Story Summary

Search for a new IPS superintendent


Superintendent Dr. Eugene White of Indianapolis Public Schools will not remain with the school district for the remainder of his contract, which expires in 2015.

White announced he would retire on April 5.

On Feb. 22, IPS announced the selection of Dr. Peggy Hinckley as interim superintendent, who will take over on March 4. Hinckley formerly served as superintendent of Warren Township from 2001 to 2012.

In June 2013, IPS announced three finalists for the superintendent vacancy:  Lewis Ferebee, chief of staff for schools in Durham, N.C.; Thomas Darden, a charter school developer in New York City; and Millard House, chief of operations for the school district in Charlotte.

On July 1, IPS announced that Dr. Lewis Ferebee had been chosen as its new superintendent.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 10 updates

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 11, 2013)—The former superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools was named the new president of Martin University. 

Dr. Eugene White, who has been serving as interim president since mid-September, was selected by board members Friday.

University officials said White’s contract for a five-year term aligned with the President’s Five Year Plan for the University.

White retired from IPS in April after serving seven years as superintendent.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Dr. Lewis Ferebee rode the bus to school on his first day as the superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools.

Ferebee was selected from three finalists back in August, but officially started his position Monday, nearly two months after the start of the school year.

As he stepped off the bus at Francis Scott Key Elementary School on the city’s northeast side, the new superintendent, a 39-year-old with 16 years of experience, told Fox 59 News that he was ready for the challenge of turning IPS around.

While he would not give a timetable for when students and families could expect to see results, Ferebee expressed optimism that, in time, IPS would be a successful school system again.

INDIANAPOLIS – The former superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools will take over as interim president at Martin University.

Dr. Eugene White retired from IPS in April after seven years as superintendent. He’ll replace Dr. George Miller, who announced his resignation in August to take another education job in the south.

White became IPS superintendent in 2005 after serving as superintendent of Washington Township Schools for 11 years. He is a native of Phenix City, Ala., who also worked in the Ft. Wayne school system as a teacher, coach and administrator.

Martin University, a private, nonprofit liberal arts college, was founded in 1977 by Rev. Boniface Hardin and Sister Jane Schilling.

Interim Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley will leave her post early.

According to the district, Hinckley said Thursday, Sept. 5, is her last day. She took over on March 4 to guide the district after the departure of Dr. Eugene White.

The original agreement with the Board of School Commissioners called for Hinckley to leave Sept. 1, but the board asked her to stay longer if her consulting schedule permitted so she could ease the transition to a new superintendent. Hinckley had two days left, Sept. 18 and Sept. 19. However, because of her consulting business, she won’t be able to work on those days, the district said.

New superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee starts work on Sept. 23. IPS said senior staff would guide the day-to-day operations until Ferebee arrives.

There is a new superintendent leading Indianapolis Public Schools. The board voted unanimously Friday to put Dr. Lewis Ferebee in to the Superintendent seat. Afterward, he spoke to the media about some of the big issues plaguing the district and the state education system.

The investigation in to allegations of grade fixing at a charter school funded by a Fepublican donor, which call into question the validity of the A-F grading system, came up during the news conference.

Dr. Ferebee also talked about whether the ISTEP testing is really necessary.

Ferebee seemed to take the stance that everyone’s success in school needs to be looked at, not just the students who score higher versus the ones who score lower.

“I want all of our students to grow and to succeed. And, I think when you begin to have a focus on letter grades or solely proficiency, you miss some students, and I don’t want to miss any student,” said Ferebee.

Fox59 news had a chance to talk to the new superintendent just minutes after the board banged the gavel to unanimously approve his contract. He was asked straight out, do the A-F grading system and the ISTEP test need to go away?

“Proficiency alone really doesn’t tell us whether our students are growing. I prefer a model that gives us the type of indication of whether or not all of our students are growing, whether they’re below proficiency, on grade level or above grade level. I want all of our students growing.”

The validity of the A-F grading system came in to question when an investigation was launched over whether former State Superintendent Tony Bennett fixed the grade of a charter school. He’s a Republican, and the school was founded by a Republican donor. Bennett resigned from his post in Florida amid the investigation.

Additionally, there’s the issue of the ISTEP test after supplier CTB/McGraw Hill apologized for a computer glitch that delayed the test results, while not affecting the outcome. All of this made Dr. Lewis Ferebee consider other alternatives.

“I do try to keep on track in terms of what’s happening with the grades and our labels, but, it is not an area that I have extreme focus on.”

Dr. Ferebee’s contract starts Sept. 23.

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Public Schools revealed its new superintendent Monday.

The school district selected Dr. Lewis Ferebee. The 39-year-old was one of three finalists for the position. The IPS School Board held an executive session Saturday to discuss the three candidates and make a final decision.

Ferebee, 39, was previously chief of staff for schools in Durham, N.C., where he helped the district cut $70 million from the budget. He was also a teacher, principal and administrator in Greensboro, N.C. He could not attend Monday’s news conference because of a previous commitment. The district said it would organize a meet-and-greet session with Ferebee.

Ferebee is a 16-year education veteran with a history of successful turnaround stories. His policies led to reductions in the dropout rate and increases in the graduation rate. IPS officials said his experiences with budget cuts and low-performing schools would help address similar problems within IPS.

He earned his doctorate in educational leadership from East Carolina University. He earned his master’s degree at George Washington University and his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from North Carolina Central University.

The school board is required to make Ferebee’s contract public and hold a public forum on the contract. There must also be a public vote to hire him. No dates have been announced for the forum or the vote.

The other finalists were Thomas Darden, a charter school developer in New York, and Millard House, who worked as chief of operations for the school district in Charlotte, N.C.

