After a decade of quiet, thoughtful and supportive leadership at Goshen schools, Bruce Stahly is retiring, ending a 40-year career in education.
GOSHEN — At almost every Goshen School Board meeting, Goshen superintendent Bruce Stahly congratulates students for achievements in academics or extra-curriculars. He’ll shake a student’s hand, sometimes give a pat on the back, and smile before turning toward a camera to commemorate the student’s recognition.
This Thursday, though, the Goshen Administration Center’s board room will be used to honor Stahly. An open house is planned from 3 to 6 p.m.
After a decade as Goshen Community Schools’ superintendent and many more years as a teacher and administrator in other area districts, Stahly will retire in June.
Stahly grew up in Wakarusa and has spent most of his career in Elkhart County. He’ll leave Goshen Community Schools, but said he and his wife, Barbara, are planning to remain in the community.
“It was a difficult decision because I’ve really enjoyed what we’re doing,” he said the night he announced his resignation.
Stahly has led Goshen Community Schools with what some Goshen principals described as quiet, thoughtful and supportive leadership.
“It’s all about the kids and the teachers, but you need to have support from the administration and the building level,” said Goshen High School principal Jim Kirkton. Stahly gave that support, he said.
Kirkton, Chandler Elementary Principal Lisa Lederach and West Goshen Elementary principal Alan Metcalfe all said Stahly is good at listening to what school administrators needed and making their ideas happen.
“From a school point of view, he was very good at understanding the individual visions of schools and how it fit with the corporation vision and how to get to that place,” Kirkton said.
Lederach also noted Stahly helped usher in more “student-centered learning” and assistant superintendent Marceil Royer credited him as a “big picture visionary.”
One of Stahly’s other primary strengths for the school corporation, though, is his financial expertise.
“He’s tightened our budget and made us work more efficiently,” Metcalfe said about West Goshen’s budget. “I, personally, think we are very sound financially because of him.”
Lederach echoed Metcalfe’s thoughts.
“We always say ‘Thank goodness for Bruce. Thank goodness for Dr. Stahly’ as far as the financial piece,” she said.
Goshen High School’s Kirkton said, though, that “managing money doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s using money to reach your goals and expand and he did that.”
Improving the school corporation’s finances was one of Stahly’s priorities coming in as superintendent, he said, along with improving buildings and their appearance and working on the school corporation’s education model.
In some school corporations, Stahly said, employees view an administration’s purchases as favors for certain departments or employees, a thought process he said he has always stood against.
“My correction is always very quick, ‘No, the taxpayers purchased this,’” he said. “This is public money that we’re using and we want to guard it and be careful with it, but also continue to update facilities ... giving our students further opportunities and all of that.”
Under Stahly’s leadership, the physical landscape of Goshen Community Schools has changed.
What used to be factory space and rows of houses is now where a new administration building, parking spaces and a paved area for band practice are by Goshen High School, among other improvements to school corporation buildings and grounds. In 2006, a new elementary school, Prairie View Elementary, opened.
The most disappointing time in Stahly’s Goshen career, he said, was about two years later when plans were coming together for a new Goshen school building for fifth and sixth grades.
“That’s when the economy really tanked,” Stahly said.
Goshen Community Schools still owns land at the northwest corner of S.R. 119 and Greene Road, ready to hold a school building sometime later.
A third priority of Stahly’s was developing Goshen’s three commitments, “really moving the corporation forward in terms of our teaching model, in terms of the learning goals, in terms of building academic vocabulary.”
Stahly said when administrators developed the commitments, they had strategies for two — building background knowledge and developing a system of individual student feedback —, but weren’t sure how to ensure effective teaching in every classroom, the third commitment.
Then, in the last few years, the opportunity to participate in The System for Student and Teacher Advancement (TAP) arose and Goshen Community Schools worked to integrate the program designed to motivate teachers and support quality teaching. Stahly is confident that, because of TAP, student achievement will greatly improve in the next few years.
Except for a three year stint teaching chemistry and math at a high school in Kenya, Stahly focused his career in northern Indiana. He spent 13 years at Middlebury Community Schools, teaching math and science at the high school, later also working in the district’s administration office and serving as assistant principal of Northridge High School. He then went on to work in the administration offices of MSD of Wabash County, School City of Mishawaka and South Bend Community Schools before working as a deputy superintendent for three years at Goshen.
Now, though he’s retiring as superintendent, Stahly plans to still be active in Goshen.
“I’d definitely like to stay involved in the community and do what I can as far as working for our community,” he said.
Open houses are coming up for three longtime Goshen Community Schools leaders ending their time with the school corporation this summer. The public is welcome to attend.
The open house for Chamberlain Elementary’s longtime principal Don Jantzi is this Wednesday in the Chamberlain gym from 3 to 6 p.m. Chamberlain is at 428 N. 5th St., Goshen.
The open house for retiring Superintendent Bruce Stahly is this Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Goshen Administration Building board room, 613 E. Purl St., Goshen. A short program will be at 5 p.m.
The open house for Goshen High School Principal Jim Kirkton will be Tuesday, May 22 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Goshen High School cafeteria. The high school is at 401 Lincolnway East., Goshen.