Ferebee wants IPS teachers to work five more days

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
An elementary school teacher at one of Indianapolis Public Schools' priority schools describes the qualities of her favorite teacher during the 2014 Priority Schools Summer Institute.

Indianapolis Public Schools teachers say Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s plan to improve instruction by adding five training days to the calendar starting next school year will end up costing them.

The district’s labor contract with its teachers union currently calls for them to work up to 190 days, but the district calendar only requires them to come to work 185 days. In essence, teachers get five extra days off, a benefit some say helps make amends for some of the lost income they’ve incurred over five years without a raise.

“Teachers need professional development, but I don’t know that our time is being used wisely within the school day,” said Northwest High School Spanish teacher Katherine Hinkle. “Rather than adding more days (into) our contract, I propose we give schools more freedom and encourage schools to come … up with their own professional development.”

The labor deal expires June 30, which means the length of the contract year could be up for debate.

But Ferebee has asked board members to vote next week to approve the 2015-16 and 2016-17 calendars. The district can’t expect to improve its academic performance if it doesn’t strengthen teacher training, he said. That means putting teachers to work for the full 190 days, he said.

“It’s so needed, and I would hope that our teachers would value that,” Ferebee said. “We’re not talking about additional work days in the classroom with students. We’re talking about opportunities to get better. That’s a better model than asking teachers to come in over the summer.”

IPS has struggled to effectively recruit and retain teachers. But the district also ranks near the bottom in Marion County school for the amount of time dedicated to teacher training, Ferebee said. Simply adding training time before, during or after a regular school day isn’t as effective as dedicating a full day to it without students, he said.

“I’ve been an elementary teacher,” Ferebee said. “By the time I took my students to music and P.E. (classes), made a phone call, used the restroom, it was time to go back. It’s hard to get that type of work done during the day.”

Several teachers at Tuesday’s school board meeting criticized Ferebee’s plan. Other proposed changes to the IPS calendar include transitioning Thanksgiving break from a full week off into a three-day week.

Board member Gayle Cosby had concerns with the plan.

“Our morale is pretty low,” she said. “Anything we do to weaken that further should be very carefully considered.”

Teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett said the union will push even harder for a raise during contract negotiations if board members approve the new calendar.

This year’s contract awarded teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” with a $1,500 bonus, but did not increase base pay. IPS currently is working with an outside consultant to overhaul its teacher pay and promotion strategy.

“They can do this, and we’ll talk to (Ferebee) when bargaining starts,” Cornett said. “It is what it is. I understand what IPS is saying, but I understand what my teachers say, and I’ve got to represent them.”

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.