February 15, 2019

5 Things We Know About IPS Supt. Search

IPS will host at least three public input sessions to gather data on what the community wants from the next superintendent. - WFYI News, file

IPS will host at least three public input sessions to gather data on what the community wants from the next superintendent.

WFYI News, file

Late last year, former Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Lewis Ferebee announced he was leaving Indianapolis Public Schools to lead Washington, D.C. public schools. At a January board meeting commissioners released a timeline for its search to replace him.

School board President Michael O’Connor addressed the media Friday afternoon about the ongoing search. Here are five things we know. 

Community input will be considered

The district plans to hold at least three community input sessions before the search for a new superintendent begins.

  • Jan. 27, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. at the Hawthorne Community Center
  • March 7, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. at Arsenal Technical High School
  • March 13, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. at George Washington Carver Montessori School 87

Parents, teachers and community stakeholders will meet in small groups to discuss what characteristics and qualifications they want out of the district’s next leader. These notes will be given to the school board.

The district has been criticized for its lack of community input on major decisions. President O’Connor says in response they decided to make it a focus. 

“It seemed to make sense to us as a board to really sort of say, ‘Okay, here's a window before we begin the search process, we're going to take community input on what you're looking for in the next superintendent,’” O’Connor says.

IPS will also have an online portal for people to offer input. If deemed necessary, the board may schedule a fourth community meeting.

The district could have a new superintendent in May

A timeline released by the board slates the hire for the district’s new superintendent in late May.

IPS Community Coalition, a group critical of the district’s direction under Ferebee, voiced concern that the district would rush to hire a replacement by March.

The district plans to hold several public events in May, where the community can meet with the final candidates.

There’s division over what kind of leader the district needs

The question remains whether the next IPS leader will lead the district down the path laid out by Ferebee, maintaining partnerships with charter schools and district schools managed by third-parties.

Aleesia Johnson was appointed the district’s interim-superintendent last year, and has indicated her support for Ferebee’s policies.

IPS Community Coalition is against choosing Johnson as a permanent replacement.

“The experience and qualifications of Interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, although fitting within the state legal requirements for superintendent positions, are lacking,” the group said in a statement.

Two recently-elected school board members railed against the district’s direction during their campaigns. Both commissioners received campaign support from IPS Community Coalition.

However, Board President Michael O’Connor says the position will attract candidates interested in the district’s innovation network model.

“What we've heard is we need a strong leader who is a good listener, but we'll continue the path the progress that we've made as a school system,” O’Connor says.

In a large, urban school district like IPS the pool of qualified candidates is limited. During the last search process, Ferebee was among just a handful of out-of-state candidates.

IUPUI will help the district in the application process

Notes gathered during community meetings will also go to consultants from IUPUI’s School of Education, who will write the job description and design the search process.

The school board plans to vote in March on the job description, deadlines, and how the search will be conducted.

IUPUI consultants will also assist the board as commissioners search through applicants.

“They will look at the data we generate through the listening sessions,” O’Connor says. “They’re knowledgeable about education and help us craft a job description that's really fitting for an urban school system our size, with the challenges we face.”

The board is not hiring an outside search firm

The school board says it won’t use an outside firm to conduct the search process, which can be costly. The board says it believes it can hold a national search without a headhunter.

This means information on the process will be public, and the list of applicants for the position will be publicly available.

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