Graduation day

It’s the end of an era.

After 25 years in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and 40 years in education, John Quick will retire as the district’s longest-serving superintendent. When he leaves in July, it will be after serving as BCSC’s leader for 13 full years.

Although the process of finding his replacement is in its infancy, Quick, 61, said he is confident the district is prepared to take the next steps into the future.

“I’ve been planning this,” Quick said. “It’s the right time. Everything sort of aligned, and I’ve told the people that I work with that this was the target for a number of years now.”

After working as a teacher and administrator for 15 years in Sullivan County, Quick and his wife, Andrea, began looking for a community that would provide a quality education for their children while also allowing them to continue pursuing education careers.

“We kept asking people, ‘Where’s the best place in Indiana to raise a family?’ and Columbus kept coming up,” he said.

After finding a student teaching position for his wife at Columbus North and a job for himself as principal of Taylorsville Elementary School, Quick entered BCSC in 1991. He stepped into his current role as superintendent in 2003.

“I was always looking at that next challenge and the place where I can make a bigger difference,” he said.

During his time as superintendent, those who worked most closely with Quick said his passion for education and making a difference in the lives of students has always been evident.

“He’s very much hands-on,” said Vaughn Sylva, assistant superintendent for financial services, who has worked with Quick since 2002.

“I’ve always been impressed by his quarterly visits with every one of the schools in our district,” Sylva said. “He gains a great deal of insight of what’s going on with the schools by doing that.”

Sylva said he also appreciates Quick’s attention to detail when it comes to making financial decisions.

“He’s so very fiscally both astute and conservative,” Sylva said. “He’s very conscientious.”

While he acknowledges that all of the district’s financial successes have been the result of team collaboration, Quick said he is proud of the way he has been able to provide for district employees during his time as superintendent.

“In my tenure, fortunately, the employees have always been able to make a little more money this year than they did last, and a lot of school districts can’t say that,” Quick said.

He added that the district also had never had to implement a reduction in force during his time as superintendent.

The district’s most recent financial success came just this year, when BCSC employees were awarded a 2.5 percent raise for the 2015-2016 school year and a 2 percent raise for the following year.

Quick also received a 2.5 percent raise for the 2015-2016 school year, bringing his annual salary to $156,369.29.

“When I ask for a raise, it’s for everyone,” he said.

Advocate for prekindergarten

However, Quick’s tenure as superintendent also has seen some financial setbacks, namely two failed referendums to raise property taxes for local preschool programs. BCSC put the referendums up for a fall referendum vote in 2012 and 2014 but failed to garner enough support to pass the measure either time.While Quick said he believes the city of Columbus supports districtwide preschool, residents in other areas of the county are not as willing to pay more in taxes for the program.He said the best local strategy now is to wait for pre-K funding from the state, a move he said Indiana is getting closer to making.

“(The referendums) weren’t wasted efforts, because kindergarten was fully funded (by the state) this year,” he said. “That wouldn’t have happened if our community hadn’t pushed the pre-K issue.”

Even without the tax increase, Quick said, the district supports preschool programs for about 400 students through Title I dollars and other state funds.

“He’s really lifting up to the community, and more broadly across the state, the importance of early learning,” John Burnett, president and CEO of the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition, said of Quick. “His efforts around the establishment of a pre-K program, like the Busy Bees Academy, expanded into a very significant opportunity for families.”

Aside from the struggles with the referendum, Quick said, BCSC has had a lot to celebrate during his 13 years as superintendent, citing the district’s emphasis on creating a learning-centered culture that caters to students’ needs as one of his greatest accomplishments.

The addition of buildings such as Central Middle School — which is the only building Quick oversaw throughout the entire construction process in his 40-year career — demonstrates the district’s support of innovative, project-based learning methods.

Burnett said, “The work that happened with John and his team with respect to the creation of the Columbus Signature Academies (is) a first of its kind in the country to have project-based learning in a high-tech environment. That’s a major accomplishment there.”

Putting students first

Beyond developing new learning models, Quick said BCSC’s dedication to building those models around students’ needs is what makes the district stand out.“The thing that impresses me the most is that he certainly always puts the needs of the students first,” said Jayne Surface, Quick’s executive assistant, who has worked with him for nearly 23 years. “Whenever he makes a decision, he will always ask, ‘What’s best for the students?’”Burnett also cited Quick’s work with the iGrad program — with support for students at risk for graduating, including tutoring and mentoring from adults — as a testament to the superintendent’s dedication to ensuring each student receives a quality education that will help later in life.

