Ferebee says IPS needs a plan to grow its own principals

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee hopes a plan to nurture promising future leaders will help Indianapolis Public Schools reverse a troubling trend: good principals are leaving and hiring outside replacements has gotten tougher.

Ferebee told the board tonight a combination of mentoring and university training to support teachers and others in the district with leadership potential could be a solution.

The problem has two sides: as good principals have left, the district also decided not to renew contracts for more than 20 administrators because of poor performance. Some of those positions remained unfilled.

Fourteen other administrators are on notice that they might not be renewed this year due to poor performance, Ferebee said. Several more principals are nearing retirement age.

It could add up to a crisis if the district does not actively seek to build a pipeline of the next generation of school leaders, he said.

“It’s paramount that we have an exceptional leader in all of our schools,” Ferebee said. “We have great principals, but we need more.”

Ferebee’s proposed creating “lead principals” by paying six principals $750 per month to mentor new principals, train assistant principals on leadership and lead efforts to improve student learning programs and and teaching. It would cost the district $9,000 annually.

“What’s exciting about this model is we would be relying on our own leaders to develop and train assistant principals and principals across the district,” Ferebee said. “We want to tap into the expertise of our current principals.”

Ferebee also proposed spending $50,000 per year over five years to have Marian University train and support possible future IPS school principals. IPS would help Marian University identify up to 30 skilled teachers or others each year who show promise in hopes that they become future assistant principals or principals. Marian University has raised $4 million privately to support the participants.

The Marian Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership, which was founded in 2010, has trained teachers and principals for IPS, state takeover schools and charter schools. About 30 percent of its participants were alumni from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, two national programs that place aspiring teachers in schools with large numbers of students who are at risk of failure.

The proposals seemed to have the support of the board, which recently approved another of Ferebee’s ideas to reward new principals who want to serve struggling schools with recruitment bonuses.

“This is very exciting,” board member Diane Arnold said. “This is something that a few years ago would not have even been a consideration. We can bring people in from the outside or we can learn how to grow them ourselves.”

But board member Samantha Adair-White said she would not support a partnership with Marian University, saying she believed many who were trained through the university would not stay with the district in the long term.

“They might not fit our programs,” Adair-White said. “What are we investing in? I don’t understand why we would do it.”

Board members did not take a vote at the meeting. The full board could take action on the proposals at its Aug. 28 meeting.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.