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6th graders working on Writing skills.

6th graders working on Writing skills.

Alan Petersime

Ferebee says IPS needs a plan to grow its own principals

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee hopes a plan to nurture promising future leaders will help Indianapolis Public Schools reverse a troubling trend: good principals are leaving and hiring outside replacements has gotten tougher.

Ferebee told the board tonight a combination of mentoring and university training to support teachers and others in the district with leadership potential could be a solution.

The problem has two sides: as good principals have left, the district also decided not to renew contracts for more than 20 administrators because of poor performance. Some of those positions remained unfilled.

Fourteen other administrators are on notice that they might not be renewed this year due to poor performance, Ferebee said. Several more principals are nearing retirement age.

It could add up to a crisis if the district does not actively seek to build a pipeline of the next generation of school leaders, he said.

“It’s paramount that we have an exceptional leader in all of our schools,” Ferebee said. “We have great principals, but we need more.”

Ferebee’s proposed creating “lead principals” by paying six principals $750 per month to mentor new principals, train assistant principals on leadership and lead efforts to improve student learning programs and and teaching. It would cost the district $9,000 annually.

“What’s exciting about this model is we would be relying on our own leaders to develop and train assistant principals and principals across the district,” Ferebee said. “We want to tap into the expertise of our current principals.”

Ferebee also proposed spending $50,000 per year over five years to have Marian University train and support possible future IPS school principals. IPS would help Marian University identify up to 30 skilled teachers or others each year who show promise in hopes that they become future assistant principals or principals. Marian University has raised $4 million privately to support the participants.

The Marian Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership, which was founded in 2010, has trained teachers and principals for IPS, state takeover schools and charter schools. About 30 percent of its participants were alumni from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, two national programs that place aspiring teachers in schools with large numbers of students who are at risk of failure.

The proposals seemed to have the support of the board, which recently approved another of Ferebee’s ideas to reward new principals who want to serve struggling schools with recruitment bonuses.

“This is very exciting,” board member Diane Arnold said. “This is something that a few years ago would not have even been a consideration. We can bring people in from the outside or we can learn how to grow them ourselves.”

But board member Samantha Adair-White said she would not support a partnership with Marian University, saying she believed many who were trained through the university would not stay with the district in the long term.

“They might not fit our programs,” Adair-White said. “What are we investing in? I don’t understand why we would do it.”

Board members did not take a vote at the meeting. The full board could take action on the proposals at its Aug. 28 meeting.