New superintendent wins votes from board, community

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s next leader said he is ready to dive into his new position.

Surrounded by an audience that included his family, BCSC faculty and members of the Columbus community, Jim Roberts was approved as the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board’s choice to replace John Quick as district superintendent, effective July 1.

Quick announced in September that he would retire at the end of June after 13 years as superintendent. The seven-member board had been working since Quick’s announcement to find his replacement.

Roberts, who is currently the superintendent of Batesville Community School Corp., was selected for the position from among 17 candidates. The board voted 6-1 Monday to hire Roberts, with only board member Pat Bryant voting no. Bryant declined to comment on his vote.

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After signing a three-year contract with the district — which includes a provision for a $170,000 first-year salary — at the meeting, Roberts told board members he felt fortunate to step into an already high-performing district.

Roberts will become the district’s eighth superintendent.

While he conceded there would be a bit of learning curve as he tries to learn the ins-and-outs of the Columbus public school district, Roberts also said he is confident the skills and experiences he acquired in Batesville will translate well to his new position.

“My strengths lie in community engagement and in work ethic, and I’m excited to put those to work here,” he told the board.

The ability to engage with the community was a key characteristic board members were looking for in the next BCSC superintendent, especially after learning through a public survey that local residents value such engagement, board member Bob Abrams told the audience at the meeting.

Roberts’ record for community involvement in his current role as Batesville superintendent made him stand out among the other applicants and reassured the board that he could continue that legacy in Columbus, Abrams said.

“He has a natural ability to build on collaboration,” he said.

Roberts had his first chance to engage with the Columbus community prior to the meeting Monday night, when the district hosted a public reception for him at Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech campus.

Dozens of administrators, teachers, students and other community members turned out for the opportunity to meet the new superintendent for the first time.

Even though he is owner of the Batesville Regional Airport, Columbus resident John Whittington said he had never met Roberts during his tenure in Batesville schools.

But now that Roberts is moving to Columbus, Whittington said he wanted to meet the new superintendent Monday night for two important reasons — Whittington is a member of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation Board, and one his children is a BCSC student.

“I’m going to be working with him, so I thought I should get to know him,” he said.

Whittington said Roberts’ record for success in Batesville schools — which includes being named District 8 Superintendent on the Year on two separate occasions — is impressive, so he said he feels confident that the new superintendent will be able to lead Columbus schools on a continued path of success.

Students were equally impressed by their new leader.

Katrina May was one of four Columbus North High School gymnasts who were honored at the meeting for their record-breaking performance at their state competition. In between the hugs and accolades from the various people at the reception, May said she had the opportunity to speak with Roberts and get to know him a little better.

“He seemed really nice, and Columbus is sort of a home for him, so I think he’ll fit in well,” May said.

Moving to Columbus is a homecoming of sorts for Roberts and his family, he said.

Both he and his wife, Diana, are natives of Nashville who lived in Columbus for 11 years at the start of Jim Roberts’ career, and the couple’s three daughters were all born at Columbus Regional Hospital.

During his time in Columbus, Roberts was a math teacher at Hauser Senior High School, where he also coached basketball and baseball.

Gene Genth was the principal who hired Roberts to teach at Hauser prior to his move to Batesville in 1993. Genth surprised his former employee by attending Monday’s reception, where he said that from the very beginning of Roberts’ time in the classroom, he knew that his talent for teaching would take him far in his education career.

“He was a great teacher, terrific with kids,” Genth said. “I had the feeling this might have been in his future.”

Roberts said he is eager to begin his transition into Columbus schools and start the process of learning where the district’s strengths lie and how he can use his new position to make it even stronger.

“Now we can get started on the next steps,” he said.

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Jim Roberts, 50, began his career as a math teacher at Hauser Senior High School in Hope. He moved to Batesville in 1993 and has worked in that school district as an assistant principal, assistant superintendent and, since 2007, superintendent.

Roberts and his wife, Diana, are both natives of Nashville. He attended Brown County High School before moving to Bloomington to study secondary education at Indiana University. He also received his master’s degree in school administration from Indiana University and his doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jim and Diana Roberts have three grown daughters: Rylie, Regan and Rashel. The family will be moving to Columbus as soon as possible.