Video: Longtime schools superintendent ready to ride into sunset

When Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. reopens its doors to students for the next school year on Aug. 3, John Quick will be riding his horse somewhere through the hills of Montana.

By that point, Quick no longer will be the district superintendent. Instead, he will be in the first few months of his retirement from a 40-year career in education, including 25 years with BCSC.

Being on horseback won’t be a new facet of Quick’s life after BCSC. The retiring superintendent has been an avid horse rider since he was a young boy, taking trips across the country and even up to British Columbia to pursue his love of riding.

Although he will have more time to be on horseback when he leaves the Columbus public school district, Quick said the increase in his free time will come at the expense of spending time with the local educators who have become like family.

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“It’s bittersweet,” Quick said. “This is a great district, but I’m ready for the next chapter of my life.”

Although his retirement is effective June 30, Quick plans to pack up and giddy-up out of the superintendent’s office at 1200 Central Ave. on Thursday. He will be making room for Jim Roberts, superintendent at Batesville Community School Corp., to step in as the head of the Columbus-based public school system July 1.

The transition out of the superintendent’s role — one he has held for 13 years, making him the district’s longest-serving superintendent — has meant a series of lasts for Quick in the past month.

He has delivered his last commencement addresses to the three BCSC graduating classes of 2016, a group of students he said he feels a special connection with. The class of 2016 began their education careers in BCSC as kindergartners in 2003, the same year Quick began his career as superintendent. Now, they are all leaving together.

Tonight, Quick will say his goodbyes to many of the teachers, administrators and others who have worked with him for the past 13 years during a retirement reception planned in his honor at Central Middle School.

Then Quick will sit in on his final BCSC school board meeting, where he will join seven of the 22 school board members he has worked for during the past 13 years for the final time as superintendent.

The meeting also will be at Central, a location Quick said he intentionally selected because it is the only building that was constructed from the ground up during his time leading the school district.

The retiring superintendent has tried to end his career with BCSC on a positive note, going so far as to send district employees a video of himself riding into the sunset on Blue, with the Western song “Happy Trails” playing in the background.

So far in his journey toward retirement, the 62-year-old superintendent said he has been optimistically preparing for his future, which will mostly include spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren and his friends.

Emotional farewells

The only time so far he has become emotional about his departure from the Columbus public school district was three weeks ago, when employees in the administration building gave him a retirement gift right before another reception to celebrate all district retirees — a gift certificate to activities in French Lick.The retiring superintendent said he was surprised by his own response to the employees’ gesture but said his emotion likely came from the thought that went into the gift.

He and his wife, Andrea, who were high school sweethearts, grew up near French Lick and attended their prom together in the area. The fact that his coworkers remembered that detail about his life was touching, he said.

Although he is looking forward to a lifestyle that will allow him to pursue his other passions, Quick said leaving BCSC this week will not be an easy task.

He said tonight’s reception could be another difficult one as he says goodbye to not only those who work closest to them but to other district employees and community members who have influenced his work and his life over the years.

Signs of Quick’s impending retirement already are evident in his office in the administration building.

Once covered in education memorabilia, photos of his family, stacks of papers and even a horse’s saddle, Quick’s second-floor office now sits all but empty. Most of his belongings have been packed up and transferred to his Columbus home, where he plans to spend his days in retirement — when he’s not traveling across the country.

Quick said he already has plans to travel to New York to visit family members in addition to his planned trip to Montana later this summer.

His horse, Blue, a male Tennessee Walker, will accompany him and a group of horse-loving friends on the trip to Montana, where the group will spend their time riding through the state’s hilly terrain on horseback. Quick plans to pull Blue across the country in his horse trailer.

The lifelong educator’s love of horses began when he got his first pony the day before his first day of third grade. Since then, Quick said he has been an avid rider, carrying his passion with him all the way through his childhood, adulthood and now into retirement.

Over the years, the retiring superintendent said he was in the habit of buying and selling horses with a fairly quick turnaround, always in pursuit of the perfect horse.

Then five years ago he found Blue, an 1,100-pound horse with the ability to run without excessively bouncing the rider, Quick said.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect horse, but Blue’s the closest I’ve had,” he said.

Facing the challenges

When he became BCSC superintendent in 2003, Quick planned to keep the job until he retired and always anticipated that his retirement would come in 2016.“Most superintendents have to move around (for professional advancement), but I got what I wanted the first time,” he said.

Even though being at the helm of BCSC schools was his dream, the job was not without its difficulties.

Responsibilities such as calling off school for snow days, dealing with statewide education mandates and standardized testing such as the ISTEP+ exam and other tasks got in the way of helping students, all of which made his job more difficult, Quick said.

But despite such obstacles that followed him through most of his career, the retiring superintendent said he is proud of his accomplishments as BCSC’s leader.

In a time when most Indiana school districts were losing enrollment and laying off teachers, Quick said he never once laid anyone off because of budget cuts. Instead, his employees always received some sort of pay raise each year they stayed with the district.

But Quick refuses to take all of the credit for the successes during his administration. He said his greatest strength lies in his ability to identify and surround himself with intelligent, dedicated people who have worked with him to bring BCSC to the level of success it holds today.

Looking to the district’s future, the outgoing superintendent said he is confident BCSC will continue to perform well under Roberts’ direction with a continued commitment to excellence.

That confidence will enable Quick to ride off on his horse knowing that Roberts will have control of the reins back at the district office.

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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 in 2003. In addition to his work with BCSC, Quick has been an active member in community organizations, including:

  • Ivy Tech Community College Regional board of trustees
  • IUPUC board of advisers
  • Community Foundation board
  • Economic Development Board
  • Community Education Coalition board
  • Healthy Communities Council board
  • Rotary Club
  • Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
  • Indiana School Superintendents Study Council
  • Indiana Urban Schools Superintendent Association
  • Sports Advisory Committee

He and his wife, Andrea, who is director of the McDowell Adult Education Center, have two children: Megan, 34, Fort Drum, New York; and John Tyler, 31, Los Angeles, and four grandchildren.

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What: Reception for retiring Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent John Quick

When: 6:30 p.m. today

Where: Central Middle School, 725 Seventh St., Columbus

Also: Bartholomew Consolidated School Board meeting follows the reception at 7 p.m.

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During John Quick’s tenure as superintendent, BCSC has grown into a district of nearly 12,000 students, 1,800 employees, 19 buildings and a budget of $72.2 million in revenues and $71.9 million in expenditures.

Some of the highlights he is most proud of in his career include:

  • Avoiding teacher layoffs due to budget cuts by dipping into the district’s Rainy Day fund and choosing not to replace retiring teachers
  • Bonding $90 million to renovate Columbus North and Columbus East High Schools, beginning in the 2010-2011 school year
  • Constructing Central Middle School from the ground up. The building is part of the Columbus Signature Academy magnet school network
  • Implementing the Universal Design for Learning philosophy, which focuses on meeting individual student needs