Abdul and Kelly

Dateline: Wed 01 Jun 2011


Some immortal words from Abdul-Hakim Shabazz from today's Indianapolis Star on-line. A few excerpts here:

"Picture this. A CEO makes nearly $250,000 in salary and benefits. His company loses about 1,000 customers annually. It has a product completion rate of less than 50 percent. Facilities are struggling to fill space. A majority of his board of directors rubber-stamp his every decision. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, he prefers to blame the competition. And when the government has warned him repeadtedly that if his company doesn't get its act together, it will step in and take over, he instead tries to cut a last-minute deal.

"Hard to imagine? Not really when you know that the CEO is Eugene White, commander-in-chief of the personification of Murphy's law known as Indianapolis Public Schools. Since I am incapable of harboring any white, liberal guilt, I have no problem in criticizing White and IPS. White, along with his enablers, is the problem and also the reason why the state is in the process of taking over several IPS schools."

Hear, hear (with thanks to David).

Abdul in the past has published on his blog Indiana Barrister the six-figure salaries of IPS' top leadership, most of whom are running in place. He's been a consistent and focused and I think a fair critic of what's wrong at the top in the state's largest school district.

The latest fuss is over the state's plans to intervene in failing public schools, possibly taking them over, a proposal that in effect has been on the table for five years for the Indianapolis Public schools on academic probation (Manual, Arlington, Broad Ripple, Northwest, Howe and George Washington High Schools, along with Donnan Middle School). And other schools in the state.

What intrigues is that Abdul and former IPS board member Kelly Kennedy Bentley are often on the same page on this subject. She is a public school advocate and the parent of IPS graduates and a staunch defender of public school students, who served generously on the board, but she draws the line at an inept and lazy and indifferent administration. As she said on Facebook today, regarding Abdul's commentary, "Abdul and I disagree on more issues than we agree, but other than his unfair swipe at Melina Kennedy, (mayoral candidate for Dems in Indy) he is spot on with his criticisms Dr. White and the IPS school board."

Too often in the past, criticism of IPS was assumed, by some within the IPS hierarchy, to constitute criticism of the pupils and/or the teachers, and woe to she who dared to question either group ...especially, frankly, the powerful teachers' union.

Increasingly, however, we are shedding our coats of "liberal" and "conservative" in order to unite on behalf of education.

When two critics with such different political perspectives as Bentley and Shabazz find common ground, can anyone serious about public education doubt that there are serious, inbred problems -- and that Dr. Eugene White, once the flavor of the week, has failed? Badly?

Whether or not the state takes over, something needs to be done. IPS needs a shakeup, and if nothing else, it is getting it from fair-minded and very independent critics.

Hats off to Kelly and Abdul for balanced analysis and for staying in the game. And for putting kids and their learning before high-powered and well-paid administrative officials.



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

You know my experience with this superintendent. This is not new behavior. His past is checkered with similar experiences--this one is just being played out on the state's biggest (school) stage.

His emailed response to Abdul's inquiry, was one of the most disgusting tomes I've ever read from an elected or appointed public official.

We need to demand better behavior from persons of authority.

Kelly's passion for public education is boundless. I share it. But anyone who's dealt with this Superintendent will tell you, if you disagree with him, prepare to have your head handed to you.

The IPS mess is immense in size. It can be cured. But not with this kind of leadership.

When I was growing up, there were just a few positions in the community that commanded complete and unquestioned respect. School personnel were always in that column--and the Superintendent was a cut above that. No one questioned his authority, style, manners or dedication.

This Superintendent has become the leadership equivalent of horse hockey in the party punchbowl.

Dump it already.

2011-06-01 18:23:29

DMC [unverified] said:

It's the second time I've seen this today, so I must comment. The saying is "hear, hear", meaning "hear him".

All respect,


2011-06-01 19:41:07

hendy [Member] said:

My view is different. For the full story, see http://www.ibj.com/henderson-on-power-players-and-the-future-of-kids/PARAMS/article/27399 which is a column that I wrote on the subject. Unbeknownst to me, the full IPS board wrote a letter to the editor that agrees exactly with what I'm saying: IPS has been robbed, its constituency has been changed, and the arm chair critics need to turn their channel back to Fox, so that they can get content closer to their IQ.

Ok, that's a bit harsh. If you want a world class school system, you have to 1) have better than a ghetto budget, 2) recognition that about 75% of IPS parents are *single* 3) the capacity to ally infrastructure that keeps at least half-way up with the lilly-white suburbs (and their tax base) and 4) the ability to have a superintendent who won't be castigated for trying to lead rather than cow-tow to the arm chair critics, heavily degreed and with a successful track record in education as they are. Not.

