New IPS chief halfway through 100-day plan

Dr. Lewis Ferebee

About 50 days and 60 degrees ago, Dr. Lewis Ferebee rode a school bus to his first day of work as the new leader of Indianapolis Public Schools. He had a 100-day plan to begin improving the district. He's now at the halfway point.

In an Eyewitness News interview, we ask Ferebee what he's learned, what he's done, and where he sees the school district headed.

Educators at Longfellow Magnet School say they are now getting more help from the IPS central office, clearer goals and more freedom to decide how to reach them. Since getting off the school bus and going to work, Ferebee figures he's completed more than half the goals in his 100-day entry plan.

"I will give myself a B+," he said.

Will employees and community members give him the same grade?

"I'm not really sure," came his answer with a smile.

In the first half of his honeymoon leading the troubled district, Ferebee figures he's attend 250 meetings with employees, families and community leaders, patched up relationships with feuding school board members, and begun collapsing an oversized administration.

"In some cases, we've seen a duplication of services. In some cases, we've seen we don't have proper support where more support is needed," he explained.

IPS needs to close a $30 million dollar budget deficit and make dramatic academic improvements. Ferebee believes resources aren't being aimed at goals such as improving test scores and graduation rates.

"We have lofty goals," he said. "We have some strategies, but we don't have the processes in place where we are directing resources to these strategies."

Ferebee insists schools are improving, but not quickly enough. Graduation rates should increase within a year, academic achievement will take longer. His starkly-decorated office looks like that of a leader still moving into the job. There's not even a picture of his wife and child, an IPS student.

"My wife mentioned that, so that is a work in progress," he laughed.

The new IPS superintendent is getting a reputation of being a good listener. He says he's is most concerned by the branding, the image and perception people have of the city's largest school system.

Winning back the confidence and support of public officials, business and community leaders, and families may be among his biggest challenges.