Three finalists were named today in the search for the next Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent, including the interim district leader.
The finalists are: Devon Horton, chief of schools at Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky; Aleesia Johnson, IPS interim superintendent; and Larry Young, Jr., an assistant superintendent at Pike Township Schools.
The annoucement ill caps a nearly six-month nationwide search that began after former superintendent Lewis Ferebee left IPS to led Washington, D.C. public schools.
IPS Board of Commissioners will interview the three at a public meeting 5 p.m. Tuesday at the district’s main office, 120 E. Walnut St. Their selection is expected later this month.
The board is accepting questions for consideration during the public interviews with the finalists.
The IPS school board received 11 applicants for the position from in and outside of Indiana. Last month board members interviewed five semi-finalists of which the three finalists were chosen.
The next superintendent will manage the state’s largest school district, with an enrollment of more than 31,000 students, a majority of whom are students of color. The leader will face decisions about school closings, a budget deficit and partnerships with charter school operators.
Communication with families and the community will be expected too. Ferebee and the school board were criticized often for not adequately informing the public of changes and initiatives.
Here is a look at the finalists:
Current Position: Chief of Schools at Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, KY
District Facts: 98,361 students, 57 percent minority, 81.6 graduation rate
Horton’s 19 years of education experience includes time as a deputy superintendent in East St. Louis School District where he oversaw public and charter schools, and more than 13 years as a principal in Chicago public schools, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He’s been chief of schools at Louisville’s Jefferson County Public Schools for one year. In April it was reported Horton was a finalist for the superintendent job at Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan.
In his letter of interest to IPS Board of School Commissioners, Horton says he relies on “advanced use of data to drive academic success via personalized learning.”
“I spent the last couple of years working to identify why achievement gaps exist,” he writes. What Horton says what he found is many minority students are not given the same opportunities as white students and that’s due to implicit biases.
Horton says he used restorative practices to reduce suspensions and worked to start an Urban Education Teacher Residency Program.
Horton earned a doctorate of education, Ed.D., from Chicago State University, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Current Position Interim IPS Superintendent
District Facts 31,478 students; 80 percent minority; 82 graduation rate
Johnson joined IPS four years ago, after previously leading charter school KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory. At IPS, she oversaw the growing partnerships of so-called innovation schools -- schools operated by non-profit boards or charter school organizers. Johnson was Ferebee’s deputy superintendent for 10 months before being taped by the IPS Board to be interim superintendent.
In her letter of interest to IPS Board of School Commissioners, Johnson says the district’s achievement gap between minority and white students, and low-income and affluent students must be “deeply examined” and while doing so, “confront the reality that there are no silver bullets.”
“As a black woman who is raising black children, it is crushing to know and have real evidence of the ways in which our society — including our educational system — falls short in cultivating the academic growth of black students,” she writes.
Johnson says her in her previous IPS roles she’s designed the innovation school model to better include community engagement, and led the academic initiatives in redesigning the districts high school offerings.
Johnson earned a masters of social work from the University of Michigan, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Larry Young, Jr.
Current Position Assistant superintendent of elementary education, MSD Pike Township in Indianapolis
District Facts 11,151 students; 92 percent minority; 93 graduation rate
Indianapolis-native Young spent his career at Pike Township schools -- a-mid-size district on the northwest side of Marion County.
During 21 years there, he’s worked as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, multiple directors positions, and assistant superintendent.
“My success in each of these positions gives me great confidence as I prepare for this next step in my career,” he wrote in a letter of interest to IPS Board of School Commissioners.
Young says all students can learn and excel at the highest level if they are given the right supports and opportunities for learning.
“This starts with maintaining high expectations while attending to the needs of the whole child. In addition, engaging all stakeholders, while accessing available resources, further ensures that each scholar realizes his or her dreams,” Young wrote in his letter. “Finally, I cannot overstate the importance of effective pedagogy deployed daily at the classroom level by teachers”
Young earned a Ph.D. from Purdue University, according to his LinkedIn profile
Former superintendent Lewis Ferebee left IPS earlier this year, to lead Washington, D.C. public schools. He made nearly $300,000 per year.
For this search, the district opted out of using a private firm to help identify candidates.
In 2013, during the last superintendent search, a private search hired firm by the district suggested 40 applicants to the board.
The next superintendent is expected to face decisions about school closings, the district's deficit and partnerships with charter school operators.