Evan Taylor had heard good things about Surge Academy from colleagues in other cities and figured he should give it a shot too when the fellowship for education leaders of color decided to come to Indianapolis this year.

The 16 Surge Academy fellows begin meeting this month and will continue through March 2021. They’ll bounce ideas off each other, learn from one another and develop executive skills such as finance, strategic planning and change management.

Surge Academy is part of Surge Institute and is now in four cities. The fellowship program came to Indianapolis through a partnership with The Mind Trust.

That’s another reason Taylor was interested in applying. He’s a district math coach for Indianapolis Public Schools and believes in the traditional public school model through and through.

The Mind Trust has been an education reform leader in Indianapolis, advocating for mayor-sponsored charter schools and Innovation Network Schools, which are operated by outside organizations that partner with IPS.

The Mind Trust said in a press release its support of Surge Academy is an organizational commitment to address racial equity. Kateri Whitley, director of communications, said The Mind Trust did not play a role in selecting the fellows. 

Taylor hopes to learn how to better advocate for traditional public schools. Charter school leaders often pitch their schools as a place where Black students can thrive through a more autonomous learning environment. Taylor doesn’t see the school reform movement as an evil, black-and-white issue but still feels conflicted about charter schools’ place in the education of Black children.

“We still have a civic and moral responsibility to make good on the promise of quality education,” he said.

Noemi Cortes, program director for Surge Academy, said the program leaves outcomes to participants, but it doesn’t have to be focused on education. Participants can fill a void in their communities. A fellow in Chicago became the city’s first chief equity officer, for example, while a fellow in Kansas City started a coffee shop in her neighborhood.

Fellows will meet once a month (mostly virtual) for a “pretty intense day,” Cortes said.

“One of our biggest hopes in working together is that through this program people are actually able to fellowship — literally be able to develop a sense of community with each other — and then disrupt these silos we tend to have in education,” she said.

That’s part of what India Hui is looking forward to. Hui is the executive director at Thrival Indy Academy and offers plenty of professional development for her staff, but it’s rare to have that opportunity for herself.

Local leaders of color know each other well enough, Hui said, but this will be a new context to learn from each other and help each other grow.

“We’ve not been able to work in a space where we’re challenging one another and pursuing dreams,” she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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