“That’s another initiative where Dr. Quick went to Ivy Tech (Community College) and to the community at large and said, ‘We need to figure out a way to help improve the graduation rate,’” Burnett said. “That program has shown significant progress for students who otherwise would have dropped out of high school.”

However, making decisions specifically tailored to BCSC students has recently become a difficult task, Quick said, as state education officials have adopted a more blanket approach to governing.

“We’re seeing the ramifications of that,” he said. “Teacher shortage, teacher salaries, this competitive environment rather than a collaborative environment. I haven’t enjoyed seeing that trend.”

But even with the one-size-fits-all philosophy he said the state has adopted, Quick said he is still proud that his district has maintained its financial stability.

“Sometimes you’re proud of the things that didn’t happen,” he said.

Aside from disagreements with state-mandated decisions, Quick said the biggest issue he has encountered in 13 years as superintendent is one near and dear to all students’ hearts: snow days.

“It’s really hard at 4 in the morning in the dark … to make those decisions, knowing that no matter what decision you make, someone’s not going to be happy with that,” Quick said. “I’ve joked that the reason I haven’t retired is because I’m not going to retire until I get a snow day right. We’ll see if I get one right this year.”

Search process

The president of the BCSC school board said the panel is pleased with the work Quick has done and will look for a replacement who can keep the district on a path to success.“Things are going well at BCSC,” Robert Abrams said. “We’re not looking for rocking the boat or changing things dramatically.”None of the seven members on the board has been involved in replacing a superintendent, Abrams said, but there is a clearly defined, step-by-step process in place for them to follow.

The first step is meeting with a team of representative from the schools of education at Ball State, Indiana, Indiana State and Purdue universities. That team is assembled to advise school boards on the policies and procedures that must be followed when searching for a new superintendent.

“That’s extremely valuable,” Abrams said. “We are in communication with that group, and we have a preliminary meeting with them set.”

While the board has not begun discussing possible replacements, Quick said he hopes news of his imminent retirement will spread at the Sept. 28 and 29 annual state superintendents and school boards conference, generating interests among potential candidates.

Once applications begin rolling in, Abrams said, the board will look for someone who communicates as well as Quick and who is able to establish himself or herself quickly in the community.

“That’s what we’re accustomed to, and we hope to continue that with the new superintendent,” Abrams said.

The board does not feel rushed to find Quick’s replacement, Abrams said, but hopes to have the job done before the end of the school year.

After retirement

As he looks into the future, Quick said he wants to find new ways to give back to the community that helped him establish his career.“I want to try to figure out where’s the best place, the best ways to give back so that it’s rewarding,” he said.He also is looking forward to spending more time with his four grandchildren — who he says are the top priority in his life — and riding his horse more often.

After spending the past four years working as an assistant professor of educational leadership for Ball State, Quick said, he also wants to continue working in higher education.

“Those are the immediate things,” he said.

But as he looks toward the future, Quick said preparing to leave behind the schools, students and colleagues he has grown to know and love will be bittersweet.

“I’m going to miss all the people,” he said. “The students … you see them grow up, and that’s kind of fun, so I’ll miss that.”

List of all BCSC superintendents/years served
  • 1965-1975: Clarence Robbins (previously superintendent of Columbus City Schools)
  • 1975-1985: Lawrence Heyerdahl
  • 1985-1989: Ralph Lieber
  • 1989-1995: Steven Snider
  • 1995-2002: Michael Cooper
  • 2002-2003: Rosemary Rehak (interim)
  • 2003-present: John Quick

Text of retirement letter to school board

“It has been my honor to serve Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and the Columbus community the past 25 years. The last 13 years as the superintendent of schools have been particularly rewarding. It is with appreciation that I announce my retirement, effective July 1, 2016.

“My wife Andrea and I chose this community as the place to raise our family and build our careers. We are so grateful to BCSC, the community and to all those that touched our lives and those of our children, Meagan and John Tyler. Most importantly, I want to thank the students, who for 40 years have brought purpose to my career.”

— John Quick, superintendent, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

Quick bio

After working in Sullivan County as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher for five years and a principal for 10 years, John Quick came to Columbus in 1991 as principal of Taylorsville Elementary School. In 1998 he was promoted to an assistant superintendent position within the district, and then to superintendent of schools in 2003. In addition to his work with BCSC, Quick has been an active member in other community organizations, including:

  • Ivy Tech Community College Regional Board of Trustees
  • IUPUC Board of Advisers
  • Community Foundation Board of Directors
  • Economic Development Board of Directors
  • Community Education Coalition Board
  • Healthy Community Council Board
  • Rotary Club
  • Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
  • Indiana School Superintendents Study Council
  • Indiana Urban Schools Superintendent Association
  • Sports Advisory Committee
Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.