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With 'New Vision' On Board, IPS Schools Chief Eugene White Opts To Retire

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White prepares for Tuesday night's school board meeting, at which he later announced his retirement.

Acknowledging the newly-elected Indianapolis school board’s desire for a change in direction, the head of Indiana’s second-largest school district announced his retirement Tuesday night.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White will step down on April 5 after more than seven years at the district.

White presided over IPS during a period when test scores generally improved and gains in the district’s graduation rate outpaced the rest of the state. But he also found himself at odds with state policymakers who orchestrated the takeover of four district schools with chronically low test scores.

In the interests of avoiding a protracted battle over his severance pay, school board president Diane Arnold says IPS will pay White for the remaining time on his contract, which runs until June 2015 — a buyout that could cost the district as much as $800,000.

“It was Dr. White’s choice [to retire] and the board wanted to honor that choice,” Arnold said after the meeting. “We’re very grateful for his leadership, we think there’s been a lot of progress, but this is a new board. He’s been very gracious and understanding that new boards have new visions and new directions.”

White, who was a finalist for open superintendent positions in Alabama and South Carolina last year, says this was a “heartfelt decision” he made on his own.

You might remember White from his notable quote to StateImpact that he didn’t want to be “kicked around” in the process of state officials taking over four Indianapolis schools — T.C. Howe, Arlington and Manual High Schools, along with Emma Donnan Middle School.

“Eugene White doesn’t want to be the ball… Eugene White doesn’t want to be dogged,” he said in December 2011. “Eugene White feels that in the last six years, we’ve had tremendous progress in IPS.”

On Tuesday, White told StateImpact he felt the state takeovers are a minor part of his legacy:

In my same vein, you’ve got to say the guy who created the best school in the state of Indiana. You’ve got to say the guy who created the unique secondary magnet option schools that are the most unique in the state of Indiana… Two of those four schools should not have been taken over. We’re not going to accentuate the negatives… I’m not going to be remembered for that. It happened, we accept that. But we made so many great changes and achievements.

A few reactions from Twitter — including from an NBA player:

…and a perspective from a longtime White critic.

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