President, Plainfield Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees
Tell us a little bit about your work and career history.
I’m a freelance business writer. I started in advertising and started my own business gig in 1995. I work for a lot of different companies and websites doing articles, blogs and some ghostwriting. I’m a transplant out of Chicago.
Tell us about your family.
I have three adult kids – one lives in Fishers, one lives in Philadelphia and one lives five minutes from me. They’ve all gone through Plainfield schools. I have a granddaughter at Little Quakers Academy. Being a grandparent, I’m basically a built-in babysitter.
What do you love about being a grandparent?
It’s fun to be a little kid again. It’s fun to do all those kid things, to get down on your hands and knees, play with Legos, that sort of thing. Of course, that means I’m stepping on Legos again too, but that’s ok.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I’m a model railroader. I’m also an avid hiker. One of my favorite places to hike is the nature park at DePauw University. It’s an amazing nature park there, and it’s only about half an hour away. It’s an incredibly great place to take kids – quiet and safe. There’s a built-in old quarry and a trail that follows a creek. If you go, you’ll walk out with your mouth hanging open. It’s that amazing. I’ll hike five to six miles. I’m a fair-weather hiker. I’m not crazy.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Plainfield?
I really like Stone Creek Dining Company. The Thai Orchid is a close second.
What is your favorite thing to do in Plainfield?
I like walking the trails. We have great trails. Sometimes I’ll go and bike the B&O trail too.
How long have you been the school board president, and how did you come into that role?
We rotate, so I’ve been president several times. I was first elected in 2000. It’s my fifth term on the school board. I was just a classic parent volunteer at the schools. I was involved in the PTO among other things. Some people suggested I run for the board, and I decided to do it.
What do you like most about your role as president?
It is nice to play a role in guiding the future of young people and helping them become successful adults. It’s also nice to do it here because Plainfield is such a supportive community in terms of education. When we reach out to the community and ask for help, they’re right there. We don’t have the battles other communities have. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to raise my kids.
What makes Plainfield schools different?
We hire very well. We support the people we hire at every level, from administrative to teachers to custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers. We hire people who have a genuine interest in seeing kids succeed and who have big hearts.
What’s a typical day in the life of a board member like yourself?
This is a particularly busy year for me as president. We have a couple of big construction projects going on. Over the course of the year, I spend probably 300 to 350 hours on school board things. It’s a lot of meetings and a lot of communication. The monthly board meetings are actually a small part of the job. It’s a lot of working with others in the community, visiting schools and spending time in the classroom.
We’re always discussing the Imagination Lab. All elementary students, kindergarten through fifth grade, visit once a month for what’s called Odysseys. The curriculum changes each month. It’s a part of Plainfield schools that gives kids hands-on opportunities to explore things that they typically have not received in the classroom.
Research says that by the time kids reach sixth grade, they decide if they’re good at science, math, arts, etc. But exposure is limited. The goal is to get kids exposed to all those things so that when they hit that sixth-grade point, they’re saying, “I want more,” instead of saying, “I’m not good at it.” We talk about the power of yet. I don’t know this…yet. I can’t do this…yet.
What can we expect in 2020 and the upcoming school year?
We’ve got two big projects underway right now. We’re doing a complete renovation of our middle school. It originally was built and opened in 1956. We’ve taken good care of it, but it was not designed to be a school for the 2020s. We are transforming it into that. It will have a whole new design with new hallways, new spaces, a new layout and a brand new entrance. It will be far more efficient with more safety considerations. It will open in the summer 2022.
We are also building a fifth elementary school called Guilford Elementary, and it’s slated to open in summer 2021. It’s going to be big enough to accommodate six sections of each grade, although we won’t start there. There will be room to grow.
Guilford Elementary will have some new, exciting design features. Each grade level will be housed in its own neighborhood, so to speak, with its own bathrooms, collaborative learning spaces and storage. There will be an amazing amount of natural light. We’re transforming the media center into something completely different than what we’ve done before, incorporating some of the lessons we have learned from using the Imagination Lab. We’re still working through redistricting, but we’ll try to do it with as little disruption as possible to the community.
We are also working with the town of Plainfield on MADE at Plainfield. It will be an adult learning facility where we’ll bring together – at least initially – Ivy Tech, Vincennes and WorkOne. We are talking to some other universities about classes. It will be where these organizations can consolidate the classes that they have scattered everywhere so adults can get the skills they need for today’s jobs. We have the added advantage of it being across the street from the high school. That will allow us to offer dual-credit classes taught by Ivy Tech and Vincennes. We’ll be able to teach things like diesel technology, cybersecurity, medical assisting in the medical lab, and we’ll have a logistics training facility that will be used by people throughout the region.
We are emphasizing social and emotional learning in 2020. Kids today frankly have greater needs. We’ve beefed up our counseling staff and resources. We aim to have more trauma-informed classrooms by educating teachers on what that means.
What do you want people to know about the Plainfield school board?
There’s not a lot to say about us. It’s really a joint effort with others in the community. We changed our mission statement a couple of years ago, and it covers what learning in Plainfield is all about: Bringing joy to learning. It’s what we want. We’re talking about careers and technology, but ultimately we live for that moment when a first grader figures something out, jumps out of his chair and shrieks with joy. That’s what we want. We want that carried all the way through the grades. We want kids to want to come to school.