Just six weeks into the year, Indianapolis Public Schools’ largest high school has abruptly lost its principal.
Julie Bakehorn, a prize-winning principal with a record of turning around schools, was replaced as head of Arsenal Technical High School this week.
IPS spokeswoman Carrie Cline Black confirmed that Bakehorn was no longer principal of Arsenal Tech. Black said the school is being led by interim principal Lloyd Bryant, the director of principal development for the district.
It’s rare for schools to change leadership mid-year, and when they do it’s typically because the principal retires or takes another position. That is not the case for Bakehorn. She remains with the district as a “principal on assignment,” Black said.
Black declined to describe what the term means and whether Bakehorn is associated with another school. She also declined to confirm whether the central office removed Bakehorn from leadership at Arsenal Tech and did not offer details about what led to Bakehorn’s departure. The district does not comment on personnel matters, Black said.
Bakehorn did not immediately respond to an email and Facebook message seeking comment.
The IPS board is poised to vote on a plan to reconfigure high schools that calls for closing a middle school and a high school as well as converting two campuses from high schools to middle schools. Arsenal Tech is the district’s largest high school, with 1,960 students, and it is safe from closure. But with several schools expected to close, high school leadership is in flux.
The uncertainty about high schools meant that Jim Grim, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for school board last year and previously worked with Bakehorn, was unsurprised to learn that she had been replaced.
“The surprise is the way it happened,” he said. “It just is odd.”
Bakehorn has a long record of success with the district. In her first year at Arsenal Tech in 2015-16, the school’s graduation rate jumped 7.5 percentage points. And previously, state letter grades rose to A’s at two IPS elementary schools she helmed, according to the district website.
Less than two years ago, Bakehorn’s work in IPS was recognized with a prestigious award: She was chosen as one of the first principals to receive the Hubbard Life-Changing Educator award, which offers $25,000 prizes to IPS teachers and principals.