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Ferebee wants bonuses for principals who boost struggling schools

Scott Elliott

Leaders of low-performing Indianapolis Public Schools could be eligible for $10,000 bonuses under a new plan from Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.

On Tuesday, Ferebee unveiled a plan to the school board that would reward principals who tackle tough assignments in 11 IPS “priority schools” — those that twice earned F letter grades from the state due to stagnant or declining student performance. The plan would cost the district $220,000 during the 2014-15 school year, he said.

Half of the cost would go toward one-time, $10,000 recruitment incentives. The other half would reward principals for improving test scores and otherwise boosting student performance at the schools.

Ferebee, whose administration is also grappling with principal turnover in top-performing schools, said the performance pay would drive talented leaders to the schools most in need of change.

“It is our intent to address teachers serving in our priority schools, but we also want to make sure we have strong leaders in our priority schools,” said Ferebee, who said he wanted to create an environment where principals have more autonomy and responsibility for their students. “To be competitive, to recruit, we believe we need to enhance our incentives and provide performance incentives.”

Only some of the priority schools need new principals. After telling all IPS principals in December they needed to reapply for their jobs for the 2014-15 school year, Ferebee’s administration decided in February not to renew the contracts of several principals and assistant principals of the district’s lowest-performing schools.

The proposal also involves hiring new principals for these schools under 12-month contracts, which Ferebee said would let the leaders spend their summers on their schools. The priority school leaders would also get extra support and training.

Ferebee’s plan, announced after the board debated a proposal to overhaul its teacher evaluation and pay system, prompted few questions from the board. It is unclear if the board will vote on it at the meeting next week.

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