Dr. Scott Hanback has served as Tippecanoe superintendent since 2008. In 2010, Tippecanoe School Corporation, like many Indiana districts, faced massive funding cuts and was forced to make budget reductions and lay off staff. Hanback and the school board made it a priority to communicate with community stakeholders about priorities, using the input to create a plan that would eventually “right the ship” to avoid yearly staff reductions. The expense reductions, coupled with enrollment growth and a recovering economy, have allowed the district to rehire staff, reinstate programs and bring class sizes back to acceptable levels.
Jim: What programs or activities that focus on improving student learning do you feel are the most successful in your school district?
Scott: Improving student learning is the focal point of our educational mission and our school corporation routinely seeks ways to create or enhance opportunities that can lead to positive student outcomes. For the past four years, the Tippecanoe School Corporation has committed to increasing the number of staff in the instructional coaching cadre. The use of highly skilled, energetic, and engaging teacher practitioners has proven valuable for improving student learning. We know that in order for students to learn we must expect qualified and accomplished teachers providing good instruction. The instructional coaches come alongside building principals creating shared visions for success and once this relationship is established the door is wide open for the instructional coaches to connect and engage with classroom teachers. If I had one wish within this program it would be to be able to hire more instructional coaches.
Jim: What have been your most significant challenges as a superintendent and how have you dealt with them?
Scott: The most significant challenge is, and will likely always be, finding suitable resources to sustain and build the programs and staff that are in place to provide education to our students. Schools are routinely faced with infinite needs and limited resources. I believe the challenge for any superintendent and school board is being able to utilize and stretch the resources in order to best address the needs. Superintendents should be able to work alongside school boards to prioritize competing needs through a student first filter. This is not an easy task, but through honest, open, and transparent discussions school corporations can best attempt to navigate any obstacles.
Jim: If you could improve one aspect of K-12 Education today, what would it be and what changes would you make?
Scott: If I could improve one aspect of K-12 education today I would take politics out of education. Seemingly the last decade has proven extremely political within the educational setting. As political wills ebb and flow so does the educational landscape and teachers and students are caught in the middle. I would create a system where educational decisions are made more locally with teachers, administrators, and elected school board members as opposed to elected officials far from the daily classroom. Standards, assessments, accountability systems, and many other trends come and go all while teachers are seeking continuity in the classrooms. Improvements to these areas are appropriate, however, not until proven research-based practices are fully vetted and proper implementation has taken place. Our students expect and deserve the very best from our trained highly educated professionals who have given of themselves over to this calling called teaching and learning.
Jim: What advice would you give to aspiring or beginning superintendents?
Scott: The best advice I could give a new or aspiring superintendent would be to always be a listener, a learner, and then a leader, in that order. If superintendents stop learning they lose any effective leadership. And the best learners are those who listen. Listeners are in touch with students in the classroom, faculty and staff, and their communities at large. Anyone can learn so much from being a good listener. Confidence and effectiveness in leadership is found by listening and learning about the issues and tasks at hand. A new superintendent would be wise to engage a school community by listening and learning first before trying to lead.