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On second try, Ferebee wins approval for principal hires

George Washington High School.
George Washington High School.
Scott Elliott

The Indianapolis Public School Board cleared the way today for Superintendent Lewis Ferebee to hire two principals who were put on hold last week over concerns about public input.

In a short meeting with barely a majority present, the board voted 4-1 in favor of hiring Emily Butler, who is coming from Maryland, as the new principal of George Washington High School and Michelle Brittain-Watts, who will be promoted to principal of Northwest High School from assistant principal at George Washington.

Last week those two were pulled from the board’s agenda after some members said they wanted more parent and community input in the hiring process.

In that meeting, Ferebee proposed a new hiring process that included creating feedback panels composed of a teacher, three other staff and two optional “community stakeholders” to vet principal candidates, with the superintendent having control over the final selection. But the board voted to mandate that at least one parent be part of each selection panel and delayed hiring the two proposed principal candidates with the hopes that parents from each school would be added to the screening process. But Ferebee convinced a majority of the board the vetting was good enough.

Board member Samantha Adair-White, who was the lone no vote, was among those who thought more of the new process should have been used for George Washington and Northwest. She said she strongly supports Ferebee’s plans going forward but was disappointed Butler and Brittain-Watts were hired without any additional input.

“Nothing changed from last week to this week,” she said. “That’s why I voted no. But I’m behind him 100 percent.”

Some of the other board members who had concerns last week, notably Gayle Cosby and Michael Brown, were not present for today’s special meeting which was primarily scheduled to resolve the principal issue.

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