2011-06-01 20:29:38

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thanks to DMC; corrected with gratitude.
Hendy, that is premium material there, not accessible unless one is a subscriber. IBJ knows how to run a newspaper and keep the hoi poloi out. I will trot down to CVS tomorrow and buy a copy and share some of your insights for consumption.
You are the lone ranger on this one, tho. I had a lot of respect for Eugene White at NCHS etc. but he's lost me over the past year.
Also, IPS has had a lot of resources thrown at it historically. My beef is that too little went for kids and too much to maintain the status quo at the top of the food chain.
The success of the magnet school Center for Inquiry (best in nation) shows the right stuff does exist within IPS, but I suspect too many deadbeat principals and higher-ups are simply kept in place, at the expense of kids and those single parents.
Look forward to your take, however.

2011-06-01 21:29:00

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Oh Hendy--my dear Hendy.

They GET enough money. They make lousy choices with the money they get.

They need to close and consolidate more schools--the system is hemorrhaging cash. That's mostly because they have too many schools for a declining population--each building requires admin staff, a lunchroom, etc.

And they're awash in the desire of some to "please the king." I have multiple friends who teach in IPS. The stories they tell are horrifying. A system completely out of control. Look no further than Arlington--five or key leadership changes in three years.

That's just unacceptable.

The central office needs to flush its halls of well-paid administrators, and push that money into the classroom.

And Dr. White has outlived his usefulness.

He had a real chance, but the window has passed.

And don't ever forget--he went in with Carte-Blanche control. He demanded it from the then-board. Which was stupid, but they did it.

And this is what we taxpayers get?

I detest Tony Bennett. He's a charlatan and hypocrite. But the IPS mentality has to be grabbed and shaken. Harshly.

Only then can the remaining good teachers have true faith in the system. Because they've lost it. Overwhelmingly.

And 30,000 kids lose too.

Young lives wasted.

2011-06-01 21:30:48

ruthholl [Member] said:

Amen, TTT.

2011-06-01 23:06:13

hendy [Member] said:

What you're seeing is something even more onerous. Dr Bennett is playing the next hand in his deck, which is to take over systems that can't meet standards consistently.

The State is not only not equipped to take on direct school system control, but it has a very distorted view as to why the districts fail in the first place. The first, contrary to what TTT believes, is that the districts were historically crippled in funding, and had older, difficult to maintain infrastructure.

You can also draw exacting parallels to the incidence of poverty in the district, changeover to students that speak ESL, and the morass that is our funding mess. Worse: in IPS (and I don't know statistics for other districts) there are about 70%+ single parents. Parental involvement in education is critical. When Dr White was the head of Wash Twp schools, you could see the strong parental involvement, which lead to the success of the districts academic and sports endeavors. Parents there cared, showed up, and were involved.

If you're a single parent, it's far, far tougher to stay on top of children's educational progress. Worse: many single parents have to take on two jobs to make ends meet. Kids become latch-key, and poverty avoidance and survival become job #1, rather than parenting and being involved in children's educational pursuits. Add in paltry wages, child support policies that are inconsistently applied and the crux of huge legal bills for supporting parents, increasing gang problems, new Americans (and not a few illegal immigrants with hope in their hearts) and the situation in some areas is just dire.

It's not like Dr Bennett is going to superhero parachute into those districts and change even ONE of those factors.

And so, TTT, let me shake you: Dr White, despite your distain for him, is a capable administrator that's doing the right job, and your impatience is emblematic of what's happened to every IPS superintendent in his shoes: one year of happiness, followed by shock that he can't overcome the aforementioned problems, followed by malaise, followed by over-scrutinizing every move the administrator makes. Arm-chair critics with the criticisms you offer demonstrate without a doubt in my mind that you haven't understood the problems, just blame the leadership-- when their hands are tied to the factors that voters have allowed to go on for years and years-- lots of poverty, underclass legal expenses, and throw-away kids.

2011-06-02 08:02:08

hendy [Member] said:

Then there's an additional problem called micromanagement by proxy. We vote people into office, and then, when we're surprised that they don't do things OUR way, criticize the living hell out of them-- often in the ugliest of ways. The day of leeway is gone. We're all freaking experts now, and the Internet is our new rationalization for fuel to criticize every move on the part of every politician or visible governmental functionary.

