain district employees.

Will teachers still have union representation?

  • Yes, teachers may remain union members and have the right to collectively bargain.

Will teachers in Zone schools need to reapply for their jobs? 

  • There is no plan for a reapplication process. Teachers will have an option to opt-out of their current positions and be placed elsewhere in the district.

Will Zone schools be operated by external charter organizations?

  • No, Empowerment Zone schools will not be operated by outside charter school organizations – they remain district schools.

What is the role of the South Bend Empowerment Zone governing board? 

  • The Zone’s shared governing board serves as the board of a newly-formed community-based nonprofit organization founded in order to support the Zone schools.

  • The Zone’s Board of Directors will include the School Board President or designee, the Superintendent or designee, the member of the School Board representing District 3 or the member’s designee, and at least four and up to eight individuals who are neither employees nor designees of SBCSC.

  • The Zone Board is a public entity that will hold open meetings and share information with the public.

  • The South Bend Empowerment Zone is directly accountable to the elected School Board through a 5-year performance contract.

  • The Zone board plays several important roles: 

  1. It represents community and district interests and sets the overall strategy for the Zone, prioritizing school empowerment

  2. It hires and evaluates the Zone’s leader

  3. It holds schools accountable to the agreed-upon performance management framework and has the power to make principal changes consistent with this framework

  4. It approves key policies, contracts, and the annual budget

  5. It ensures compliance with state/federal law and with all nonprofit requirements

How does funding work? Are there financial differences?

South Bend Empowerment Zone schools may opt out of some centralized district services. The money the school would have paid for those services is instead available to the school to buy other services or hire more staff members, meaning that they have more control over their budgets allowing them to spend money and resources in ways most needed by students.  The Zone is structured to be financially sustainable, though Zone schools may also enjoy additional state funding and philanthropic support to build capacity as the Zone launches and to support specific programs.

  • Does the Zone nonprofit take resources away from schools? 

    • All board members of the Empowerment Zone organization are unpaid, and the organization is a nonprofit.  School funding goes directly to schools and then a portion may be used for Zone staff to operate the Zone, much in the same way that schools outside the Zone pay for central office staff.  No money is kept or made by the Zone.

  • How does the Zone affect other district schools financially? 

    • Zone schools will be funded at an equitable level relative to other SBCSC schools. This means that Zone schools will have access to an equitable share of SBCSC resources without disproportionately burdening other SBCSC schools, and vice versa.

How would enrollment work at South Bend Empowerment Zone schools?

  • Zone schools follow district enrollment practices and the district continues to manage general enrollment for all Zone schools.

How would we measure improvement at Zone schools?

  • The Transformation Zone plan that was submitted to the Indiana Board of Education includes specific performance goals for each school.

  • In addition, the Zone will collaboratively create a holistic system of performance management for schools. This framework will prioritize growth in student achievement and will also consider factors such as teacher, staff, and family satisfaction, attendance, academic attainment. Performance goals on the framework will be clear, ambitious, and attainable.

  • By including clear and defined ways for staff members to have a voice and giving schools flexibility in their approaches, educators can deepen their investment in their school’s strategies.

  • By including clear and defined ways for staff members to have a voice and giving schools flexibility in their approaches, educators can deepen their investment in their school’s strategies.

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