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Scott Elliott

Ferebee wins extra pay for grad rates, test scores and entry plan

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee this year will be paid an extra $19,610 for meeting the Indianapolis Public School Board’s goals for his performance.

The board last week approved Ferebee’s performance pay — a section of his contract designed to reward him for boosting student progress — for his work raising graduation rates and ISTEP scores, as well as for successfully executing an “entry plan” for the district.

Ferebee can earn up to $25,000 per year in performance pay each year, according to his contract. His base salary is $198,000 per year.

Ferebee earned $15,000 for implementing an entry plan. He also earned $2,860 for improving graduation rates 4 percentage points to 71.5 percent, and $1,750 for gains in ISTEP and end-of-course exam scores. All told, the $19,610 extra Ferebee will be paid equated to about 78 percent of the $25,000 he could have earned. Converting that percentage to a grade scale, it could be looked at as roughly as a C+.

But board President Diane Arnold was upbeat about Ferebee’s performance. She said setting goals for extra pay is a good way to establish firm measures for his performance.

“We’ve tried to make those very concrete,” Arnold said. “We’re increasing graduation rates. We’re improving ISTEP. We’re trying to do that early so he knows what his expectations are.”

The board in November approved the first piece of Ferebee’s performance pay. But it waited until last week to finalize it based on new graduation rate data released by the Indiana Department of Education.

Ferebee said he is proud of the increase in the district’s graduation rate this year, along with sharply decreasing the number of waivers given to students. Waivers, or exceptions that allow students who fail state tests to circumvent rules that should block them from receiving diplomas, had been on the rise in Indiana until recently. IPS was sharply criticized in 2012 after it was revealed that more than a quarter of its 2011 graduates used waivers.

IPS cut that number in half last year — and this year reduced it again. This year 7 percent of its graduating seniors used waivers, compared with 13 percent last year.

“Before I got here, we were getting hit with that,” Ferebee said. “We have the highest graduation rate we’ve ever had.”