Stepping it up

Incoming Superintendent Shawn Price has seen a steady enrollment decline in his school corporation in northeastern Bartholomew County.

In fact, Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. has experienced year-over-year enrollment losses in eight of the past nine years. The only increase was in 2013-14, when the district added 11 students from the year before, a 0.1 percent increase. But when enrollment was counted for the current school year, it dropped another 45 students, a 0.5 percent loss.

With Indiana school districts receiving $5,500 per student in state funding each year, a drop of 279 students over a nine-year period takes a financ-ial toll.

While Price doesn’t consider the enrollment losses a critical blow to the district’s finances, he is concerned about the trend.

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“That (number) obviously needs to plateau,” he said.

“Enrollment is an issue. It puts a financial burden on the school corporation, and we need to have that balance,” he said.

When Price takes over July 1 as superintendent upon current leader Kathy Griffey’s retirement, he plans to put together a committee to analyze the district’s strengths.

“One of the things we’re going to look at is how to foster the small-school culture,” Price said. “That’s something that some people are looking for. I think if we can bring kids into this school and show them what we have to offer for a small school, there’s a lot of good things that can come from that.”

Higher enrollment would result in increased state funding for education and better services for students, Price said.

One of his priorities as superintendent will be to get word out that Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools are successful, and a great place for students to grow and learn.

“We’ve been doing some great things at Hauser High School for a long time and have a lot of consistency there,” Price said.

He has had a hand in that personally, initially as assistant principal for the junior/senior high school for three years, and then the past three school years in the school’s top job.

As superintendent, he will also watch over Hope Elementary, located in a different wing of the combined school campus, at 9273 State Road 9 on the south side of Hope.

“Hope Elementary has made huge strides and improvements here in the last year,” he said. “I think we just need to reach out and get the word out.”

Finding their leader

The school district’s search committee identified leadership skills as the most important trait in its screening process, members said. The search team included current and retired teachers, past and present school board members and active adults in the school corporation, board president Steve Wilson said.

“The top thing they saw as a quality in the superintendent that we needed was leadership and Shawn (Price) has exhibited that at the high school,” Wilson said.

“Teachers and staff have all made several comments to that effect and he’s really a great leader. That helped him stand out among the rest.”

In a search that began in November, Price was selected from a pool of 14 candidates from northern Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and the local area, said board member Andy Hunnicutt, last year’s school board president.

“Quite frankly, any of the final four would have made an excellent superintendent,” Hunnicitt said. “But I think we, through the whole process, came out with the best one for us.”

Price on Tuesday accepted the district’s offer to become superintendent with a first-year salary of $100,000.

The corporation will pay for Price’s personal health insurance, valued at $14,280, and also will place $750 annually into a family health insurance plan.

Once Price completes his doctorate degree, he will receive an additional $2,000 a year beginning in 2016, according to his contract.

What’s on his plate

Price said he understands that the school district is making improvements on many different levels but acknowledges that there is still work to be done.

Hope Elementary school was identified as a priority school in the Indiana Department of Education’s A-F Accountability Program after it received a D in 2011, an F in 2012 and a D in 2013, as categorized by the state. In 2014, however, Hope Elementary School improved to a B.

If Hope Elementary receives a C or better in 2015, it will come off the state’s watch list.

Price said the school’s marked improvement in the 2014 A-F Accountability program could be attributed to a concerted effort from the administration and educators at Hope Elementary School to do a better job of working together.

Parents asked during a February 2014 public hearing for ways to improve learning at Hope Elementary School — and the school board listened and acted.

After cutting 14 teaching assistant positions in 2011, the board restored three support positions last March, effective with the current school year:

Coordinator of special education, program support and elementary dean of students, a full-time position in the administrative office.

A part-time library assistant at Hope Elementary.

Two part-time response-to-intervention classroom instructional aides at Hope Elementary.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek students have utilized the response-to-intervention resources to improve their ISTEP test scores, Price said.

Results will be known after this year’s testing, which begins in a few weeks.

Making the transition

Griffey said she is looking forward to retirement after a 44-year career in education. Griffey said she plans on spending time with her six grandchildren and taking a hiking trip in Yellowstone National Park.

She said she is also excited about leaving things in Price’s hands.

“He’s going to make an absolutely fantastic superintendent. He knows the school corporation and he’s excited. He’s got a lot of energy and knowledge,” she said.

Griffey headed the district for the past five years, having replaced Philip Deardorff in 2010. Price said he looks forward to the opportunity at hand.

“I feel called to lead,” he said. “I’m always up for that next challenge, and I think this is it.”

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Name: Shawn Price

Age: 36

Career: Price has worked in the field of education for 11 years. He started as a social studies teacher in his hometown of West Lebanon, Indiana. He also has taught at Blue River Valley School Corp. in New Castle and worked as assistant principal at Hauser Junior/Senior High School for three years. He has been principal at Hauser for the past three school years and on Tuesday night was selected to become the district’s next superintendent of schools, effective July 1.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana State University, Master’s degree in administration from Indiana State University, currently working on dissertation for a doctorate degree from Indiana State University

Family: Wife, Scarlett; sons, Alex, 17, Sam, 11, and Ben, 9.

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“I’m always up for that next challenge, and I think this is it.”

— Shawn Price, incoming Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. superintendent.