An Indianapolis Public Schools-sponsored survey touts the strong support of principals and administrators for the district’s changes under Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, but the report raised some concerns that it all might be coming too fast.
A large majority of central office staff and school principals think IPS is on the right track, the survey found.
Among central office employees, 70 percent believe the quality of education is improving in the district. Building leaders were even more enthusiastic, with 89 percent of principals saying quality is getting better.
Sixty-one principals and 107 central office staff responded to the survey, which was part of a review that included interviews and focus groups. Teachers were not included in the survey.
The survey results show those surveyed back the need for district change, said Ami Magunia, one of the analysts involved.
“They are not comfortable with the status quo and that is excellent news,” she said.
Magunia is engagement director for Mass Insight Education, which conducted the survey. The consulting group is working with the district to manage “transformation zones,” or groups of schools targeted for extra attention to try to improve two struggling high schools.
Other good news for Ferebee and his team: 100 percent of those surveyed said they believe the elements of the district’s strategic plan are measurable and 98 percent said that principals are held accountable for school performance.
But the report also revealed perceived weaknesses in district practice.
The school board and Ferebee are pushing to transform the district in many ways, from reducing the size of the central office to increasing freedom for building leaders.
The pace of change may be too rapid for employees, said Magunia.
“You are not only trying to transform and turn around your schools, but you are also trying to simultaneously dramatically transform the central office,” she said.
Mass Insight identified 60 new initiatives affecting schools, from minor changes such as district cell phones for principals to big shifts like a move toward school autonomy that is on the horizon.
School board member Mary Ann Sullivan said the district has already made many of the changes called for in the strategic plan and she expects the number of new programs and policies to taper off.
“We know we’ve thrown a lot of really big changes at people and are expecting a lot,” she said. “Hopefully the natural progression of things will help with that.”
But board member Sam Odle said he is not interested in slowing the pace of change.
“I don’t think we can ever go too fast,” he said. “Every day that we have a child sitting in a failing school is doing damage to those children.”