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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IPS names first Black woman superintendent

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Aleesia Johnson will be the first Black woman to lead Indianapolis Public Schools. Johnson, deputy superintendent for academics, will serve as interim superintendent, replacing current Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Ferebee is leaving the district to become chancellor of District of Columbia Schools. 

In addition to being the first Black woman, Johnson is only the third woman to hold the superintendent position at IPS.

“It’s been such a pleasure to work under Dr. Ferebee’s leadership for the last three and a half years, so I’m excited with great humility and honor to take on this next role,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s first day as interim superintendent will be Jan. 7, 2019. Ferebee’s last day at IPS will be Jan. 4, 2019. Ferebee’s contract ends in June 2019, but his resignation brings an abrupt change, and he will be paid until his last day. Until his departure, Ferebee and Johnson will work together to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. 

“I’m really excited that today is less about me and more about the people who do the work every day to support our students and our families,” Ferebee said during the special Dec. 7 board meeting to announce his replacement. 

Johnson, an educator for over 16 years, formerly worked on both the Innovation Network Schools model and the Post-Secondary Readiness team. She was chosen because she is familiar with current academic plans and can work to make sure those efforts are uninterrupted. 

“She could keep the continuity going within in the system at this point with our academics,” Elizabeth Gore, school board commissioner, said. 

Johnson is excited for her time as interim superintendent. She said she will follow many of Ferebee’s policies while still remaining an independent leader. Specifically, she wants the same level of passion and energy shown under Ferebee to continue in her administration. 

“Since I’ve been in the district, I haven’t seen anything but passion for the education of our students, so I’m excited to carry that passion with me,” Johnson said. 

The board named Johnson by a unanimous vote. Both current and incoming board members voiced their support of Johnson. 

 “It wasn’t difficult at all, really,” Gore said. “It was a decision that we seemed to all agree on.” 

After the meeting Evan Hawkins, who will represent District 3 starting in 2019, released a statement by email expressing his approval of the board’s choice.

“As a father with two young daughters, the appointment of the first female African-American superintendent is a big deal for me, my family and the entire IPS community,” Hawkins said. “Representation matters, and I am glad that when young girls in our district look to their leadership, they can now see someone who looks like them at the very top.”

At this time, the board hasn’t outlined the search process or provided a timetable for hiring a permanent superintendent. Johnson wouldn’t confirm if she’s interested in the position permanently.

“We have new commissioners coming on board, so once the new IPS Board School Commissioners determines what that search process will be, that will be a question to consider at that time,” Johnson said. 


Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on twitter @BenjaminLashar.

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