Jim: What program(s) or activities in your school district that focus on improving students learning do you feel are the most successful?
John: Union Township has many programs which focus on improving student learning. We have re-designed our elementary high ability program to provide greater emphasis on meeting the individual needs of our high ability students. The program utilizes project-based activities which focus on individual strengths and learning needs.
At the middle school, we have employed an additional resource to work with students in small groups to address areas in which they require additional support. These students attend a study session in the afternoon each day instead of rotation classes.
Our high school teachers provide additional instruction and review to students before school, during resource period, and after school. Some students use time during study hall to sit in class for a “second dose”.
Union Township employs a variety of strategies to extend learning opportunities.
Jim: What have been your most significant challenges as a superintendent and how have you dealt with them?
John: My most significant challenge as a superintendent has been maintaining and extending instructional programs for students and maintaining and improving facilities in a time when funding sources are reduced or eliminated. Fortunately, our community provided us additional revenue in 2013 with the passage of our referendum. This has allowed us to raise in excess of one million dollars a year for seven years to support general fund expenses. We have also used monies from our Rainy Day Fund to maintain or improve our buildings.
Jim: If you could improve one aspect of K-12 Education today, what would it be and what changes would you make?
John: If I could change one aspect of K-12 Education today, it would be our image. Across the United States, public education has been under great scrutiny and criticism. This negativity has greatly affected schools. A teacher shortage exists in nearly every discipline. Current teachers hold little desire to become administrators. Indiana teachers see no motivation to earn a master’s degree resulting in fewer opportunities of dual credit for our students.
Yet, when most schools survey their local communities, results are favorable in the trust and satisfaction they hold. People generally support their local schools and feel they are meeting the needs of students. Even so, the Chamber and business leaders continue to be critical of local public schools for the poor quality of their workforce. How does this improve? I only wish that answer was so simple. I believe it begins by identifying the business leaders, chamber leaders and legislators that are so negative about public k-12 education and involve them directly in the school. Through these partnerships schools may develop a better understanding of the deficient needs as viewed by the business community and be better able to address them. Business leaders and legislators will develop a greater appreciation of the success of our schools and the great things we are doing to prepare our kids for college or career. I have often found that those most involved with the schools seem to be the most supportive. If we all begin to work together, we will all be able to improve our schools and restore the image to make our profession great again.
Jim: What advice would you give to aspiring or beginning superintendents?
John: The best advice I could offer aspiring or beginning superintendents is to always focus on what is best for the students as you build your legacy. One way to accomplish this goal is to build positive relationships with Board Members, administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students and the community at large. A visible superintendent whom models professionalism will find it easier to deliver tough messages in the best interest of kids because they have many deposits in their emotional bank accounts. The old adage, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care” has been true in my administrative experience. Always be true to self and do what’s best for kids.