IPS Superintendent Eugene White announces retirement
The search is on for a new leader of the state's second largest school system and its 30,000 students and 6,000 employees.
The charismatic and controversial IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White confirmed what Eyewitness News broke on WTHR.com that he is officially retiring.
At Tuesday night's scheduled board meeting, after seven-and-a-half years of achievement struggle and controversy, White took only 30 seconds to announce his retirement.
"This is a decision that's a heartfelt decision and I'm thankful for the privilege for serving the people of this community," he said.
The decision, White insists, was entirely his.
There was no objection or jubilation from board members, just acceptance from President Diane Arnold.
"We very much appreciate the progress he has brought with his leadership to the district," she said, just before the board adjourned.
White's leadership brought full-day kindergarten, higher ISTEP scores, higher graduation rates, and some of the highest performing schools in Indiana to IPS.
"It has been a privilege to work on behalf of IPS students and to partner with our parents, community and school staff. We have accomplished much in the last seven years and I am proud of the progress we have made," said Dr. White.
But overall, the inner city schools lag below state averages. The state took over four consistently failing schools.
Enrollment throughout the district continues to decline. Critics have attacked White's leadership style as bullish and accuse him of pushing his agenda, brushing aside opponents and not building a consensus.
White's style clashed with new school board members, demanding greater reforms and a bigger say in the decision making process. Monday night, it sidelined White's plan for free, full-day preschool classes.
After the meeting, with his arm around the board president, White said he felt relieved.
"I don't want the community thinking we are going to have those confrontations and frustrating debates and we need to get back to what is good for the students," he said.
And while Arnold admitted the new school board brings new visions and new directions for IPS, when asked if White had to leave the board, she replied, "No, I think it was Dr. White's choice and the board wants to honor that choice."
The board will also honor the remaining two-and-a-half years of White's contract. The agreement, still under negotiation, is expected to cost taxpayers about $800,000 and includes base salary, retirement insurance and other benefits.
White's last day is April 5 and the board plans to have an interim superintendent in place by then. The school board president expects a new superintendent will have creative ideas to take the inner city school system to the next level of achievement.
"Eugene White's tenure as IPS Superintendent was a time of many challenges and successes. I appreciate his service to our community and look forward to a continued strong relationship with IPS as we work to advance the educational needs of our children in Indianapolis," Mayor Greg Ballard said in a statement.
White has been superintendent for IPS since 2005. Last year, he interviewed for jobs in Mobile, Alabama and Greenville, South Carolina. White's seven years as superintendent of IPS are marked with achievements and controversy.
ISTEP scores and high school graduation rates are up. Educators are held more accountable. The district was the first to lay off teachers based on ability as opposed to their seniority.
White instituted mandatory full-day kindergarten, uniforms and tougher disciplinary standards for students. He created and expanded high-performing schools that now rank among the best in Indiana.
White received the second of two Indiana Superintendent of the Year recognitions while at IPS in 2009 and was the 2007 National Association of Black School Educators Superintendent of the Year.
Earlier Tuesday, IPS denied reports that White was resigning. White is expected to meet with school board members Tuesday night.
Ja'Neane Minor, Indianapolis Director for Stand for Children, issued the following statement in response to the news:
"The newly elected IPS school board recognizes the need to set a vision and improve the district. IPS's problems have never been about one person. Stand believes it is the responsibility of the entire community - parents, educators, businesses, and community leaders - to ensure all students in IPS receive a high quality education."