[2015 DREAM Essay] Fresh and bold vision for Indianapolis Public Schools

We are pleased to partner with WFYI to present a series of powerful essays on Spirit & Place Festival’s 20th anniversary theme, DREAM.

By Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools

lewI was in the Indianapolis airport TSA line after my second interview and public meeting for the IPS superintendency heading back to North Carolina, and two compelling thoughts were confirmed. There was a thirst in the community for a restoration of hope for IPS and a yearning for something different for public education in the city.  A security agent checked my identification as I handed over my airline ticket.  With a unique grin, he asked:

“Are you the new superintendent for IPS?”

“I remember seeing your face on the news.”

“You’re the guy with the bowtie.”

I replied, “You are mostly correct, but I’m hoping to become the next superintendent for IPS, and the Board of School Commissioners has not yet named the finalist. I’m sure they will make an announcement soon.”  He replied with great confidence:

The gentleman’s encouraging words were confirmation that we should all dream big for IPS and cultivate a captivating and bold vision for the district.

“Well I hope you get the job, I have a good feeling about you.”

“You are our guy, we need you. IPS has struggled for a longtime and our children need a quality education.”

“You can do it.”

“It’s a real fixer-upper but with bold leadership, we get better, right?”

“Safe travels, enjoy your flight.”

I will never forget that conversation, and it rings in my ears often when I face strong opposition to change. The gentleman’s encouraging words were confirmation that we should all dream big for IPS and cultivate a captivating and bold vision for the district. It also signaled that Indianapolis would make a great home for my family and me. This is “myIPS.”

Since then, IPS has made significant strides toward becoming different and better. We have pockets of achievement. More importantly, we now have that bold and innovative vision for our future. IPS Strategic Plan 2015 sets a vision for a high-quality education for every student in every school.

“Envision one of the largest employers in the City of Indianapolis with the most talented educators earning competitive pay. IPS students have attractive elementary, middle and high school options that inspire them, cultivate their talents and meet their needs. All students graduate on time and enter college, career or the military well-prepared for success. Innovation drives our approach to offering a high-quality educational experience to all students” (IPS Strategic Plan 2015, p6, www.myips.org).

Along with my friend in TSA, I too have a good feeling. This is indeed an exciting time for our students, families and staff, and our entire community.

To listen to this essay click here!

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