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As start of school nears, key principal jobs are still empty

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

As many as five school leadership positions — principals or assistant principals — could still be open in Indianapolis Public Schools when school starts on Aug. 4.

That’s what Superintendent Lewis Ferebee told the school board today. Some were not thrilled to hear filling the jobs has taken all summer.

“Where are the vice principals for George Washington and Northwest (high schools)?” board member Michael Brown asked Ferebee. “We need to get these people on board. What’s going on?”

But Ferebee said he would rather have an interim leader begin the school year than select the wrong person to do the job.

“We’ll be ready for the opening of school,” Ferebee said. “We’re not going to rush to fill a position when (we) haven’t had an opportunity to make sure that person is a great fit for our organization. You have to make sure sure you’re able to secure talent that you believe will help build a school moving forward.”

Board members tonight approved the hiring of assistant principals at School 99 and School 67, along with an athletic director at Northwest High School but decided to delay a vote on whether to hire a new media coordinator at the district, saying they wanted more information about the position. They will likely be presented with another slate of new hires at the July 22. Principals for George Washington and Northwest High Schools were hired last month.

Ferebee announced last year he would not renew the contracts for more than 20 principals, assistant principals and other central office administrators across the district, including several of those who served in 11 priority schools rated F by the state with flat or falling test scores. Four principals and nine assistant principals were included in that list.

The board recently approved a new principal selection process that will include community members in the hiring process. Ferebee asked school board members for patience.

“We have a lot more people at the table involved in selecting principals, which we believe will heighten ownership and prepare the principal to be successful because there’s buy-in,” Ferebee said. “The more people you have involved in the process, the longer it’s going to take. We believe we must continue to do our due diligence … because we know that long term, it’s going to pay benefits for the school and the community.”

Ferebee also asked the board to keep open a date at the end of the month in case he needs them to approve last-minute hires.

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