All three had second interviews with the board last week and attended an open house to meet the public and answer questions about their vision for IPS.

IPS board announcement

IPS officials announce new superintendent on Monday, July 1

Millard House and Thomas Darden

Millard House (left) and Thomas Darden (right)

INDIANAPOLIS – The three candidates for IPS superintendent met the public on Thursday evening, and all three spoke to Fox 59 about one of the biggest looming questions they’ll face if they get the job: how do you overcome a $20 million deficit facing the district?

Thomas Darden, Lewis Ferebee and Millard House all took turns introducing themselves and laying out their vision for IPS. The candidates also greeted those in attendance and then answered questions from the media.

Darden is a product of IPS who graduated from Tech high school, but his experience isn’t as a teacher or principal, it’s as a businessman who helped run schools in Philadelphia. Darden said his most recent work involved trying to start schools in New York for ASPIRA, Inc.

Darden cited his business background as something he’ll use to help overcome the IPS deficit. He says every strategy should be considered, including closing the central office.

“I think you have to be able to work a lot smarter than you’re working now,” Darden said. “Because my estimation, and they way I operate is that I don’t believe the budgets are going to get better next year or the year after, so better learn to operate in a lean environment.”

Lewis Ferebee is chief of staff for Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. He worked his way up through the public school system, turning around low-performing schools as a teacher and principal. He says he’s also helped work through $70 million in cuts through the past few years, and he believes he knows where to start in Indianapolis.

“As much as possible I try to protect the classroom, so I will also look for efficiencies in our operations, also efficiencies in our operational structure as well,” Ferebee said.

Millard House has worked in public schools as a teacher and principal, and started a KIPP charter school in Oklahoma. He is now a Chief Operating Officer for Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools in North Carolina, and he says overcoming the deficit in Indy will require a broad approach.

“You take a look at everything. You take a look at facilities, you take a look at staffing, you take a look at efficiency, because in many cases school districts are not as efficient as they need to be because the process and systems are not in place,” House said.

With such big decisions on the horizon parents, teachers and students were happy to listen.

“Overall it was a good opportunity to hear their own thoughts of what their abilities are,” said Carole Commons, an IPS teacher and mother of an IPS student.

“Being able to talk to them, to meet them, to get to know them,” said Margaret Commons, an IPS student. “That is a great way to  see what’s in store for the future.”

The IPS board will continue interviews on Friday and they anticipate making a decision on Saturday. Their choice won’t be made public until they can agree to terms with the person they select. A formal announcement may not come for more than a week.

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of Commissioners has picked three finalists to succeed Dr. Eugene White as superintendent.

The three have been picked for a second interview.

“They are all incredibly bright with a passion for educating children,” said School Board President Diane Arnold.

The finalists are:

  • Thomas Darden, Executive Director of New York Schools for ASPIRA, Inc.
  • Lewis Ferebee, Chief of Staff for the Durham Public Schools
  • Millard House, Chief Operating Officer for Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools

IPS will introduce all three finalists on Thursday evening, giving each a chance to meet the public and discuss the future of the school district. The public sessions are:

  • Thomas Darden: 6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Lewis Ferebee 6:45 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
  • Millard House 7:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

The community meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Board Room of the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services at 120 E. Walnut St.

For the second round of interviews, each candidate will meet with board members, tour the district and the city, participate in the community forum and have dinner with board members.

Darden will interview Wednesday, Ferebee will interview Thursday and House will interview Friday. Board members will hold an Executive Session Saturday morning and could announce their choice at the end of that meeting.

Lewis Ferebee

Lewis Ferebee

Millard House

Millard House

Thomas Darden

Thomas Darden

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners said Wednesday they have received 26 applications so far for superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools.

The new superintendent, which will replace retired Dr. Eugene White, will be selected before Aug. 5, the first day of the 2013-2014 school year.

School officials have held several public meetings to allow community members to weigh in on the search for a new superintendent.  Commissioners are expected to review the candidates, taking into account data gained from the community meetings.  They will then be given a list of candidates to consider for initial interviews by the search firm hired to lead the search process.

In late February, IPS school board members voted Dr. Peggy Hinckley to be interim superintendent until a permanent replacement was hired.

Changes can be expected for Indianapolis Public Schools, as the interim superintendent considers making cuts to the school district.

Dr. Peggy Hinckley, who has been on the job for three days, said she does not envision massive teacher layoffs but said there will likely be some reductions inside the classrooms.

“I spoke with the staff here yesterday about the fact that we are on the radar screen and we will look at these positions and we are probably going to have some reductions,” said Dr. Hinckley.

Dr. Hinckley’s hope is that most of the teachers, who will not be replaced, will choose to leave or retire. The school district needs to trim $30 million from next year’s budget.

“I always knew Indianapolis Public Schools was a large place, but when you live it every day, it can be somewhat overwhelming,” said Dr. Hinckley.

The interim superintendent, who has led several school districts for nearly 30 years before becoming a consultant, is taking on IPS for the next three to four months.  She said she does not want the permanent position, which was last occupied by Dr. Eugene White.

White was brought out of his contract, after being criticized for the loss of students to charter schools and the state voucher program that has made private schools affordable for lower income families.

“I think we’re working hard but we’re not getting the results that this community expects, so there is no doubt there is room for improvement,” said Dr. Hinckley.

One of those improvements is to change the turnover rate of teachers and principals at poorly performing schools.

“If we have a new principal every year, that’s what’s shooting us in the foot,” said Dr. Hinckley.

The constant shakeups are what Hinckley claims can really hurt a student’s performance and weaken test scores.