Geoff Aiken teaches government and history at Bloomington North High School. He says he entered teaching through coaching.
“Well, the best thing to do if your going to coach is teach and the more I got into teaching the more I realized that coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching,” Aiken said. “And I found this was something I could really do.”
When asked questions about the districts leadership, most of his answers seem to lead to one conclusion: leave me and the Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, alone.
“It’s the first thing in my 15-years of teaching that’s come down and it’s like, this could really work,” he said. “It’s not the flash in the pan. It’s not the latest thing.”
PLCs are the keystone of former Superintendent J. T. Coopman’ s contribution to the district, a system of collaboration and assessment drawn from best practices techniques in the business world.
The program enjoys popularity among all levels of educators and with the public.
Cameron Rains is one of a number of administrators Coopman hired. Rains coordinates the district’s elementary school curriculum from an office in the main administration building. He also meets regularly with a PLC group composed of all of the district’s principals.
Rains said the MCCSC needs to look at other districts, find other schools with a history of high turnover and study the problem.
“We could really learn a lot from talking with corporations like that,” Rains said.
In the past, the district has contracted with search companies, most recently BWP and Associates, to conduct national superintendent hunts.
This time around, the school board has assembled a team of eight community leaders, including Chamber of Commerce President Christy Gillenwater and Ivy Tech Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart. Some have connections to the education world; others are business people, civic leaders and other nontraditional candidates.
School board member Sue Wanzer says the committee is tasked with identifying and contacting a small group of potential candidates. The idea is to avoid paying for a search firm and avoiding countless other small expenses, such for transportation to interviews.
Wanzer has been through this process before. She says in a community with such an involved citizenry and opinions that run the gamut, leading the MCCSC can be a tough job.
“We really need someone who understands Bloomington — who understands the cultural and political nature of this community and can support the kind of culture we have here,” Wanzer said.
That may be an understatement. Many staffing decisions are based on student course selection. Meaning those choices will likely be finalized before the new superintendent takes office.
The district is already involved in making referendum decisions for next year. Normally the superintendent would submit budget recommendations to the school board, but with only temporary leadership in place, those dollars will be allocated well before the new superintendent takes office in July.
If the appointment of interim superintendent Timothy Hyland is any indication, the district could be dogged by procedural complaints and strong public demands concerning referendum dollars.
Hyland’s selection resulted in a packed meeting room and almost caused a lawsuit over alleged violations of Indiana’s public meeting laws.
In an earlier interview with WFIU, Hyland said he doesn’t plan to hold the position past the end of the semester.
“A this moment I expect to be there til June 30th,” he said. “After which I expect them to have another superintendent take over.”
School board members and administrators have said they would like to find someone who will hold the position 6-8 years.