CHURUBUSCO — Encourager, gracious, positive, hard worker, giver, community and children’s advocate, husband, father, grandfather, manager and gardener. These are just some adjectives describing one of the hardest working educators in Whitley County.
Ralph Bailey retired from being a superintendent at Whitley County Consolidated Schools in 1991 after 23 years of service, but hasn’t stopped working since.
Bailey, 84, was selected as interim superintendent at Smith-Green Community Schools for the second time July 2, after a surprise resignation from Steve Darnell, who’s last day was June 29.
Education of a leader
Bailey graduated from Pierceton High School and planned to study business at Manchester College. After two years he received his associate’s degree in business but went on to minor in Science and English and received his Bachelor of Science degree.
Bailey served in the U.S. Army Air Corps after that time.
From 1951 to 1953 he taught at Coesse School. Bailey wanted more education so he graduated from Indiana University with a master’s degree. He then became principal of Etna Troy Elementary School.
Bailey left Whitley County for three years and served as principal at Cromwell Schools in the West Noble Community Schools system.
In 1966, he began his illustrious career as superintendent of Columbia City Schools, which is now Whitley County Consolidated Schools. The building that is now Eagle Tech is named Ralph Bailey Administration Center and features an engraved picture of him on the entry hallway.
He is fondly known by CCHS graduates.
“Mr. Bailey is the kindest man I know. He was my superintendent when I was at CCJHS,” said Sheryl L. Crawford-Hackett of Churubusco.
“We need more Ralph Baileys in this world,” said Phoebe Gallagher Roehrs, CCJHS alumni.
He retired Sept. 6, 1989, and planned to spend retirement with his wife, Loretta, at their home in Florida.
Loretta died in 1991 and the couple only enjoyed the home in Florida for two years together.
“I thought when I retired I would visit my kids and grandchildren and garden,” said Bailey.
A second wind
After Loretta died Bailey received a call two weeks later from Waterford Elementary School in Goshen.
“The superintendent at Goshen called me and wanted me to come to Waterford as they had just fired the principal one month into September,” said Bailey.
The school was having some morale problems.
“At Waterford I became interim elementary school principal. I was there one year,” said Bailey.
That one year at Waterford was key in his career after his retirement because he redeveloped “I Can, If I Think I Can” theme.
Since 1991, Bailey has done 11 interims and nine of them have been as interim superintendent.
Bailey has many goals for SGCS. Included are curriculum improvement, improve morale of staff, community and staff involvement to follow the mission statement and above all do what is in the best interest for children.
“When I was here before I saw SGCS as a great community with a great staff,” said Bailey.
He has worked with well over 100 school board members.
“I have never found one that did not want the best for schools,” said Bailey.
Bailey’s belief is when you employ him as the superintendent to accomplish the goals as set up by the school board policy, he needs to be working to get it done.
Bailey's awards are Sagamore of the Wabash Award, which is the highest award given to an individual by the Indiana governor. It represents humanity in living, loyalty in friendship; wisdom in council and inspiration in leadership; 2004 Columbia City Citizen of the Year; 1997 Loren Burt Award for top education award for Indiana; 1998 Whitley County Volunteer of the Year; State International Reading Association Award for outstanding contributions to reading council activities and Sena Kauty Memorial Award presented by Association of Media Educators for libraries and radio; Carl F. Arnston Award from Child Protection Services and 2006 Indiana Home Town Hero Award.