Superintendents discuss education’s goals


ANDERSON — The Madison County Chamber State of the County luncheon typically focusses on towns and businesses, but this year a priority was put on schools.
Town leaders still spoke and updated attendees on the happenings in their towns, but a panel of superintendents from area school corporations was the main event.
Dr. Mark Hall from South Madison Community School Corp., Joe Cronk from Anderson Community Schools, and Melissa Brisco from Alexandria-Monroe Community Schools capped off the annual luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson.
During their time in front of the large crowd, the trio echoed the need to prepare students for jobs in the real world.
“What we have to do is change the way we teach and what we expect of our students. How do we teach our students so that they’re learning, developing their critical thinking, their problem-solving, and their ability to communicate with others?” Brisco said. “When we prepare workers for you, they need to show up on time and be able to solve their own problems. Those are skill sets that we need to pivot to teaching in the classroom.”
At South Madison Community School Corp., meeting with local businesses and helping to provide employees for them are one of the ways they help prepare students for life after high school, Hall said.
“When we make comments that we want to prepare students for the real world, we need to make sure that we know what that is,” he said. “We go out to local businesses and love to come out and see what’s going on and how we can help provide employees or get kids on the right direction.”
By doing so, South Madison makes sure that all students, not just the ones going to college, are ready when they leave high school, he said.
“We know that all of our students aren’t going to four-year colleges, so we need to make sure they’re ready for the workforce,” Hall said. “We’ve partnered with some of our local businesses to make sure they are ready to do that.”
Anderson schools’ Cronk echoed a similar statement, saying the corporation has an entire building dedicated to preparing students for jobs such as plumbing, construction, HVAC, autobody, mechanics and nursing.
“We have an entire school for nothing but academic workforce development connections,” Cronk said. “We have an entire building focused on preparing workers for the future.”
The superintendents also spoke on standardized testing and how they measure success in their schools. Hall said South Madison does so by a group of internal and external factors, such as the growth of Pendleton.
“Standardized testing is just a dashboard indicator of what’s going on at a specific time. We use that to try and guide our instruction, but more importantly, we use internal and external measures to measure the success of our schools,” Hall said. “To me, the external indicators are more important. Scott Reske [Pendleton town manager] spoke about how we’re one of the fastest-growing areas in the county. People don’t move to places that have bad schools, and people don’t build businesses in areas with bad schools.”
At Alexandria-Monroe schools, success is measured by and goes back to preparing students for the workforce.
“There’s nobody up here that will tell you that tests aren’t important, but we also need to be able to measure the success of our students as they go into the workforce and look at internships,” Brisco said. “I want to be able to assess if they’re going to be good citizens, and be able to go straight into a job if they aren’t going to a four-year university.”
The last topic discussed was the importance of technology and advancements in that area such as artificial intelligence.
At South Madison, rather than ignoring the growth of AI, the corporation is embracing it by teaching students how to use it. This starts with one-to-one devices being used from kindergarten through 12th grade, and being sent home with students starting in third grade.
“We’re not discouraging it. We think it’s a technology that is here to stay, so what we’re doing is teaching our students how to use it properly,” Hall said on the use of AI. “We have to make sure that students have a baseline of knowledge, though. When they put in information, they need to be able to evaluate it and make sure it’s an accurate statement that’s coming back.”
Along with the superintendents, a few town employees spoke, including Reske.
As has been the constant focus for the town, Reske spoke about the growth expected to come to Pendleton and the surrounding areas.
“Growth continues to be our main topic, and quite frankly there’s a lot of apprehension in town and nervousness, because Pendleton wants to keep being Pendleton,” Reske said.
To help prepare for growth, the town has developed a unified development ordinance, and together with Main Street Pendleton and the Pendleton Business Association, has hired Carey Craig as a community development coordinator to help with the coming growth.
“What we’ve done as a town and community is we’ve decided that we want to focus on quality,” Reske said. “We want to focus on what the town needs to work on as it grows.”
The town has received grant funds to help design a trail that will eventually connect downtown Pendleton to the town’s business park and the west side of I-69.
“Once Pendleton fills up, 60% of the population will be on the other side of I-69, so that will naturally connect us all,” Reske said.
Reske closed off his talk by stating how the town continues to communicate with neighboring towns such as Lapel and Ingalls as they prepare for the incoming growth, too.
“We talk a lot, and I think that’s a good thing,” Reske said. “As that growth starts coming, that coordination is going to be really important.”


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