Lewis Ferebee has been superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools for just more than seven months and spent much of that time studying the district and crafting a plan for change.
On April 21, Ferebee joined Chalkbeat Indiana’s bureau chief, Scott Elliott, for a 90-minute interview in a WFYI-sponsored event at the downtown public library.
So what has Ferebee identified as IPS’s greatest strength?
“Oh, the people,” he said. “We have phenomenal staff members who are very committed. We have students who come to school every day, want to learn, eager to get to the classroom, many of which leave situations where they are juggling life balls that are just daunting, and they come ready to learn.”
As for weaknesses, Ferebee said much has changed in IPS over the years but the district is still managed largely the same way it was when enrollment was twice the 30,000 it is today.
“I think our community is starving for a new IPS, a more innovative and progressive IPS,” he said. “That’s a growth opportunity for us. I’m excited about being a part of that change. I think our community is excited about being a part of that change. We’ve moving toward a new day for IPS.”
Some of Ferebee’s other impressions:
- He’s surprised children in kindergarten in Indiana do not receive the same per pupil funding amount as those in grades 1 to 12. “This is the first state I’ve been where you don’t receive full funding for kindergarten,” he said.
- He’s impressed by the energy in the city focused on improving education, particularly in the business and philanthropic communities. “I welcome that,” he said. “I embrace that interest. It’s exciting to know we have a community that’s very vested in education.”
- He’d like to see more cooperation among IPS, township schools and charter schools. Education in Indianapolis is too fragmented and disconnected, Ferebee said. “I believe I have an opportunity as superintendent in Indianapolis to connect those dots and pull us together,” he said. “Collectively I think we have more potential than we do individually.”
Since the interview, Chalkbeat has written these stories about specific issues Ferebee discussed:
- IPS must change how it serves kids with barriers, Ferebee says.
- Where do middle school kids belong?
- Longer school days or school year are on the table for some schools.