INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Public Schools leaders are searching for an interim superintendent after Eugene White announced that he would retire, the district confirmed.
White announced his plan to retire at the school board meeting Tuesday night, calling it a "heartfelt decision."
"I want to inform you that at the end of the workday on Friday, April 5, I will retire from the IPS school district," White said at the meeting.
The board accepted White's request to retire.
Board President Diane Arnold said the board will honor White's full contract -- which runs through 2015 -- giving him about $800,000. Arnold said IPS attorneys and White's attorneys are working together to finalize that agreement.
"We do not have any final figures yet, but we're assuming somewhere in the area of $800,000," Arnold said. "He made the decision to retire, and we're honoring that and moving forward, and we believe we owe him the rest of his contract."
White is under contract with IPS through 2015 at a base salary of $188,000. He also receives a monthly car allowance and other bonuses based on student performance.
As a perk in his contract, taxpayers have been paying White's contribution to the Indiana State Teachers' Retirement Fund.
Using the TRF online calculator, it appears White will receive between $57,000 and $77,000 a year for the rest of his life for his state pension.
White's contract was signed before a law went into effect requiring more transparency in superintendent contracts, including that those contracts be posted online.
According to his biography on IPS' website, White served as a teacher, coach and administrator with Fort Wayne Community Schools for 19 years before becoming principal of Indianapolis' North Central High School in 1990, where he worked for two years.
White was named deputy superintendent of IPS in 1992 and then superintendent of Washington Township Schools in 1994, where he worked for 11 years before being hired to lead IPS in 2005.
Under White's tenure at IPS, graduation rates have increased and the dropout rate has decreased, but White has faced troubles, including the state takeover of four failing schools and an ever-growing budget deficit.
"We raised the graduation rate from 35 percent to 65 percent, we've reduced waivers from 37 percent, we've cut the dropout rate in half," White told RTV6.
White said he thinks his decision to retire is positive for himself and the IPS students.
"I do feel somewhat relieved, simply because I don’t want the community thinking we’re going to have these confrontations and these frustrating debates," White said. "We need to get back to what’s good for students.”
Parents with students in IPS schools have had mixed reactions to the news of White's departure.
"Mixed feelings... Because there is a lot of reform that he did bring to the schools here," parent Deanna Sapp said. "And it seems that they kind of reached an impasse with the board and the superintendent, and sometimes when you get those impasses it's better to just make a break."
"I think IPS has come a long way since he's been superintendent for public schools," said parent Michelle Maye.
Education experts say, without knowing any specifics about White's tenure as superintendent, that his departure is not shocking.
"There's a lot of turnover in big city superintendents," said Bill Evers, former U.S. assistant secretary of education. "There's a new school board coming in with some additional members. I don't know the details of his career. but I don't think it's remarkable to have turnover."
Jamie Gass with Boston's Pioneer Institute says superintendents in cities like Indianapolis don't last long because they're up against many challenges.
"There's a lot of constituencies," Gass said. "There's the teachers union, there's the parents, all the school administrators. There's just a lot of constituencies always nibbling away at you at the edges."
Those nibblers might be leading education groups from Indy. They were careful with their words but couldn’t hide their frustration with White.
"We want to see things move quickly and not to say he didn't want to do some of the things that we would love to see him doing, but at the same time, they weren't getting done,” said Larry Grau with Indiana Democrats for Education Reform.
"We think the new school board elected really has a clear vision and leadership required for IPS schools," stated Jay Kenworthy from Stand for Children.
School board leaders said they're currently searching for an interim superintendent. White has agreed to stay on until that person is in place.