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IPS, Marian University partnership seeks future school leaders

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee speaks about a partnership with Marian University during a press conference today at Harshman Middle School.
IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee speaks about a partnership with Marian University during a press conference today at Harshman Middle School.
James Vaughn

Indianapolis Public Schools and Marian University hope that by working together they can get more of the city’s best teachers to become school leaders.

IPS and Marian announced today a partnership designed to help funnel the best IPS teachers through Marian University’s principal training program and then on to the top jobs at some of the city’s lowest-scoring schools.

“This will be a model for how higher (education) institutions and K-12 public school systems can come together and do something very special,” IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said to a small group that gathered in Harshman Middle School’s media center.

“We knew we had some positive things going on, but we wanted to do even more,” he said.

IPS and Marian already have an ongoing partnership focused on preparing teachers to work in city schools. Many of the students who go through Marian’s education programs take jobs at IPS. In fact, more than half of Harshman teachers, Marian President Dan Elsener pointed out, graduated from the university.

While many colleges and universities across the state are seeing sharp declines in students entering teacher education programs, Marian is seeing an increase, Elsener said. The student body has grown to about 500 from 160 in a decade, he said.

“Most teacher (education) programs have sunk,” he said. “Ours is zooming. And we think that’s so critical for the future of our city and we’re so proud of it.”

Elsener, a former high school teacher and administrator, said he often explains to potential students the mark a good teacher can leave on a classroom and on the city.

“When I speak to potential students, I tell them it’s the greatest job in the world,” Elsener said.

Marian is also a partner with other teacher training programs, such as Teach for America and Indianapolis Teaching Fellows. Through this new partnership, up to 30 teachers per year can pursue leadership skills. So far, 16 IPS teachers are signed up for this fall.

“It’s not an open gate,” Elsener said. “A leader has to bring some talent to the game.”

IPS administrators must recommend teachers for the program before they can apply, Ferebee said.

“We know that the power and the muscle in the schools is through the leader,” he said. “Often times, school leaders are the ones that attract quality teachers to schools and keep those great teachers there as well.”

Retention is key. IPS was faced with 300 teacher and staff vacancies at the beginning of the summer. Ferebee said today 98 percent of those positions were filled by the start of the school year yesterday.

“We’re not where we want to be, but we’ll continue to ramp up our recruitment efforts,” he said.

Indianapolis Power and Light contributed about $250,000 to the program at Marian. An anonymous donor contributed $1.25 million.

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