New IPS leader Aleesia Johnson to be paid on par with predecessor

Newly selected Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson will make $250,000 per year, according to a business agreement released by IPS last week—about on par with the initial pay earned by her predecessor.

The compensationincludes Johnson’s salary of $238,000 in her first year and a $1,000 monthly car allowance. The figure aims to walk the line between being fiscally responsible and ensuring the district’s first African-American woman leader is paid fairly, said school board President Michael O’Connor.

“It was important to us that we compensated our next superintendent fairly and competitively,” O’Connor said.

The IPS board is set to hold a public hearing on the proposed terms at 3 p.m. July 16 at the central office, 120 E. Walnut St. The board is expected to vote on the full contract July 23 or 25, both regularly scheduled meetings.

Johnson will earn less than what her predecessor Lewis Ferebee made before he left to head the Washington, D.C., school system. Ferebee made nearly $300,000 last year, including performance pay, contributions to his retirement savings and a stipend for a car, on top of the benefits other district administrators receive.

But in real terms, Johnson’s salary is comparable to Ferebee’s initial pay. She will be paid about 10% more than what Ferebee, who was also a first-time district leader, earned when he was hired six years ago. That increase is roughly in line with inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator.

In his first year, Ferebee was paid $216,400, including his $198,000 salary and $18,400 in relocation and performance pay, according to the district. He also received a $1,000-per-month car allowance.

The new contract represents a 7% raise for Johnson, who is currently paid $222,380. She has served as the interim superintendent for six months and was previously deputy superintendent.

The contract will run through June 30, 2022, and it will automatically renew for one year if the board evaluates Johnson as effective or highly effective. The contract will provide that Johnson’s future raises will be the same percentage as the average increases for teachers under future collective bargaining agreements.

Johnson will receive the same benefits as other district administrators, including health insurance and retirement plans. Those benefits are valued at $45,921 annually, according to the term sheet.

The district is also paying for some of Johnson’s ongoing education. Like Ferebee, she will be entitled to up to $6,000 per year in reimbursement for professional development or business expenses. O’Connor said the contract will include a provision allowing for tuition reimbursement if Johnson pursues her doctorate.

Unlike Ferebee, none of Johnson’s pay will be contingent on performance. Each year, Ferebee was eligible for thousands of dollars in pay depending on whether he accomplished goals outlined by the board.

The large payouts were consistently controversial because they highlighted the wide gap between the pay of the district’s chief leader and that of teachers. The goals that were the basis of the pay were also considered part of Ferebee’s personnel file, which the district did not always release publicly.

O’Connor said the board eliminated the performance pay because it was hard to explain how it was determined.

“We’re trying to make the compensation very transparent,” he added.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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