By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — Dr. Tom Edington served 46 years in public education with 25 of those years as a superintendent. He retired as the Wawasee Community School Corporation superintendent at the end of 2020.
During the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee School Board Tuesday evening, Oct. 12, in Syracuse Edington was recognized for receiving the prestigious Indiana School Boards Association Lorin A. Burt Award for 2021. It was the first time ever for someone from the WCSC to receive the award. It is given annually to an outstanding educator in Indiana.
“This is probably the biggest award an educator in Indiana can get,” said board member Rebecca Linnemeier. Edington was formally presented the award at the ISBA fall conference Monday, Oct. 11, in Indianapolis.
In other business, Andy Cripe was approved and appointed by the school board to replace Mary Lou Dixon, who is retiring effective Oct. 31 after serving 19 years on the board. Cripe will fill her Turkey Creek Township seat until the end of 2022. He is a local business owner who helped develop the use of the former Shopko store in Syracuse among other projects he has done.
Cripe was chosen from among five candidates who answered a series of questions during a public forum Sept. 28 and were also interviewed in private by the school board.
He spoke briefly to the board and said he is both excited and nervous to serve on the school board. He will be sworn in during the November meeting.
Cripe’s family was present at Tuesday’s meeting and includes wife Susan; daughter Taylor, a senior at Wawasee High School; son Dane, a freshman at WHS; and son Hudson, a seventh grader.
Later in the meeting Dixon was thanked for her years of service. Board President Don Bokhart said she “has been vigilant about the success of our students academically.”
Also during the meeting the board heard a report from Dr. Shelly Wilfong, assistant superintendent, about the four-year plan for implementation of Professional Learning Communities in Wawasee schools. She described PLCs as “the process we use to do our teaching.”
PLCs were discussed a few years ago but the process of implementing was delayed by the COVID pandemic. It is now a top priority in the school corporation and an entire day Sept. 29 was used to discuss PLCs in addition to six weeks of Wednesday morning Smart Start sessions.
Learning communities differ from traditional teaching methods because of the collaboration of groups of teachers. There is also a focus on the essential state standards to teach and addressing why some students don’t learn what is taught.
“We can’t do it alone anymore,” said Bokhart, a retired teacher. “We’ve got to collaborate if we want to be successful.”
The goal is to have PLCs fully implemented by spring 2025 and a detailed implementation plan is in place. Wilfong said the intent is to spread out the implementation process so “it is doable” and teachers or staff don’t feel overwhelmed.
During his report to the board Dr. Steve Troyer, superintendent, talked about strategic planning. He said during a meeting held in the summer two critical issues were identified and are student academic achievement and financial health and well-being.
Academic achievement includes reading on grade level, success on state assessments and a high graduation rate from high school. Financial health includes healthy cash reserves, competitive teacher and staff pay and a balanced budget.
Troyer noted a consulting firm based in Indianapolis has been doing an extensive financial analysis of the school corporation and will likely present its findings to the school board and also hold a public meeting later this year.
Other agenda items included:
• Wawasee’s school board was recognized by ISBA for exemplary governance in 2020.
• Wawasee early learning centers have become legally licensed exempt providers and can accept vouchers.
• Wawasee High School’s band received donations totaling $1,750 as the result of marching in a parade in Pierceton and the Mermaid Festival Parade in North Webster during the summer.
• The super mileage team program at the high school received sponsorship donations totaling $6,000.
• Pathways Cooperative welding program received a $500 donation from T.L. Jackson Construction.
• Wade Wirebaugh, director of technology, was recognized for becoming a certified education technology leader.
• Wawasee’s unified co-ed flag football team was given an exemplary behavior report by the IHSAA after the game against NorthWood earlier this year.
• The 2022 school corporation budget was approved by the board. It was advertised twice in local newspapers.