The person in line to become next superintendent for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. said he is ready to build on educational tenets that define Columbus schools.

BCSC school board members have reached a consensus in naming Jim Roberts to replace 13-year superintendent John Quick, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

The board will officially vote on hiring Roberts at a 7 p.m. Monday meeting. Local residents will have the opportunity to meet with Roberts prior to the meeting during a 6 p.m. reception at the Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech campus, 2205 25th St.

Quick announced in late September that he would retire at the end of June after 13 years leading the district. The board made Roberts, Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent, its top choice out of 17 applicants. Roberts has been superintendent at Batesville for nine years.

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Prior to moving to Batesville in 1993, Roberts lived in Columbus for 11 years and taught math at Hauser High School in Hope, where he also coached basketball and baseball. He moved into school administration at Batesville, first as an assistant principal, then assistant superintendent and in 2007 as superintendent.

Jill Shedd, BCSC school board president, said Roberts was chosen because of the breadth of his experience leading a school district.

“His experience … his leadership, it reflected the values we were looking for as a board,” Shedd said.

Although the BCSC district is nearly six times larger than its counterpart in Batesville — about 12,000 students versus about 2,200 — Roberts said many of the initiatives that are championed in Columbus schools are mirrored in Batesville.

Technology, pre-K

Batesville schools introduced a one-to-one technology ratio in 2012 to provide all students in kindergarten through 12th grade with an electronic device at school.Chris Lowery, Ivy Tech chancellor and former president of the Batesville school board, said implementing the one-to-one ratio was one of the major goals Roberts had for his district, and his visionary leadership enabled the district to see that goal through.

BCSC has a similar technology initiative. The district introduced a one-to-one technology ratio this school year for students in first through 12th grade, with elementary and middle school students using Chromebooks and high school students using laptops. In kindergarten classrooms, a one-to-three ratio allows three students to share an iPad for classroom use.

Additionally, Batesville offers a pre-K program for 4-year-olds living in the district, similar to the Busy Bees Academy program available to 4-year-olds in Columbus.

The crux of BCSC’s educational philosophy is Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, a concept which focuses on meeting the needs of all students by providing multiple means of engagement for diverse learning styles. UDL is a student-focused concept that encourages teachers and administrators to address the individual needs of each student.

While Batesville schools do not officially follow UDL-certified techniques, Roberts said his current district is committed to the core UDL concept — meeting individual student needs.

“There are similarities between the approaches,” he said.

Diversity programs

UDL is particularly important in Columbus schools because of the district’s diverse student population. More than 25 percent of all BCSC students are identified as ethnic minorities, data from the Indiana Department of Education shows.Conversely, about 8 percent of Batesville students are identified as minorities, but that fact has not precluded Roberts from introducing initiatives aimed at students from all ethnic backgrounds, he said.

Foreign languages, particularly Chinese, are a major part of the Batesville curriculum, Roberts said. Through the district’s Chinese Dual Language Immersion Program, which will begin next year, kindergarten students will spend half of their day learning in English and the other half learning in Chinese.

The idea is to expose students to different languages and cultures at a young age, which will enable them to better embrace and understand cultural differences as they get older and thus compete more effectively in a global economy, Roberts said.

Similar multicultural opportunities will be abundant in Columbus, Roberts said, so he plans to explore the various ways the BCSC district teaches to a diverse student population.

“I’m very much looking forward to embracing that,” he said.

While the Columbus and Batesville school districts already share similar educational philosophies, Roberts said he also has ideas for new initiatives he could introduce in Bartholomew County.

However, the new superintendent said he does not want to name those ideas just yet. Instead, he wants to evaluate the policies the district currently follows and decide from there where improvements or changes can be made.

“What’s attractive about the district is that nothing has to be fixed,” Roberts said.

For his part, Quick said he was relieved to learn that someone as competent as Roberts would be taking over the superintendent’s position.

The two superintendents have known each other for 15 years, and Quick said he is confident Roberts can lead the district to success following whatever initiatives the new superintendent plans to implement.

“He’s very knowledgeable,” Quick said. “I think he’ll fit in well.”

Recognition among peers

Roberts’ work in Batesville schools has earned him multiple statewide accolades. In 2014 and 2016, Roberts was named the District 8 Superintendent of the Year by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. That state region includes school districts across southeast Indiana, including BCSC.Shedd said such honors reassure her that the board selected a competent leader to take the helm of the district.

During his transition out of Batesville and into Columbus, Roberts said he plans to work closely with Quick and the school board to become familiar with the district’s day-to-day operations and to meet with key stakeholders in the community.

Such a commitment to the community is exactly what board members — and local residents — were looking for in the next superintendent, Shedd said.

Lowery said Roberts’ dedication to the community has been evident throughout his entire tenure in Batesville.

“He’s so collaborative in nature,” Lowery said.

School systems are instrumental to the day-to-day operations of any community, Roberts said, so his job as superintendent is to ensure that the district’s educational practices meet the needs of that community and the people and students living there.

“When people describe (BCSC), I don’t want them to say, ‘They’re excellent,’ or ‘They’re terrific,’” Roberts said. “I want them to say, ‘They’re the best.’”

About Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts, 50, will take over at the helm of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. on July 1 after serving as the superintendent of Batesville Community School Corp. for seven years.

A native of Nashville, Roberts attended Brown County High School, then went on to study secondary education at Indiana University – Bloomington. He also attended Indiana University to earn his master’s degree in school administration, then enrolled at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to earn his doctorate degree in educational leadership.

Roberts and his wife, Diana, have three grown daughters. He plans to move to Columbus as soon as possible.

About the contract

Monetary provisions of contract

  • Annual salary: $170,000
  • 10.4 percent retirement: $17,850
  • Annual board contribution to group health: $21,107.24
  • Annual board contribution to dental insurance: $1,118
  • Annual vision insurance premium: $199.20
  • Annual 401(a)/403(b) plan contribution: $4,000
  • Annual long-term disability premium: $1,010.18
  • Annual term life premium: $4,404.08
  • Annual auto allowance: $10,000
  • Annual professional development allowance and membership fees: $4,000
  • Total: $233,688.70

Other provisions

  • One-time moving expense of $5,000 to move into the BCSC district within 12 months
  • 260 working days
  • 20 days paid vacation
  • 18 days leave: 14 sick days, four personal days

Superintendent timeline

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. was created in 1965. District superintendents since that time include:

  • 1965-1975: Clarence Robbins (superintendent of Columbus City Schools before creation of BCSC)
  • 1975-1985: Dr. Lawrence Heyerdahl
  • 1985-1989: Ralph Lieber
  • 1989-1995: Steven Snider
  • 1995-2002: Michael Copper
  • 2002-2003: Rosemary Rehak (interim)
  • 2003 – June 30, 2016: John Quick
  • July 1, 2016: Jim Roberts (pending board approval)
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.