In his few years as superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, Dr. Lewis Ferebee, together with his team, has made a significant difference in the performance and perception of one of our state’s largest school districts.
In fact, IPS has already begun to see improvements in graduation rates and third grade reading scores. Achieving this turnaround has not been easy.
The district is outperforming many comparable urban school systems across the nation in graduating African American males. IPS is transforming longstanding practices that have reflected disproportional disciplinary consequences. IPS has recently been invited twice to join White House discussions, providing Dr. Ferebee an opportunity to highlight on a national platform the district’s dramatic reduction in suspensions and expulsions, and its impactful community-wide charge to create student employment and apprenticeship opportunities. Rebuilding an underperforming district like IPS into a 21st century school system focused on excellence, requires vision, commitment and great leadership.
In 2013, the district was portrayed as facing a dire financial situation when Dr. Ferebee took the helm as superintendent. After thoroughly reviewing the district’s finances, he discovered that the situation was not as bad as had been communicated to the public. Since that initial effort to restore fiscal responsibility and transparency, IPS has been able to identify and invest over $20 million to its core function: educating children. In a system with a budget of $230 million, serving 30,000 students, it is imperative that all public resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. I applaud IPS’s efforts to drive more and more dollars to classrooms.
Dr. Ferebee was the first Indiana superintendent to create Innovation Network Schools, which grant principals and teachers more freedom and flexibility to focus on student learning. The district also has expanded popular academic programs, created a comprehensive graduation strategy with redesigned career and technical education offerings, and provided additional pre-K programming for students. They have also provided simplified enrollment systems and encouraged parent involvement in every school. IPS developed a strategic compensation model, which gave first-time teacher raises in over five years. These are just a few examples of the exciting changes being made in IPS.
In a relatively short time, IPS has demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it takes to turn around struggling schools, keeping the focus on the needs of children and driving necessary change that is sometimes uncomfortable for adults, and as a result, the Indiana State Board of Education has returned several state “takeover” schools.
IPS is in the process of a great renewal that will help diminish the impacts of poverty and provide all students a quality educational experience, propelling them onward to successful lives and careers. In an increasingly uncertain, but interconnected world, there is no more important mission than the education of Indiana’s future generations. In this respect, under Dr. Ferebee’s leadership, IPS is leading the way.
State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.
Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.
A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here.