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Indy Reads cuts longtime program director in budget-trimming effort

March 10, 2017

The longtime director of programs for Indy Reads has been terminated by the not-for-profit literacy group—a decision that is being questioned by the former executive director.

Tom Miller, who joined Indy Reads as a volunteer in 1996 when it was known as the Greater Indianapolis Literacy League, said he was fired Wednesday as part of a budget-cutting effort.

Office manager Redfox Chase, who had joined the staff in June, also was let go Wednesday.

Former executive director Travis DiNicola, who left the organization last year after 10 years at the helm to move to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, described the dismissal of Miller as “very concerning” and posted on Facebook that he questioned the future of Indy Reads.

“To me, it’s concerning. It’s upsetting,” DiNicola told IBJ on Friday. “One thing I emphasized with the board… was they had to find someone who would work well with Tom and support Tom. I told them I thought Tom’s role was more important than the executive director’s role.”

DiNicola said when he joined Indy Reads in 2006, Miller was the only person who stuck with the organization as it transitioned from a program within the Indianapolis Public Library to an independent entity.

Miller oversaw the educational and tutoring programming that aimed to improve adult literacy. He also has served as president of Indiana Association for Adult and Continuing Education and the Indiana Literacy Association.

“His experience is incredible,” DiNicola said. “So much of the curriculum that Indy Reads uses, he had developed.”

In 2007, Indy Reads served about 350 students. That number grew to about 1,350 last year.

“A lot of that is because of Tom and the program he created,” DiNicola said. “I ran Indy Reads for 10 years, and I still don’t consider myself to be an expert of adult education or adult literacy.”

Ryan King, who became CEO of the organization in October, declined to comment on personnel issues, but said Indy Reads will launch programs this summer that could significantly increase the number of students served.

King formerly served as the executive director and CEO of Denver-based neighborhood advocacy and marketing group LoDo District Inc.

DiNicola, who started this week as the director of development for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, said he wasn’t in direct contact with other staff members or the board, so he wasn’t aware of the new programs.

“Maybe there’s a wonderful whole new future for Indy Reads that I’m not aware of,” DiNicola said. “There’s nothing more I want to see than to see the organization succeed.”

DiNicola said Indy Reads had about 17 employees at one time, including part-time and bookstore staff.

According to the 990 tax filings for Indy Reads, the organization had an operating deficits of $259,000 in 2015 and $165,000 in 2014, but total assets were $559,000 in 2014 and $356,000 in 2015.

Expenses for both years were around $1 million.

Miller said Wednesday was an emotional day for him, but he hopes to remain in the not-for-profit sector.

“It is a new challenge for me, and I hope something new and exciting comes along,” Miller said.

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