Who Is In Charge

Ferebee gets a raise, contract extension despite complaints

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

The Indianapolis Public Schools board approved a large raise and contract extension for Superintendent Lewis Ferebee Thursday, despite impassioned pleas from educators and parents to spend the money on teachers and school supplies instead.

Ferebee’s total potential compensation will increase to $287,000, about $64,000 more than he is currently eligible to receive.

The pay hike inspired intense criticism from parents, teachers and others who turned out to recent board meetings to oppose Ferebee’s raise.

“In an age in which there’s a teacher shortage, IPS is bleeding teachers,” said Andrew Polley, a teacher at Arsenal Technical High School.

Ferebee will get a 6 percent bump in pay, an increase in the maximum bonus he can earn and contributions of more than $30,000 per year in retirement funds. The modified contract would also extend Ferebee’s term with the district by two years to June 30, 2019.

The new contract also provides a possible pool of $35,000 in bonus pay that can be distributed among the staff that report directly to Ferebee.

Pam Griffin, a 20-year veteran of IPS who spoke to the board Tuesday, was one of several teachers who compared the superintendent’s pay increase to the raise that district teachers earned at the start of the school year.

She said that the raise she received last fall amounted to 52 cents per hour.

“Why are we not taking better care of our teachers?” Griffin said.

Board members expressed support for raising teacher pay, but most also voted in favor of the raise and contract extension for Ferebee. Board member Gayle Cosby was the lone no vote against the contract modification.

Several board members who support the raise cited the importance of consistent leadership and the dramatic changes that Ferebee has implemented.

“He’s doing a good job,” said board member Kelly Bentley. “He’s doing what we’ve asked him to do.”

Board President Mary Ann Sullivan said that the contract extension and pay increase recognizes the challenges the district faces and the importance of strong, consistent leadership.

“Under Dr. Ferebee’s leadership, we are beginning to get some of our chronically struggling schools back on track,” Sullivan said at the Tuesday board meeting. “It offers compensation that is in line with past practice and other local agreements.”

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.