The Indianapolis Public Schools Board had a big night Thursday.
Higher pay and a longer contract was approved for Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. The three-year school leader gets a 6 percent raise, increase in retirement benefits and performance-based bonus that could ultimately bump his annual compensation to more than $276,000.
The board approved basic agreements for separate upstart charter schools to restart two long failing district schools.
And with little fanfare, the board signed-off on a $490,000 settlement related to a 2012 sexual misconduct case between a former student and Corey Greenwood, a former George Washington High School administrator and athletics director. In 2013, Greenwood pled guilty to child seduction and obstruction of justice.
The pay hike for Ferebee drew vocal opposition. During the past two weeks a handful of educators and community members have questioned the investment in Ferebee while district teachers are seeing their first pay increase in five years.
Outgoing board member Gayle Cosby was the only no vote in the 5-1 tally.
Another board member, Kelly Bentley, attempted to counter some of the criticisms and defend her support of the modified contract. As part of it, Ferebee can earn more than $30,000 in annual retirement contributions through June 30, 2019 -- two years longer than his initial contract.
The 6 percent pay increase is retroactive to July 1, 2015. There will be no raise in base salary for 2016-17 school year.
Ferebee’s senior staff could also benefit from the new agreement. Ferebee's performance bonus is now a potential $35,000 -- an increase of $10,000 -- and an equal pool of money would be available to his direct reports.
“He is doing what we asked him to do,” Bentley said about Ferebee's collaboration with charter schools and other efforts to improve failing schools. “We are happy with his performance so far."
But Andrew Polley, a teacher at Arsenal Technical High School, disagreed.
Polley spoke past the three minutes allowed for public comment and said Ferebee did not deserve a raise because teachers are fleeing the district due to working conditions.
“Overworked labor in an environment that is unsafe and charged to teach kids that are not invested in their own education,” Polley said. “Due in large part to the incredible amount of disregard this total administration has for them…”
The microphone Polley was speaking through was then cut off.
Support With Caution
In contrast, a string of parents and educators spoke in favor of Joyce Kilmer School 69 being remade into Kindezi Academy and Riverside School 44 becoming the Spanish-English immersion program Global Prep Academy.
The board approved two-page “term sheets” that spell out how those two charter schools will collaborate with IPS.
An IPS board member who has been critical of the plan said she would vote for it only because parents are upset about their children attending failing schools.
But Gayle Cosby told those same parents that collaborating with a brand new charter school could be a failed quick fix.
“To me this is Duck Tape and my prayer for you is, 'I hope it is not leaking in the next year,'” Cosby told the crowd. “I am going to support but I’m going to caution you.”
Ferebee, speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., defended the decision.
“The sole purpose of this administration is to eradicate failing schools,” he said about the various methods he is trying. “There is no magic pill for school improvement of low performing schools.”
Curriculums for the two charter schools were developed as part of a partnership between IPS, the Indianapolis mayor’s office and local education reform group The Mind Trust.
The district has stated plans to convert 15 percent of its schools into these so-called innovation network schools designed in part with The Mind Trust, which are basically independent managers contracted with IPS to run schools.
Sexual Misconduct Settlement
In a news release, the district said it “justly accepts responsibility for ex-employee's wrongdoing revealed in 2012 criminal case” and would pay $490,000 to a former student.
The former student filed a federal lawsuit in November 2015 against IPS, Greenwood and Greenwood’s mother, Jacqueline Greenwood, a former IPS central services administrator.
In a February 10 mediation, IPS agreed to the payment. In addition Greenwood will pay the former student $10,000, according to the news release.