Yeah, some of them turn out to be pretty damn bad. But instead of taking the high-road, and calculatingly replacing them in office, we grouse. We spit. We lay smelly ones to express our displeasure. There seems to be no honor any more, no esprit de corps. They're either with us, or agin' us.

We've all got PhDs, done the research, written the book. Foreign policy experts, altruists, idealists, willing to wear various political and social labels for majesty sake. The hands that used to reach "across the aisle" are now daggers, disinformation campaigns, and the very crux of bile. It's a sad world to live in. I wish it were better.

2011-06-02 08:09:51

Jason [unverified] said:

I'm finding something to agree with from everybody, ignorance is bliss on this one.

I thought IPS actually received MORE money per student than the state average, not less, though I can't bring a source to mind.

A lot of this is a power grab, and the sad truth is that nobody has the 'best interests' of the kids at heart, oftentimes not even the parents.

I'm sure teachers are part of the problem with IPS, and I'm sure White's management style hasn't done the system any favors. I'm struggling to understand why everybody is so quick to point to one part of this problem (it's the teachers, it's the teacher's union, it's management, blah blah blah) when just about everything is broken with IPS. This debate has devolved to the point where people truly believe if you got rid of the teacher's union kids would magically start showing up to school, studying, and all that good stuff. For Pete's sake, there are parents out there who are mad at teachers because they think the teacher needs to be the one who makes sure their kid gets on the bus in the morning. The public shouldn't cater to this kind of ignorance at the expense of teachers.

Let the state takeover. They'll still be working with the same tools as before so I wouldn't expect monumental change. If you really want to see the kind of results people seem to be expecting you'd have to change the admin, the students, the parents, students' lives at home, etc. So many factors that play into school success have nothing to do with school itself.

2011-06-02 10:24:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy, you couldn't be more wrong about me if you tried . But that's OK...And my knowledge of school budgets is pretty full---I have more to learn, perhaps, but I'll put my experience up against most.

Until the recent building spree, over half their buildings were inefficient in every sense of the word, and there were too many of them.

I'm no armchair critic. I've rolled up my sleeves and jumped in. I've dealt with many school administrators.

I sternly disagree about Dr. White. He is not doing his job properly--he is protecting turf. I understand his frustration. But when you hire your son into a job that didn't exist, and within a year promote him, that's turf. And when you chase off peaceful people video-taping your meeting because you disagree with their motive, that's turf. And when you send an e-mail like he did to Abdul--that's turf, arrogance, AND lack of manners. I will not tolerate it with my tax dollars.

He has to go.

And the IPS system probably has to implode to rebuild it. Sadly.

I remember many years ago, when Dr. White was either Superintendent or principal in Washington Township, he was angry at the governor for proposing drastic changes to school budgets. The governor--a North Central graduate--was brand-new. EW went so far to call Gov. Daniels a liar. He was forced by the school board to offer a public apology.

It was explained at the time, very well, I thought: that the school corporation had adopted key character values they expected from all student,s staff and allies. One of them was public respect. Calling the gov a liar violated that expectation. In triplicate.

The apology was sincere--I remember his look on the TV.

Abdul angers the hell out of me sometimes--but he has a right to ask questions, in a respectful and dutiful manner. The email response printed on this blog would be reason enough to fire Dr. White even if the school system were performing brilliantly.

Large schools can work--look at your primary example--North Central, where Dr. White was once principal and later Superintendent. Consistently one of the nation's top public high schools. Its diversity is unreal, and they have a large number of challenged households in that district. From Kindergarten, expectations are high. Stragglers are identified as early as possible, and they strive to improve every year.

Parental involvement is a key factor, but if the leadership is smug, parents and the community start to drift away. If the administration is insulated and aloof, little positive change can occur.

2011-06-02 14:04:16

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

TTT. I say ditto and amen to what you have written about IPS' current leadership. The amount of money most of those paper shufflers in the administrative offices make is absurd.

2011-06-02 14:15:16

hendy [Member] said:

There is no person that can change what Dr White has to change Esperanza Zendejas tried to change it. She was shot down in a similar way. You have to have people in an organization you trust. I don't agree with nepotism on the part of Dr White-- it's a bad move in my mind.

But he called Mitch Daniels a liar because Daniels inferred his facts were golden --> and they were not. It's embarrassing, and Dr White could have been a bit more tactful. He gets few points for tact. Instead, it's more like tactical.

