IPS superintendent decision not expected until next week

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The Indianapolis Public School board says it won't announce the next IPS superintendent before next week.

But the board will meet behind closed doors starting at 8 a.m. Saturday to discuss and possibly select one of the three finalists.

The finalists are Thomas Darden, executive director of New York City Schools for ASPRIA; Lewis Ferebee, chief of staff for the school district in Durham, N.C. and Millard House, CEO for the school district in Charlotte, N.C.

The special meeting follows three days of interviews and a special meet and greet Thursday night with members of the public.

Board president Diane Arnold said, "I think we have a tough decision. We have three very good candidates."

The new superintendent will lead the state's second largest school district which faces challenges ranging from a $30 million budget deficit to failing schools and declining enrollment.

Ann Wilkins, who heads the Indianapolis Education Association, was among the more than 150 people attending Thursday night's meet and greet.

"IPS is in a position where we have to make changes, but we have to do it together," she said.

Wilkins said of the board, "I think they need to look for someone who has an educational background and has dealt with a budget similar to ours."

But whoever winds up leading IPS will have had no experience as superintendent.

Radio host Amos Brown was worried about that, but said after meeting the finalists, "I'm a little more comfortable with it having heard all of them speak."

Brown said he hopes board members take their time choosing a new superintendent.

"This must be an unanimous decision," he said. "The community needs to see all seven members unite behind their choice, smiling and happy and ready to move forward."

Especially following former superintendent Eugene White's abrupt departure earlier this year.

After clashing with new board members demanding greater reforms and a bigger say in decision-making, White announced his retirement, despite two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract.

The board then named Peggy Hinckley interim superintendent. Hinckley had been Warren Township's superintendent from 2001-2012

Even if board members pick a new superintendent this weekend, an IPS spokesman said it could be weeks before a deal is finalized.

John Althardt said the district will need to do a comprehensive background check. They'll also need to agree on terms of the three-year contract, which includes the base salary, benefits and "incentives."

And per a new state law, he said the district must post the contract for a minimum of 15 days before holding a public hearing on it.

"Everybody is going to want to read it and I think that was the whole purpose of the state law, to make sure there is full transparency," Brown said.

Althardt said the board's goal is to have a new superintendent in place before classes resume August 5, but he noted that could be difficult as all three finalists live out of state and will need to relocate.