April 2016- IAPSS 2016 District Superintendents of the Year for Districts 7 and 8

Posted on March 29, 2016

 

The Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS) selected eight district Superintendents of the Year for 2016.

Winners are selected by other school superintendents in their area for their qualifications, accomplishments and their instructional leadership, especially in a time of limited resources.

For the month of April the winners from Districts 7 and 8 are featured.  Each District Superintendent of the Year was asked to respond to several questions.  Those response can be found following the overview of their District accomplishments.

District 7

Dr. Thomas A. Kopatich, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Mt. Vernon, has been named 2016 Superintendent of the Year for District 7 by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

 Due to changes in state support, theMetropolitan School District of Mt. Vernon has lost approximately 30% of its general fund budget over the past several years. The budget reduction forced the school district to close an elementary school, reduce pay for all employees by 5.5 percent and allow 50 teachers to take early retirement.

Kopatich is proud to say that, “During the several years of reduction, there was very little negative impact on our students. Even in closing a school, students were able to transfer to another school just a mile away with all the same programs.”

He is also proud that the district has enhanced its curriculum by adding full-day kindergarten, a Fine Arts Academy, APEX learning for remediation and credit recovery, and offering one-on-one personal computing devices to middle and high school students. The district also increased its dual-credit offerings to 19 courses

Graduation rates and school grades have increased as well, and the district recently was able to give its first pay raise in several years.

Kopatich has served as superintendent since 2010. He was previously the district’s assistant superintendent, director of buildings and grounds and assistant principal at Mt. Vernon High School.

He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and earned three advanced degrees from Indiana State University. He serves on the board for Kiwanis, the Greater Mt. Vernon Association, the Posey County Development Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and River Days.

  1. What program(s) or activities in your school district that focuses on improving student learning do you feel are the most successful?

We have a program called “Lights On After School” that we implemented in our Title I elementary school. This program at West Elementary provides tutoring in the areas of math and Language Arts. This two hour program allows the most needy children with Math projects as well as Language Arts verbal and written assignments. This program is a four day a week program that also provides snacks, transportation, and break time. This $120,000 program is funded by grants and local donations. This program has helped move our school to the “A” level.

We also have a mentor program at West. We have teamed up with our local industry, Sabic, that provides over thirty mentors that visit West Elementary during their lunch periods.  Each mentor partners up with a student and works on academic and social activities. This partnership has allowed our students to grow both academic and socially to become better citizens.

2. What have been your most significant challenges as supt. And how have you dealt with them?

For our school district financial challenges have been the most difficult. Over the last six years we have reduced over $6,000,000 in general funding. Closing a school, reduction of 5.5% pay of all employees, and having over 50 retirements, have allowed us to keep our students program moving forward while reducing the general fund. During this reduction we have added full day kindergarten, a fine arts academy, one on one devices at the junior high and high school (Ipads and Macbooks), and strengthened our dual credit selection to 19 different courses.   Our corporation has put the students’ needs first and will continue to do so in the future.

3. If you could improve one aspect of K-12 Education today, what would it be and what changes would you make?

TESTING!!! I believe in accountability to the fullest. I believe that we need to come up with a process that allows the teachers to see the everyday improvements of his/her students. We focus so much time and money on one test that doesn’t even measure the whole education of a child. To give grades basically on math and English does not show what the total picture of that child’s education they are receiving. I have never met an educator that doesn’t want to be accountable for his/her student. All they want is a fair and consistent way to get that accountability.

 

4. What advice would you give to aspiring or beginning superintendents?

Despite all of the negative statements that are said about public education in my opinion it is the greatest occupation a person can be involved with. It is a challenge to work with administrators, and teachers everyday to make sure that the students of your district are getting all the opportunities needed to be successful. It is a must that you network with other superintendents to build relationships that will help you succeed. My main advice to young superintendent is when making a decision ask yourself, “How will this effect children”, if you keep children as your focus you will be please with the results.

District 8

Dr. Jim Roberts, superintendent of Batesville Community School Corporation, has been named Superintendent of the Year for District 8 by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. This is Roberts’ second time to be selected District 8 Superintendent of the Year; he also won the honor for 2014.

Despite schools’ financial challenges throughout Indiana, Batesville Community School Corporation’s goal was NOT to cut instruction programs or reduce professional staff. Under Roberts’ leadership the district applied its Baldridge Continuous Improvement training to develop key initiatives and live its theme of “Believe in Better.” The district used a combination of capital projects funds, textbook rental fees and private donations through the Batesville Community Education Foundation to provide personal computing devices to all students in the elementary, middle and high schools over the past three academic years.

The district also added a global initiative director, added Chinese as a foreign language taught at Batesville High School and developed sister-school relationships in China, Spain, Chile and Germany.

The district created a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to jointly purchase a building that is used to enhance dual-credit and dual-enrollment opportunities for all students at Batesville High School. The Advanced Manufacturing Internship program with Ivy Tech, Hillenbrand, Inc. and other local business was featured in an article in U.S. News & World Report.