Go on. Any of you. Stand up and be counted. Change the facts. Change the funding. Change the single parents. Change the laughable football field at Shortridge or Broad Ripple-- then look at Carmel HS or Lawrence N. C'mon. Are you fools? Open your eyes and look!

No one has lasted in the Superintendent's role. Each one gets shot down for one reason and another. No one wants that job because it takes guts to stand up to the constituencies that want either lowered tax rates, no air conditioning (ye gawds), constant school shuffling, or spending money on dubious charter schools.

Yes, something needs to be done. Let's pay real wages and agree that government needs new tax structures and a way to drop corporate welfare.

If it were in my hands, and it's probably gladly not, I'd collapse the entire county into a single independent school district. ALL OF THEM. We'd collapse the segregation-by-default that we currently have, and obtain equity and equanimity, collapse infrastructure costs, level the property tax code, combine services, and deliver better education by breaking down the township barriers foisted on us by pre-and post-Unigov districting.

How do I get to these conclusions? Voting for 40 years. My mother was an office for Non-Partisans for Better Schools. My aunt, the late Dr Pat Welch, was an IPS board member and president of that board after Richard Lugar left. I watched it all; I'm an IPS graduate-- grade and high school. Those are my credentials: concern for the high educational denominator of those kids. And no, I'm not running.

2011-06-02 15:08:52

cranky [unverified] said:

hendy, and everyone else, did you get a chance to read the recent article in The Atlantic about the NYC school system written by it's former head? Very enlightening and hardly an armchair critic. Our public school system serves the grown-ups not the kids. That's the author's take and I doubt things are much different in Indiana.
My older son graduated from Broad Ripple in '05. At that time, proportionally, the stats were very similar to NCHS regarding crime and such. Surprising, isn't it?
And let's not bad mouth the BR football field. Chatard rents that field for their home games as BCHS has no stadium, yet has 8 state championships.
Finally, it's whether parents value education not if the family is intact. I am reading James McBride's memoir where his single mother saw all 12 of her children through college and advanced degrees. I've taught in the class room. It is shocking that parents care more about their children's appearance than their lessons.

2011-06-02 16:02:04

hendy [Member] said:

What you say is true about BR... and BCHS.

But we should have looked to Carmel instead of the Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts. Carmel knows how to build monuments. And Irsay wouldn't have to take a helicopter downtown anymore.

Of course: I now live in Bloomington (now that my children are grown), where Bloomington South vs North is the battle. The money that this county is willing to put into infrastructure is awesome... and well-paid for.

2011-06-02 16:25:20

Rebecca [unverified] said:

I would like to see a thoughtful discussion of the decision, under Lugar no less, not to combine school districts, in order to get Unigov through. Would our children have a better chance if we had a county wide school district rather than IPSs AND the townships? CFI/84 is a success in large part, because it is in MK with households with "infrastructure". That isn't true as to all parts of our community.

2011-06-03 09:24:59

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I love ya, Hendy, but on this one, you're partly wrong. Dr. White did NOT get points for tact in the Liar incident--he had no business striking out to make a statewide political point on behalf of public schools. That was not his role. And he sought out the forum--an IndyStar Editorial Board meeting--where the participants gave him three chances to withdraw his comment. tad unprofessional, maybe, but those reporters/editors realized White was taking a long walk on a short pier.

In short--he picked a fight.

If you haven't been paying attention, he's REAL good at that. And woe the informed voter, school board member or teacher who gets in his way.

Along the way, he's done some good things--shut down a lot of schools, for one--but those do not outweigh his deplorable lack of tact and timing.

And the same indictment goes to the school boards who let him have this free reign. You reap what you sew.

I remember when Bob Knight took on Gene Keady on his tV show. He pulled a donkey out onto the studio set, and called the donkey "Jack" (ass). He made merciless fun of Purdue and Keady. IU alums were furious--and phoned the then-president, Dr. Ryan, who jerked Knight down a notch or two. Knight promptly complained about the president's leash on his next weekly TV show, the week before the IU-Illinois BB game. Knight did outrageous things for a long time before one final outrageous act cost him his job.

There, Knight took out after Lou Henson. Henson afterward, summed it all up" Despite the coach's many qualities, he's a "classic bully."

That sums up Gene White perfectly.

2011-06-03 11:20:02

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Knight and White. Good analogy, TTT.

2011-06-03 11:24:59

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Don't think I'm happy about it.

2011-06-04 09:41:05

Genevieve [unverified] said:

At last! Someone who udnerstands! Thanks for posting!

2011-06-10 22:04:50

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