Despite a string of positive news, the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is facing strong criticism over a plan that some say discriminates against African-American students and parents at two northside high schools. In an extended Afternoons with Amos interview, IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee tried to explain the controversial proposal to move the entire Shortridge High School student body to Tech High School and move an additional number of students from Broad Ripple High School to Tech. In Shortridge’s place IPS would move the International Baccalaureate (IB) program from Gambold High School, a small Westside school, into the larger Shortridge building. The reason is to satisfy increasingly shrill demands from white parents in the Broad Ripple and Meridian Kessler neighborhoods who’ve demanding IPS place Gambol’s IB program at Shortridge so it would be more convenient for the predominantly white neighborhood’s students. Even though, under the plan, Black students would be bused for longer periods from their neighborhoods to Tech on the city’s near eastside.
Dr. Ferebee tried to explain the proposal which was first brought up for discussion with the IPS School Board Tuesday, November 11th, with a final vote scheduled for November 18th. The extremely short time frame is partly because IPS is planning a Showcase of Schools event, November 22nd at Circle Centre Mall where IPS parents and prospective parents and students can learn about the course offerings at all IPS magnets and neighborhood schools. In the Afternoons with Amos interview, besides explaining the Showcase of Schools event at Circle Centre, Dr. Ferebee was also pleased that the District’s State Accountability grade had improved from an “F” to a “D”. Ferebee was also proud that IPS had gained more “A” and “B” schools. Another crisis IPS is facing is a sharp decline in African-American students this school year. According to preliminary data supplied by IPS to Afternoons with Amos, the district’s African-American student enrollment declined by 1,326 students or 8.2%. That’s the sharpest one year decline in IPS’ Black enrollment in three years. In the previous two years, IPS’ Black enrollment had actually seen some increases. Dr. Ferebee, while expressing confidence in the figures his staff provided, was nonetheless surprised by the severe drop in Black students. Dr. Ferebee thinks it could be the impact of several new and expanded charter schools in the IPS area, but the data from other schools and districts is still being provided to Afternoons with Amos, so detailed anaylsis is incomplete.
Ferebee also refused to provide details of that bizarre incident last month at John Marshall HS where a non-IPS employee was allowed to intervene in a student discipline matter. Dr. Ferebee said IPS had completed their investigation, but claims it’s a personnel matter and wouldn’t say the investigation’s result. On IPS ending its policy of notifying the public when persons had been caught with dangerous weapons at IPS schools, Ferebee said state law doesn’t pro mandate such disclosures. When asked should the law be changed, Dr. Ferebee didn’t respond. Click the Media Player to Hear the Afternoons with Amos Interview with IPS Supt. Dr. Lewis Ferebee. Runs 26 Minutes. ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.