Who Is In Charge

Instead of outsourcing, IPS hires Jamal Smith as athletic director

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
The Indianapolis Public School Board hired a new athletic director, abandoning a proposal to outsource the athletic department.

Indianapolis Public Schools hired Jamal Smith as district athletic director tonight, abandoning a proposal to outsource management to a private company led by Smith.

Smith will leave his position as head of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission to join IPS as the full-time athletic director. The private company that Smith leads — the FLOwens Group, LLC — will not have a contract with the district.

Smith will earn $110,000 per year as athletic director, about $65,000 less than the price tag that was proposed for his company to manage the department. Under the initial contract, FLOwens Group would manage the department for two years for $285,000.

“I thought it was a great proposal — something that we considered, something we brought forth to commissioners, that we were strongly considering,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “After he presented to the board and thought about it more, (he) decided that he could better serve the district as an employee, and we were happy with that news.”

(Read: IPS might outsource athletic director job and oversight of sports programs.)

When Smith presented his proposal to manage the department through his company at an IPS Board meeting Sept. 22, it was met with skepticism from several board members. But tonight the board approved hiring Smith without dissent.

“My concern was that there wasn’t enough information initially. We didn’t see the details,” said board member Mary Ann Sullivan. “If you … know what you’re paying but you don’t know what you’re getting, you don’t know if you’re getting a deal.”

Earlier on Friday, Smith went before the Indiana Ethics Commission, which determined that accepting a position with IPS did not present a conflict of interest, Ferebee said.

Smith will take over for the interim district athletic director on Jan. 4, according to the personnel report.

As assistant coach for the basketball team at Arsenal Tech High School, Smith helped build a team known for student athletes who also were heavily involved in community and winning basketball games. Arsenal won the district’s first state title in decades in 2014.

When he presented his initial plan, Smith said that he hoped to get more kids involved in sports and other extracurricular activities — from music and arts programs to new ventures like student-managed concussions at sports games.

“I think it’s exciting that we’ve already heard that he has some really innovative ideas and wants to do some things that are kind of beyond what maybe traditionally are done by athletic directors,” Sullivan said. “I’m happy that he’s interested in being part of team IPS.”


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”