Audits of Indianapolis Public Schools' budget begin next week. Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is using them to confirm findings that the district has a surplus, not a deficit as was reported by previous administrations.
Ferebee is confident his analysis of the budget is correct.
Last month, he announced findings that IPS was $8 million in the black, not $30 million in the red.
He says the problem stems from the district over projecting expenses to protect what he calls a "bloated" cash balance.
Now, the State Board of Accounts and Council of Great City Schools will conduct audits of Ferebee’s figures.
And the superintendent is vowing changes in putting together next year’s budget, including involving more stakeholders.
"We will have a committee that will be inclusive of business leaders, community members, local elected officials, students, teachers, other staff members, and we are excited about engaging those individuals in the budget process," he said.
He also wants the committee to look at establishing a reserve fund.
Ferebee says district expenditures are almost $6 million below what was expected for the first quarter of 2014 and revenues are coming in as predicted.
IPS likely will see a $1 million decrease in revenue next quarter because enrollment dropped by 300 students between September and February.
The State Department of Education reports 38 of Indianapolis Public Schools' 66 schools are considered below average or failing.
But, data released this week indicates only five teachers in IPS were rated as ineffective.
Ferebee says there is a "misalignment" between student and teacher performance and better leadership is needed to bridge the gap.
Ferebee points to the need for a cultural shift within IPS.
"Our teachers are telling us that they don't have access to quality leadership," he said. "If you look at any research on why people leave or stay at an organization, it starts and ends with good leadership."
And he said changes must begin at the top.
"What we have been working to ensure is that we have district leaders and that we have strong leadership at the district level which would then translate to strong leadership at the school level and then empowering our teachers at the school level to exercise their leadership," said Ferebee.
Ferebee believes empowered teachers will lead to improved outcomes.
He says the district is going to take a second look at its performance evaluation system to get what he calls “a true picture of teacher performance.”
Part of that is better utilizing highly rated educators as resources for development and finding ways to increase their compensation.