CHURUBUSCO — The event was a corporation meeting for the staff of Smith-Green Community Schools.
But with school beginning next week all over Whitley County, the advice that educational expert Ralph Bailey gave could help any educator.
Bailey, 85, SGCS’s interim superintendent, spoke to the many teachers, aides, administrators, maintenance and cafeteria staff Wednesday.
His topic was “Growing Together.”
He gave each person in attendance a packet of sunflower seeds and a can with a label which read “I Can!”
“I am not a speaker, but when it comes to schools I do believe it is important to help teachers and staff to do all they can to make our schools better for students and staff,” said Bailey.
“Sit back and relax, go to sleep if you must, but hopefully you will be awake long enough to hear about the miracle ingredient that will give all of you the best year yet.”
Bailey told those in attendance he believes this ingredient makes the biggest difference in a staff growing together and getting the most out of students.
“The ‘I Can If I Think I Can’ attitude is the magic ingredient,” said Bailey.
“In the last two years, I have seen more stress in teachers, administrators and staff than I have ever seen. If you listen to me today and follow my directions you will have the most positive years you’ve ever had,” he said.
Bailey explained why he decided to do interims after retiring from a successful career at Whitley County Consolidated Schools.
“I have attended probably more school board conventions, school superintendent conventions, school business seminars and meetings than any other superintendent in the state. I’m retired and I attended 20 meetings last year alone,” said Bailey.
“The nice part is I have no debts, don’t need to work. I don’t play golf, don’t fish and I do not like woodworking. But mostly I don’t want to sit in a rocking chair. I can say what I believe is best for schools, if someone does not like what I tell them what are they going to do … fire me?” said Bailey.
Bailey said his goal is to instill a positive attitude in everyone.
“We are all here for one purpose and that is to do our best,” he said. “Each one of you is important. We all have the same goal — to provide the best education for our students.
“We are here to make a difference to every student. Where would I be today if it wasn’t for my teachers, and especially Madelyn Dunlap, my fifth-grade teacher?
Bailey talked briefly about how he was born during the depression and was one of seven children.
“We were a poor family when it came to money but rich in love. I have this red mark on the side of my face and was teased about it from a lot of other kids. Mrs. Dunlap took me aside and encouraged me. I thank her for believing in me. She made me feel important and that kindness is still making the difference today,” he said.
Bailey continued, “My theme today is growing together. Let’s continue growing positive together with excellence. Let’s work together to make things better.
“There are some tough times ahead in education, but by working together and growing together we can accomplish what we are here for — (doing) what we can do that is best for children,” said Bailey.
He invited each one to start their day with a “Count Your Blessings” exercise.
“Begin by saying good things about yourself, the place in which you live and work. Name three blessings. Affirm each family member’s importance through hugs and sharing. Don’t leave the house in the morning in a bad mood. Make today and every day by planning to make it great. Good things seldom happen unless we work to make them great,” he said.
Bailey said, “Kids are not the same as when we were in school. We have a lot of great kids, but you know we have some real problem children. Then he read the following and asked the staff if they could relate to it.
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table and tyrannize their teachers.
“Who said that?” Bailey asked.
“Socrates! Maybe our children are not really that much different.”
And then he stepped away from the podium and using seeds, dirt and water he encouraged the staff to become good planters.
“I put dirt in. I put seeds in and then water and a little (fertilizer). Is that all it’s going to need? No! If you stop there the seed will die. It takes a lot of care,” said Bailey.
The seed is like a student, teacher, staff member, administrator or corporation.
“The seed, with the right ingredients and care, will become a big, beautiful, mature flower,” said Bailey.
Todd Fleetwood, business manager, came forward and read the ingredients to success. As he read them, Bailey climbed up a 12-foot ladder.
The ingredients are loving and kindness; positive, enthusiastic, caring, patience, dedicated, happy, good listener, good attitude, trustworthy, honesty, common sense, team work and a willingness to grow with a positive attitude.
When Bailey reached the top he placed a huge sunflower on the ladder.
Bailey issued a challenge to all of the staff members.
“By using my own money, not the corporation’s, I will give $150 to the person who grows the tallest sunflower by Oct. 15 and the second tallest $100,” said Bailey.
The staff member for the best decorated room or hallway will received $150 and the second place will receive $100.
Welcome new staff
Jim Folland, Churubusco Jr. Sr. High School principal, welcomed new staff members. They are Kim Vogtsberger, biology; Mary Richardson, speech and language; Parker Terry, choir and music director; Melissa Brenneke, special education; Chad Fulkerson, school resource officer; Rhonda Walters, business teacher, Sam Riesen, Social Studies; Jessica Wright, autism/behavior specialist. Wright is not a new teacher only a new position.
Shellie Miller, principal of Churubusco Elementary School, welcomed her new staff. They are Rachel Malcolm, kindergarten and Marissa Troyer, student teacher.
Luncheon to celebrate education
Scott Duffitt, chairman of the Business Education Community Partnership of Churubusco, welcomed the staff to a luncheon are pork farmers sponsored.
The food was supplied by Cormany Farms, Johnson Farms, Salomon Farms, Churubusco McDonalds, SGCS, Kelly and Becky Gross and BEC board members.
John Slavich, of the Whitley County Community Foundation told of the work of H.A.N.D.S.
“H.A.N.D.S. stands for Helping Achieve new Direction through Students. It is a 15-member student group (five students from each of the three county school systems), grades eight to 12 that meets monthly to discuss community needs, review grant requests and allocate funding to projects with an educational focus. The youth group is the result of a collaborative effort between the Dekko Foundation, the Community Foundation and three public school systems in Whitley County,” said Slavich, who is a retired educator from WCCS.
He told the two goals in HANDS 18-year history, was service projects and grants.
“So far, we’ve given $23,650 to Smith-Green Community Schools,” said Slavich.
Next Cindy Zollinger spoke about the Whitley County Literacy Council, in which she is board member. Zollinger is also a teacher at CES.
“The Whitley County Literacy Council began in 1987. And we continue not to give up on students. We are here to serve adults from 16-years and up,” said Zollinger.
The work of the council is all confidential and help is always one-on-one in a public place.
“Our goal is to reach the parents, aunts and uncles of the children who you are teaching. Our next big outreach is Celebrity Reading at the Whitley County Farmer’s Market on the Courthouse Square. Shellie Miller and Michael McPeak will be reading children’s books. Special bookmarks designed by CES Art Teacher Jill Bontrager will be given out all morning,” said Zollinger.