One month into school year, IPS still searching for three principals

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

The first month of school has come and gone, and Indianapolis Public Schools is still searching for principals to lead two of its best-performing elementary schools and a struggling school on the North side.

The school board tonight approved hiring Duane Krambeck to be the principal at School 82, an East side school that has earned D’s from the state the past two years because of its students’ poor performance on the ISTEP exam.

That leaves School 90, School 56 and School 43 still without principals. Each building has an interim leader, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said. The goal is to have full-time interim principals, but that doesn’t always happen if that person is retired.

Having schools with temporary leaders for more than a month to start the school year is a problem the leader of Stand for Children, an advocacy group that pushes for change in the district, said is a symptom of the challenge the district faces when it comes to principal retention.

“In a perfect world, everybody including Dr. Ferebee would want to see those positions filled already,” said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children. “There’s a larger issue of retention and attracting top principal talent, and that’s going to be an issue that’s a focus in the medium and long term.”

But Ferebee, who put principals across the district on notice last December when he decided not to renew contracts for 20 administrators because of poor performance, said tonight the district is getting close to having qualified, full-time leaders in all its schools.

The delays, he said, resulted from the district’s new principal selection process. The district changed its approach to picking principals to include input from a wider group of people, including parents.

He said search committees have nearly finished finding leaders for School 43 and for School 90, which lost its principal Mark Pugh earlier this year to another district that offered him more money.  The third search is underway.

School 56 lost its principal Lauren Franklin when she accepted a $100,000 Innovation School Fellowship with The Mind Trust. She currently is taking a year off to develop a plan to create a new, innovative school reform plan and will present her proposal to overhaul an IPS school to the school board next year.

But the problem of principal retainment could still to haunt Ferebee even after he fills the three remaining spots. He said last month 14 other administrators are on notice that their contracts might not be renewed this year due to poor performance. Several more principals are nearing retirement age, he said.

Ohlemiller said the tactics Ferebee is using — including giving principals recruitment and performance bonuses to turn around struggling schools — appear to be the right ones to solve the problem.

“What we’ve been really happy to see from Ferebee is a focus on principal leadership and trying to tackle that moving forward,” Ohlemiller said. “The process is a lot more thoughtful and deliberative, not just getting a principal, but trying to get the right principal.”

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.