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Thursday, February 9, 2023

IPS’ corporate-bought board needs to pay attention to real crises in IPS

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Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee and the new Stand for Children bought and paid for IPS School Board spent $1,500 in tax dollars on a “retreat” at a Bloomington spa two weekends ago to “bond.”

According to the education website Chalkbeat Indiana, the Board hired Donald McAdams, founder of Texas-based Center for Reform of School Systems, to conduct this retreat.

Using this white-owned firm raises the question: why didn’t Ferebee and the Board hire one of the many Black-owned board training consultants around?

Maybe it’s because McAdams is a former advisor to Texas Governor Rick Perry and President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

McAdams’ company is funded by a group of Texas foundations, part of the same crowd that donated $200,000 to the three IPS Board winners last fall.

According to Chalkbeat, the “secret” retreat was to help the Board not “micromanage” Supt. Ferebee. Board Member Caitlin Hannon told Chalkbeat she hopes the Board’s “getting away from micromanagement. We’re going to stay at the 30,000-foot level.”

Unfortunately, down on the ground in IPS, while Ferebee and his top staffers are preoccupied with new schemes for “transformational” education, there’s growing examples of IPS dangerously ignoring the basic of educating students.

Last week, I hinted at problems at George Washington High School. Let me share new details.

Bluntly speaking, in my view, Washington High is out of control, dysfunctional; led by a rookie principal incapable of running a lemonade stand much less a school of some 500 students. The school’s leadership is so bad IPS headquarters had to assign additional administrators to help the principal regain control. And this strategy reportedly hasn’t worked.

Washington began the year with numerous teacher vacancies; many remain.

School enrollment has fallen since August. The educational environment is so toxic, the Class of 2015’s valedictorian transferred out.

And in violation of federal law, Special Ed teachers still teach regular classes.

Community stakeholders who’ve worked with Washington High the past few years were so alarmed at the deteriorating conditions they demanded a meeting with Dr. Ferebee. But neither he nor his top academic aide Dr. Wanda Legrand would meet with them. Instead, they delegated the meeting to a lesser administrator who’s only been at IPS eight months.

During the meeting, I’m told IPS admitted the school was out of control; even saying there’s no coherent system wide standard of discipline in place.

The school’s administrative controls have collapsed. Students don’t know if their grades and credits have been properly documented. Written class schedules are incomplete or non-existent.

On the eve of February’s count of students for state aid payments, Washington High officials have three full pages of students they’ve lost.

That’s right, they know the students aren’t in class, but they don’t have a clue where they are!

IPS is removing the highly regarded principal of Crispus Attucks at the end of the year. No reason given.

I suspect it’s because of a paradox. The middle school portion of Attucks has an “F” state accountability grade, while the high school has an “A” with a 100 percent graduation rate. Why would Attucks’ successful principal be cashiered out of IPS, while Washington’s ineffectual principal remains?

White power message?

Or why does a certain IPS elementary principal remain in her school?

Last week, parents of students at an Eastside IPS elementary school told me about their principal who allegedly told a class of predominantly African-American students “Whites have the power and you will work for me!”

When a student told the principal they were uncomfortable with her statement, the principal allegedly responded “this is my building and I will say it as often as I feel like it.”

The principal also told students “What’s in this room stays in this room!”

Also, this IPS school is so out of whack, one classroom has 46 students and is being taught by a rookie teacher.

What I’m hearing in the streets

The decision by Ball State not to renew the charters of Fall Creek and University Heights Academies is making this school year one of the worst for Indy’s charters. The university is just overseeing two virtual schools, which in my view are also academic basket cases.

By the end of the school year, five charter schools will have closed. This is the most in any year since charters began.

Another tragedy is the fact in the same school year, two of Indy’s original charter schools Flanner House and Fall Creek will have closed.

After the mayor’s office kicked Fall Creek and University Heights to the curb for poor performance in 2011, Community Charter Network, the local group that runs the highly regarded Avondale/Meadows Charter, assumed control and thought they could turn Fall Creek and University Heights around.

Ball State needs to publicly explain to our community why they wouldn’t give Community Charter a bit more time to turn the academic fortunes’ of the two schools around.

Good luck and best wishes to Angela Cain, who left WTHR/Channel 13 last month after 12 years, but is now flying high as the new director of Public Affairs at the Indianapolis International Airport.

See ‘ya next week!

You can email Amos Brown at ac-brown@aol.com.

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