Board members balk at Ferebee's principal selection process

IPS board member Gayle Cosby questioned whether Superintendent Lewis Ferebee's principal selection process included enough community input. (Scott Elliott)

The hiring of two IPS principals was shelved Tuesday as board members questioned whether Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s new approach to selecting school leaders did enough to involve parents.

“My hope … is this would open the door to other schools and parents who have a concern,” said board member Gayle Cosby, one of the objectors, after a long discussion during which she pitched her own ideas to involve community members in the principal selection process.

But other board members said selecting principals is primarily Ferebee’s job.

“I think we all want more parental involvement and community involvement,” board member Sam Odle said. “I think we ought to be data driven. I’d like to see the metrics they’re using to judge themselves to be successful. We’ve got to make sure we hold the superintendent accountable in selecting the right leadership.”

As Ferebee has been working on a new step-by-step process for choosing school leaders,  his major focus has been on exactly what board members were asking for: getting more input from people connected to the schools. He proposed creating feedback panels, which have been put in place already for some searches, composed of a teacher, three other staff and two optional “community stakeholders” to vet principal candidates, with the superintendent having control over the final selection.

“What you see in the policy represents a philosophy of being more inclusive and being more (engaged),” Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said. “Is it perfect? Probably not. I believe we have an opportunity to get this right and we will get it right. We’ll see support we haven’t seen before. We’ll see opportunities we haven’t seen before.”

But the board wanted to go further, voting to mandate that at least one parent be part of each selection panel. They also delayed hiring two proposed principal candidates for Northwest and George Washington high schools so at least one parent at each school would be part of the screening process.

Board member Michael Brown told board members, earning applause from the public audience, that he refused to support the policy if it was not written in stone that parents would be included. He eventually voted for it after the board amended the policy.

“If we don’t get parental buy in, I think we’re saying one thing and doing another,” Brown said, adding later that “for years and years … voices have remained silent because they felt it was falling on deaf ears until we hired a superintended that opened up the door.”

Parents’ feeling about the school matter just as much as test scores and A to F grades, he said.

“You can put a letter grade on any school but how the parents feel their students are doing should have some (input) on how their schools are doing,” Brown said.

Ferebee acknowledged IPS could be better at including parents in the school leadership selection process.

“I think we have some growth opportunities in terms of engaging parents,” Ferebee said. “I think parents should be at the table.”

After the debate, Cosby proposing a resolution specific to George Washington, requiring that its Community Advisory Council be represented in future school leadership decisions at the school. There was no vote on that idea.

Ferebee did not specify a timeline for naming leaders at George Washington and Northwest.

“These are schools that have been struggling,” he said. “It may be that the same individuals will surface. We’re going to do our due diligence. We’d rather take our time and get it right.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.