Status Unclear for Next SHS Principal

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Status Unclear for Next SHS Principal

El'ad Nichols-Kaufman, Author

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As Shortridge prepares for the transition to a new principal for the 2019-2020 school year, the obvious question arises: who will fill the position? The answer remains up in the air. At this point, all the Shortridge community can do is wait to see if the district approves one of the finalists already selected, or if they decide to hold back, add more candidates and install an interim.


Interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson came to the Shortridge faculty meeting May 22 to speak with the staff and reassured them that their voices had been heard and that the process was being amended. She promised regular updates, and that the position for principal would be reposted to garner a wider pool of applicants. On top of this, it was mentioned that if no candidate is selected by June 7, then an interim will be installed and staff would be notified before the board’s decision is made public.

“We continue to work vigilantly to review the applications of potential candidates as well as actively recruit other prospective applicants,” Johnson said in an email sent to the Shortridge community. “If, by June 7, we have not identified candidates to move forward in the interview process, then our team will initiate a process to appoint an interim leader. By Thursday, June 27, my intent is that the Board of School Commissioners will receive a recommendation of either a permanent or interim leader at SHS.”

Any attempt to install a principal before June 7 is a race against time. Despite the district’s promises, the position has still not been reposted on Linkedin, and several weeks will be needed to repeat the process. On top of this, the Board needs to approve any principal, and they only meet twice before June 7, just May 28 and the Action meeting May 30. Thus, it appears that an interim may be installed, but the Superintendent’s office still stands by its call for a permanent principal for next year.

The process has been plagued with accusations of lack of transparency and community members, parents and teachers said they are frustrated with the process.

While meeting with the Shortridge student government, IPS’s Director of Special Projects, Joe Gramelspacher, argued that the system for choosing the new principal was well meant.

“I know the person who made the process, and he thought a lot about it.”

Gramelspacher agreed that there was a need for wider community feedback, but also pointed out that IPS had done all they could. They got community feedback, gave panels, and now are going back to repost the position.

“We really want the best for schools when choosing principals, and it’s a big choice.” The student government also discussed with him how to avoid making the Principal into a populist position while opening up to feedback from the whole school, not just committee members.

IPS’s human resource department began the process by holding meetings at Shortridge for the wider community and for teachers to determine what they want in a principal. Parents and students said they wanted an administrator with a history of dealing with inner city schools, willingness to advocate for the school at the district and state level and international experience. They demanded a commitment to the IB when they posted the position, but there was not single mention of the IB nor of anything mentioned in the feedback meetings.

The district refused to pay to post the position internationally, so teachers got together and paid the amount necessary to get international applicants, as that is how the school got Mr. O’Day. Next, IPS made internal decisions and narrowed a pool of applicants down to three: Marlon Llewellyn, Charlie Schlegel and Brandi Herbert. They then chose three committees to interview these applicants: One composed of students, one of teachers and one of community members and parents.

Some of the members of these committees were upset about the choices given to them by IPS.

“We didn’t reject them all, but we would like to see more (candidates),” One anonymous member of a committee said. Another committee member said the process felt rushed. Overall, there was a feeling that IPS did not give them any candidates that would be a good fit for Shortridge.

After these interviews were conducted, concerns among the Shortridge community continued to grow. The staff of Shortridge, that IPS had failed to address these concerns, wrote a letter addressed to IPS’s HR department May 1. In this letter, they respectfully addressed “concerns regarding the clarity of how applicants were recruited, screened and selected”, and “concerns… that the process will lead to the selection of a leader whose appointment the does not reflect the value, mission and ethics of the IPS community nor the  Shortridge community.” They built up to their point of requesting that an interim be installed for the 2019-2020 school year to allow a principal to be properly chosen, with no rush and full transparency. A longer period would allow applicants nationally and internationally, not just from Indianapolis, and would allow more candidates with IB experience.

After a few days, the Interim Superintendent responded with letter and a robocall to the Shortridge community, reassuring them that their feedback is being listened to, saying that, “With input from the school community, interview panels have formed, engaged candidates, and provided input into the decision-making process.”

She also emphasized that IPS is “deeply committed to selecting a leader at Shortridge whose values are aligned to those of our district and who will best position SHS for success.” She maintained that IPS still is committed to appointing a principal before the end of the year.

“Lines of communication have been opened,” said one teacher. “It felt as if she (Interim Superintendent Johnson) listened to our concerns.”