ELKHART — Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Rob Haworth explained at an Elkhart County League of Women Voters luncheon Wednesday that he encourages Elkhart’s principals to be “inside out” leaders in order to take on their jobs every day.
“If you are outside in, you get up in the morning and it’s raining outside, you know already you’re going to have a bad day. Why? Because it’s raining,” he explained. “You let something or somebody affect your behavior. Inside out, when you wake up, you realize the day you have is going to be determined by you.”
That’s an essential quality for school leaders, he said, because when students are coming from a variety of backgrounds and home lives, “our charge isn’t to make excuses. Our charge is to educate that child on that day and do the best we can. So, we want inside out leaders, leaders who believe they can make a difference every day.”
Haworth said that, while not all, many of Elkhart’s principals are “inside out.”
“They’re examining data, trying to read it just like doctors would to a patient that’s ill, they’re bringing great remedies, great strategies to try to support children,” he said. “Their focus is on curriculum, instruction, assessment, but it’s also on the basic needs of students who are coming through our doors — are they being fed, do they have a shirt to put on their back?”
During a question-and-answer time, Haworth said that Elkhart already has some successful models.
Monger Elementary, he said, has a percentage in the high 80s of kids eligible for free or reduced lunch and more than half of the school’s population is Hispanic. More than 78 percent of Monger’s students passed the English/language arts portion of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+) and 90 percent passed the math portion. A 21st Century grant allows Monger to have two more hours of school each day, which equates to a full extra school day. In another way, some elementary schools have collected coats for those students who arrive at school without one because they don’t own one, he said.
Several questions from audience members pertained to specific Indiana laws for schools, such as the state’s school funding formula and the impact of standardized tests, and some questions also touched on the recent election.
“I think collectively there’s a spirit in Elkhart,” Haworth said. “I think we just need to think differently about how we’re going to bring the things we believe in to our most precious gifts,” the children.