2017 NEWSMAKER: Lewis Ferebee

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Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has led the district during a time of intense change this year and continued to make sometimes controversial moves that encouraged school choice.

Among the changes: IPS closed some high schools; revamped programs at others; switched to a common enrollment system that will merge IPS and charter enrollment processes; added to its magnet options; and expanded its network of autonomously run, charter-like “innovation schools.”

Among the new innovation schools is one operated through a partnership with Purdue University and well-regarded, former charter Herron High School, which joined the IPS network.

Some of Ferebee’s changes—which have also been endorsed by IPS’ school board— have prompted praise. For instance, parents have been clamoring for an expanded Butler Lab School, which IPS now will offer both at the original site at School 60, 3330 N. Pennsylvania St., and at School 55, south of Broad Ripple.

Others have prompted criticism, such as the plan to close Broad Ripple and John Marshall schools and turn Arlington and Northwest high schools into middle schools, due to the district’s declining high school enrollments. Now, all IPS high school students will choose their high school based on academic interest instead of being assigned one based on geographical location.

“Many people understand the need to right-size our high schools,” Ferebee said, according to a Chalkbeat Indiana report at the time, “but not many people wanted their high school to close, and it was a tough decision that had to be made.”

Since being hired in 2013, Ferebee has fundamentally changed the makeup and direction of the district, to be more focused on choice. About 75 percent of IPS students attend district-managed schools now, and 20 percent of its students attend innovation schools managed by outside groups. About 6 percent of the district’s schools have been taken over by the state because the schools received repeated failing grades.•

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