School Board Success Story: Indiana

By Glenn Cook

When Delores Hearn ran for the Warsaw Community school board, she knew the northern Indiana district faced some major hurdles.   Administrative churn -- five superintendents in eight years -- had led to middling achievement. Schools operated in silos with limited interaction, and some performed better than others. As a system, Warsaw did not lack for funds -- the district is in the “Orthopedic Capital of the World” -- but more than half of its 7,000 students lived below the poverty line, and families with more economic advantages were migrating toward private and parochial schools.

“It was a bunch of bits and pieces out there, and the community was aware of it,” says Hearn, a former teacher and school psychologist in Warsaw who later ran her own children’s clinic for 15 years. “How to put all of these things together and make something happen is always the challenge for any community, organization, or business. But it takes leadership to make something happen.”

Leadership, in Warsaw’s case, came from a variety of sources. The board embarked on a two-year superintendent search and, during that period, cleaned up policies and procedures that had benignly contributed to school silos. After the board hired Superintendent Craig Hintz in 2009, the nonprofit organization OrthoWorx brought in Cambridge Education to conduct an external audit of the district.

Three years later, the district has used the audit results to develop and implement a new strategic plan. It has converted an elementary campus into a STEM-themed school and is considering other targeted programs. Every administrator and more than one-third of the teachers have attended a professional learning community conference.

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