Dear Dr. Ferebee,
I write this not as a former employee, but as an educator who has been following you since you arrived in Indianapolis in 2013. I followed you because I saw a black man leading a major school district in the city that I grew up in and attended school. I grew up not seeing many black males in the classroom, so it was exciting to see a black man leading an entire school district. My teaching path did not lead me to IPS, but I was still heavily involved in what was going on in IPS. Over these five years, I have not agreed with everything you did as superintendent; however, I did understand. You were making decisions that many of us on the outside would not understand. There are particular aspects that I admired about your time in IPS.
The first was your calm demeanor. Sometimes in a prominent role, it is difficult to remain cool with all the ridicule and backlash you receive for decisions you made. For all the negative and nasty and personal attacks that have come your way over these five years, I have never heard you lashing back out or stooping to the level of the harsh words. You have spearheaded controversial changes in the district and have remained a calm, cool, and collected character. The same cannot be said about your predecessor, Dr. White, who was very combative with the public. For all the criticism you have received, lashing out at the public or the school board is not part of your legacy in Indy. This is an area I am working on as a principal. Sometimes in the heat of being in an educational leadership position, you can lose your cool, but Dr. Ferebee you have displayed the very temperament that I hope to have.
The second aspect I admired is your willingness to use innovative ideas to improve failing schools. While serving as superintendent, we saw an unprecedented partnership form in the city with charter schools partnering with the district to create the innovation network. The rapid growth of the charter school movement in the city led to some families leaving district schools and enrolling their children in charter schools. It made me think, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” You saw an opportunity, not for competition, but for collaboration. I appreciate that mainly because it was not about what the public said but more about what was best for children. Many hated the decision, but it was a way to keep children in the district and push for move innovated approaches to provide children with a better educational option.
Finally, Dr. Ferebee, I appreciate the presence of your position. I am currently a black principal, who hopes one day that I can be a superintendent. Black male educators are two percent of our education force, so becoming a superintendent is not an easy feat to achieve. You held the highest position and did it with dignity and integrity. There was no personal scandal during your tenure. As a black leader, you were an example and role model for us to look up to. You provided a path for us to follow and laid out the blueprint to be successful. More importantly, you allowed the door to remain open for other black men to walk through. For me, in your five years that was the most significant accomplishment of your tenure in Indianapolis.
Thank you, Dr. Ferebee, for your leadership, service, and dedication to the Indianapolis Public Schools and the city of Indianapolis. Thank you more personally for being a positive example of and great representation as a black man leading a school district. Good luck and God Bless in your next role.