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Ferebee gets a $21,000 bonus from IPS board, but faces some criticism (updated)

Scott Elliott

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee got good marks for his work last year and earned a bonus from the Indianapolis Public School board, but some board members said the district needs to do a better job of providing customer service to parents and staff.

Ferebee will receive a $21,000 bonus from the district for meeting performance goals in 2014-2015, 84 percent of the $25,000 he’s eligible for under his contract.

(UPDATE: The IPS board has since explained that Ferebee could yet earn more bonus money.)

The bonus was awarded based on several achievements, including a successful launch of the district strategic plan, an effective rebranding of IPS and a reduction of student arrest and suspension rates.

Ferebee asked the board not to pay him the bonus, however, until IPS teachers receive a raise that was promised by the district but cannot yet be given because of delays in ISTEP scores.

The board didn’t explicitly outline the goals it felt Ferebee failed to accomplish, but board member LaNier Echols pointed to low student test scores and inadequate communication with IPS families about district plans.

“We need to communicate with those communities that we are interacting with, and if something is changing that community needs to know sooner rather than later,” she said.

(UPDATE: Echols has since clarified that communication was not one of the criteria Ferebee was judged on.)

Parents have asked Echols basic questions about plans for their own schools, from principal changes to school relocations, she said.

For example, a kindergarten teacher from School 44, David Zeh, who spoke at the school board meeting Tuesday, pleading for more information on what the district planned to do at the school next year.

School 44 has persistently low scores on state tests and may be “restarted” by the district, which could mean turning it over to be run independently by an outside organization next year. School 15 this year is being run by a charter school network under such a partnership.

“Months of rumors and no official word from the district has made it difficult to keep faculty morale up,” Zeh said. “We deserve to know what’s going to happen next, and (we) need to know it now. We can’t continue to serve our students well suspended in limbo.”

Despite customer service concerns, however, Ferebee was generally well reviewed by the board. At 84 percent, the bonus he has earned so far is slightly bigger than what he received from his last evaluation, when he was awarded 78 percent of his possible performance pay.

Board member Sam Odle was enthusiastic about his leadership, however.

“We did a thorough review of the school system’s performance over the last year. I wanna commend the superintendent, all his staff and all of our teachers,” Odle said. “I know that there’s positive change going on.”

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