EDITORIAL: IPS chief leaves mixed legacy

 IBJ Staff
January 19, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
IBJ Editorial

Eugene White is a towering man with an outsized personality to match. When he took the helm of the troubled Indianapolis Public Schools seven years ago, he seemed to have the confidence and determination to steamroll through the changes the district badly needed.

As he departs, no one can declare his tenure a clear success or failure.

Among his achievements was the proliferation of magnet schools that helped retain the children of professionals who for decades had been flocking to the suburbs.

The record is more mixed for the city’s most impoverished children, many of whom, because of complicated family lives, enter first grade already on a path to failure.

We’re disappointed that the school board this month backed away from what could have been one of White’s most important legacies, a plan to enroll 1,400 4-year-olds in free preschool—giving kids most at risk a crucial, early leg up.

It was just the kind of innovative thinking the district needed.

But unfortunately, White in many ways seemed too status quo, maintaining much of the district’s massive bureaucracy—sucking up resources that would be better deployed in classrooms—and reacting defensively to reform initiatives, including the proliferation of charters.

Some of that is understandable. It’s too early to know whether many of the initiatives former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett championed actually will improve student performance.

And while many students who live within the IPS boundaries have benefited from having new options on where to attend school, the flight of students has exacerbated the district’s management and financial challenges.

To be sure, it takes a unique educator to run a large urban school district like IPS. Every decision can’t be the product of consensus-building and negotiation. So having a strong-willed leader at the helm is essential. But too often, especially in recent years, White’s self-certainty seemed to cross the line into arrogance and bullheadedness.

The good news is that White’s departure appears to set the stage for the broader changes we once hoped he would champion. A strong roster of new board members, including retired Indiana University Health executive Sam Odle, is poised to aggressively push reforms.

And White’s exit likely will give additional momentum to The Mind Trust’s ambitious plan, unveiled in December 2011, to blow up the bureaucracy and transform the district into a network of autonomous “opportunity” schools.•


To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

  2. $3B would hurt Lilly's bottom line if there were no insurance or Indemnity Agreement, but there is no way that large an award will be upheld on appeal. What's surprising is that the trial judge refused to reduce it. She must have thought there was evidence of a flagrant, unconscionable coverup and wanted to send a message.

  3. As a self-employed individual, I always saw outrageous price increases every year in a health insurance plan with preexisting condition costs -- something most employed groups never had to worry about. With spouse, I saw ALL Indiana "free market answer" plans' premiums raise 25%-45% each year.

  4. It's not who you chose to build it's how they build it. Architects and engineers decide how and what to use to build. builders just do the work. Architects & engineers still think the tarp over the escalators out at airport will hold for third time when it snows, ice storms.

  5. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/duke-energy-customers-angry-about-money-for-nothing