Roberts has been superintendent for the district since 2007, but he previously served as the district’s assistant superintendent and as principal and assistant principal at Batesville High School.

Roberts earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University and his Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University. He has served as board president of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce and is a board member at Margaret Mary Community Hospital, the Rural Alliance for the Arts and the Coalition for a Drug Free Batesville. He is a co-founder of Team Batesville, a community running club.

1. What program(s) or activities in your school district that focus on improving student learning do you feel are the most successful?

 

Perhaps surprisingly, I cite our Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP) and its many activities as contributing significantly to our students’ academic success. In 2004, we received a CSHP training grant from the Indiana Department of Education, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, that resulted in the formation of a corporation wide CSHP Council, creation of building level Healthy School Teams, and development of a Wellness Policy and Healthy School Improvement Plan. Our 25-member Council remains extremely involved with our school corporation and drives important wellness initiatives that result in healthier students through increased physical activity and improved eating habits. Examples of these initiatives include the collection of and reporting of BMIs, implementation of the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) Program, and participation in such activities as our Girls on the Run Program, Farm to School Initiative, Safe Routes to School efforts, and activity based fundraisers.

 

I also cite our attention to the Allied Arts programs as key in our development of the whole child and related increases in student learning. We have pledged to maintain licensed teachers in physical education/health, art, and music throughout grades K-12 to ensure that all students participate in these important learning opportunities. Additionally, we will become the first public school corporation in Indiana to implement a Mandarin Chinese Dual Language Immersion program when implementation begins in Fall 2016.

 

 

 

2. What have been your most significant challenges as a superintendent and how have you dealt with them?

 

I believe that my most recent, and significant, challenges have been appropriately addressing the workflow of the superintendent position AND managing the current political climate surrounding public education.

 

The superintendent position can be a very demanding one from many perspectives, including the management of time and accessibility. In a relatively small community, I am asked to participate in many community organizations with meetings that occur both during and outside of school hours. Additionally, we all wrestle with the myriad of ways in which our stakeholders attempt to communicate with us, including mail, email, phone, and social media. In order to address the demands of the position, I recreated our organizational chart to improve our overall workflow. This reorganization narrowed my list of direct reports and delegated specific tasks to individuals for whom they were more appropriate. In particular, this new chart resulted in increased efficiencies within our technology department by lining up our Media Specialists and Instructional Technology Specialists under our Director of Information Technology Curriculum who, in turn, serves under our Director of Student Learning. The Director of Student Learning, therefore, keeps me informed regarding our 1:1 efforts, which covers all students in grades K-12, as one of my Direct Reports.

 

I am not sure that I understood the political nature of the superintendency prior to accepting this position. Unfortunately, the political climate that surrounds our work as public educators is more intense than when I became a superintendent more than eight years ago. I have addressed this reality by inserting myself into the political process. This has been accomplished in a multitude of ways, including lobbying at both the state and national levels on topics that directly impact our efforts at Batesville Schools, regularly communicating with our local lawmakers via emails, phone calls, text messages, and meetings, and expressing my opinions with the publication of opinion editorials in strategically placed media outlets.

 

 

 

 

3. If you could improve one aspect of K-12 Education today, what would it be and what changes would you make?

 

I would improve the perception of a public school educator in the eyes of our American citizens. Unfortunately, the importance of a public school educator and his/her impact on the development of a productive and civic-minded member of our society has been lost. In order to change this perception, I would rally state and national lawmakers to publicly rejoice in the efforts of our teachers, lobby for increased funding for public education, and reward our staff members with wages that more closely mirror the importance of their positions.

 

Unfortunately, the general public idolizes individuals who are paid millions of dollars annually but contribute little to our growth as a nation. We must find ways to celebrate and embrace the positive impact that our educators have on millions of children each day. Such acknowledgement could help in the effort to increase wages, develop a positive perception, and attract the best and brightest to our profession.

 

 

 

4. What advice would you give to aspiring or beginning superintendents?

 

As an aspiring or beginning superintendent, you must understand the continuum, or four stages, of competence and aggressively work to move through them. These stages are:

Unconscious Incompetence. (This is bad.)

Conscious Incompetence. (This is not good, but better.)

Conscious Competence. (This is good.)

Unconscious Competence. (Whoa. This is great. You have developed a culture that breeds success.)

 

In order to move through the four stages, I trust in the IMCA (not YMCA!) “dance”:

I = Identify Needs.

M = Make Friends.

C = Create Solutions.

A = (And prepare to sweat a little….)

 

You can get in rhythm with the “steps” of the IMCA “dance” by:

a. Developing an Administrative Team that shares your passion and vision;

b. Creating an Advisory Committee of various stakeholders that you can meet with regularly to share your thoughts and gather theirs;

c. Developing a support group of OTHER superintendents, as these individuals may be the only other ones that truly understand what it is you do;

d. Ensuring that you regularly get into your school buildings so that you remember why you are doing what you’re doing; and

e. Becoming a key figure in your community attending community events, volunteering for community activities, and serving on community-minded boards.

 

Good luck!