Interview with Gregory Briles – District III Superintendent of the Year

Posted on February 20, 2018

Gregory Briles was named District 3 Superintendent of the Year.

Gregory Briles, superintendent of Delphi Community School Corporation, has been named 2018 Superintendent of the Year for District III by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS).

Briles has served as superintendent of the 1,400-student Delphi Community School Corp. since 2016.

Delphi Community School Corp. is planning to implement two energy savings projects by the end of 2017. One will conserve energy and improving learning environments. The second will install a solar facility to offset electricity usage for the entire district. The district also established a purchasing agent for the district to actively seek lower cost alternatives for each purchase and restructured food services to get more return on investment. The district created its own corporation-wide police department, which is expected to save $25,000 a year.

Delphi Community School Corp. and the entire rural community experienced a difficult situation in February when two students were murdered in a crime that remains unsolved. Said Briles, “My students, staff and community stood tall. My staff, even though they were hurting themselves, got up each day to go to school to be with their students – their kids. They made their classrooms a safe place for their kids to excel and be safe. I am proud to serve as their superintendent.”

Briles earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ed.S. degrees from Indiana State University. He formerly served as superintendent of the Oregon-Davis School Corp.

District III includes Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Grant, Howard, Miami, Tipton, Wabash and White counties.

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

In our elementary the Guided Reading and Guided Math along with targeted intervention system provide our students with the most success.  By having teachers provide a mini-lesson on a standard to the entire class (at grade level) and then work with individual students/homogenous groups, teachers are meeting students where they are while ensuring students are facing tasks at some point at their grade level.  Our RTi program closely monitors student growth and works to make sure that our students who struggle most are getting multiple doses of instruction while tracking the effectiveness of said intervention.

I feel at our middle school, what our math department is doing with iReady is making a huge impact on student learning.  It is modeling what we are doing at the elementary school.  Not only does it challenge teachers to think and teach differently, but it truly pushes our students to think critically.  The conversations that teachers are having with one another and with our math coach are truly insightful and impactful and are providing abundant opportunities for collaboration and innovative teaching strategies.  The teachers are working so hard, and I am confident that this new curriculum will not only benefit students in math, but in all curricular areas due to iReady’s focus on critical reading and thinking strategies.

In addition, I feel that offering Project Lead the Way Gateway at the middle school has already proven to be a sound decision.  The problem-solving and real-world applications of the PLTW curriculum challenges students and provides a myriad of outlets for their creativity–a trait that will become increasingly vital in the future as these students choose a career.  This year’s trip to the Manufacturing Expo gave students a better idea of the career offerings that they may explore and that may interest them due to their involvement in PLTW.  I am excited to see how this program continues to expand and evolve in the coming years.

Throughout our corporation we have many programs such as interventions, Project Success and a variety of pathways offered, the piece that is most significant in improving our student learning and student success is our staff.  Our staff provides continual support for our students.  We know our students, monitor their attendance/grades and communicate regularly with all students and parents.  It is difficult for a student to “fall through the cracks” without a staff member becoming involved.  I am proud of all our education programs.  As stated before, our K-12 teachers continual monitor student progress, are supportive of the students in and out of the classroom and willing to meet with their students frequently to offer assistance as needed for their success.

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

The most significant challenges we face are the environmental factors that shape our students prior to entering our school.  While we can assist with the social, emotional and academic growth of our students while they are in our building, we cannot control what happens outside our doors. I feel that one of our greatest challenges we face is ensuring that every human being within our building is comfortable with the growth mindset that we expect in our students as well.  While it is easy to assume all teachers wish for all students to grow, we must see that in our adults and see that in an ‘accepting’ manner by all.  Too often, a negative individual can sabotage efforts of continued growth within our school.  We have faced the tragic of two of our students in one of the most horrific manners; the loss of Abby and Libby is one that continues to be difficult each day it is not solved.  Although we know the authorities are doing everything in their powers to arrest the individual responsible, he still is out there somewhere.  The challenge remains and changes daily, based on information that is released, media coverage, and the fear that still revolves around the community.  So, to conclude this question, I would say ensuring the culture of maintaining a caring and continuous learning mindset for all is expected and seen by all is our most significant challenge.  My goal to accomplish this is through high expectation for everyone, model this growth mindset myself, have open discussions with adults when needed, and continue to move forward for what pushes us all forward to provide the quality experiences for our entire school.

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

If I could improve one aspect of K-12 education today, I would work to change the public and media’s perception of the educational system.  Rather than the current state of education where educators are under scrutiny, receive mediocre pay and continually increasing expectations placed on our school systems, the perception should be one of fostering an atmosphere of support and prestige for educators and our educational system.  As the educational field today is the declining number of individuals who choose to enter such a noble profession, we have to look at the reason.  The profession as a whole is marred with uncertainty and scrutiny.  The results to often end up with the best candidates opting out of a career in education due to lower wages, evaluations, failure to pass licensure exams horror stories (current teachers who tell them, “You don’t want to be a teacher…”), and accountability/educator effectiveness ratings tied to student achievement, to name a few.  First, we need to attract interested students, and I firmly believe that this can begin in high school with mentoring/cadet teaching opportunities in conjunction with local colleges/universities.  Next, providing a more realistic and rigorous pedagogy in college that will not only prepare teachers for their licensure exams (which many are failing and must retake multiple times), but will also truly prepare them for a career in teaching.  It is more than the traditional, long-standing partnerships with colleges/universities that we are accustomed to; rather, those partnerships need to foster more authentic learning experiences for pre-service teachers–it’s not just about observations and/or traditional student teaching–pre-service teachers need to truly “get their hands dirty” and be exposed to the realities of teaching in order to be more equipped when they are ready for a classroom of their own.  At the end of the day, you also have to look at the overall funding of the educational system.  Who knows, in 2018-19 and our new funding system, maybe it will all work out.  If not, I am sure the political powers of the state of Indiana will come up with anther solution, without asking or listening to those in schools.

What advice would you give to aspiring or beginning superintendents?

If I were to give advice to aspiring or beginning superintendents, it would be to be transparent, open minded and adaptable.  With the changes in education being constant, being set in your ways will get you nowhere.  Above all, always remember to do what is best for kids, be their voice, be their champion and lead them with passion.