Next IPS superintendent faces numerous challenges


The next superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools will face a long list of challenges to turn the school district around.

The IPS board announced the names of the three finalists Tuesday, including Thomas Darden, executive director of New York Schools for ASPIRA, Inc., Lewis Ferebee, chief of staff for Durham Public Schools, and Millard House, chief operating officer for Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools.

Although all three men have significant experience in large urban school systems, none of them is currently working as a school superintendent. Whoever gets the job will inherit an underperforming and overspending school system.

Tuesday night, the IPS board voted to cut $10 million by axing 109 jobs. Most are administrators and school support staff. However, 30 middle and high school teaching positions are being eliminated.

"I think the impact will be minimal," said interim superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley.

Hinckley insists secondary schools have more teachers than are necessary. She's adding 25 elementary school teachers to reduce the class sizes of younger children.

The financial savings, though substantial, are only a fraction of an estimated $30 million administrators say IPS must quickly cut from its budget.

"If we don't make any more reductions, we will be broke by 2014," Hinckley said with conviction in her voice.

The new superintendent will likely have to consider closing school buildings, revamping the district's business procedures to increase efficiency and further reduce the central office administration.

Hinckley has already begun confronting some of the problems.

"We have layer upon layer, upon layer, including some positions I've eliminated that were in charge of two teachers. Why would we need an administrator in charge of two teachers?" she said.

While students are in class, the Chamber of Commerce will help IPS audit, review, and improve its business operations, hopefully allowing educators to focus on improving schools and the futures of the children attending them

Tuesday night, the interim superintendent will introduce a "School Autonomy" initiative. Struggling schools would be given freedom to innovate and implement new ideas to help students improve.

All three superintendent candidates will return to Indianapolis for a Thursday night community meeting at the IPS Education Center. There will be more private interviews with the school board, which is expected to meet, vote and announce the new IPS superintendent Saturday morning.

Meet the candidates

The public is invited to meet the candidates Thursday (June 27th, 2013). After each candidate speaks, there will be a chance for people to chat. Times are as follows:

Thomas Darden - 6:00 to 6:30 pm
Lewis Ferebee - 6:45 to 7:15 pm
Millard House - 7:30 to 8:00 pm

The meeting begins at 6:00 pm in the board room of the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services at 120 E. Walnut Street. Free parking is available on the north side of the building.

About the candidates

Millard House:
COO for Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools
141,000 students
Former Tulsa Area Superintendent and Principal Of The Year

Lewis Ferebee:
COS Durham Public Schools
Oversees academic programs and budgets
33,000 students
Former regional superintendent and principal

Thomas Darden:
Executive Director of New York Schools for ASPIRA
Held several positions with Philadelphia School District
Nearly 150,000 students