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Indianapolis Superintendent Ousted in Flap Over Internal Report

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The Indianapolis school board will not search for a replacement for the district's recently ousted superintendent, Shirl E. Gilbert 2nd, until three new board members are seated next month, officials said last week.

Mr. Gilbert resigned last month after a disagreement with the board over his attempt to conceal information on the district's new student-assignment process.

The board voted 4 to 3 last month to terminate the superintendent's contract after an internal memo surfaced. Board members learned from the memo that a central-office official had been disciplined for releasing too much information on problems in the district's "Select Schools'' assignment process.

Mr. Gilbert said last week that the board had blown the issue out of proportion, and also had not been supportive of his attempts to do away with "preferential treatment'' in assigning students.

The superintendent's handling of the desegregation plan, which is designed to meet court-ordered guidelines for racial balance, has stirred controversy before in the 47,000-student district. (See Education Week, Jan. 27, 1993.)

'Legitimate Complaints'

This year, for the first time, the district grouped the selection process for magnet and other special programs with its general Select Schools process. The change was intended to give students "equal access to all programs,'' Mr. Gilbert said. But the move angered some parents, particularly those whose children had been in programs for academically talented students.

But board members pointed to problems with the new process.

"We started school this year for the first time under the new Select Schools process, and it took until the beginning of 1994 to straighten out transportation problems,'' said the board president, Stephen J. Hyatt. "There was a fair amount of legitimate complaints about the lack of smooth administration.''

Mr. Gilbert maintained that the administrator who compiled information on the new process did not collaborate with other school officials on the document or give the superintendent time to review the findings. As a result, he said, he decided the information should be used for internal purposes only.

"The superintendent has to make the ultimate decision. I'm the one held accountable,'' said Mr. Gilbert, who had been in the post for more than three years.

School officials said they did not have plans yet to alter the new process. But they intend to ask a federal court to exclude programs for gifted students from court-ordered racial guidelines.

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