Ferebee wins extra pay for grad rates, test scores and entry plan

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee this year will be paid an extra $19,610 for meeting the Indianapolis Public School Board’s goals for his performance.

The board last week approved Ferebee’s performance pay — a section of his contract designed to reward him for boosting student progress — for his work raising graduation rates and ISTEP scores, as well as for successfully executing an “entry plan” for the district.

Ferebee can earn up to $25,000 per year in performance pay each year, according to his contract. His base salary is $198,000 per year.

Ferebee earned $15,000 for implementing an entry plan. He also earned $2,860 for improving graduation rates 4 percentage points to 71.5 percent, and $1,750 for gains in ISTEP and end-of-course exam scores. All told, the $19,610 extra Ferebee will be paid equated to about 78 percent of the $25,000 he could have earned. Converting that percentage to a grade scale, it could be looked at as roughly as a C+.

But board President Diane Arnold was upbeat about Ferebee’s performance. She said setting goals for extra pay is a good way to establish firm measures for his performance.

“We’ve tried to make those very concrete,” Arnold said. “We’re increasing graduation rates. We’re improving ISTEP. We’re trying to do that early so he knows what his expectations are.”

The board in November approved the first piece of Ferebee’s performance pay. But it waited until last week to finalize it based on new graduation rate data released by the Indiana Department of Education.

Ferebee said he is proud of the increase in the district’s graduation rate this year, along with sharply decreasing the number of waivers given to students. Waivers, or exceptions that allow students who fail state tests to circumvent rules that should block them from receiving diplomas, had been on the rise in Indiana until recently. IPS was sharply criticized in 2012 after it was revealed that more than a quarter of its 2011 graduates used waivers.

IPS cut that number in half last year — and this year reduced it again. This year 7 percent of its graduating seniors used waivers, compared with 13 percent last year.

“Before I got here, we were getting hit with that,” Ferebee said. “We have the highest graduation rate we’ve ever had.”

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.