Part of a series on my participation in the Putnam County Leadership Academy.
It was an interesting time when I graduated from Greencastle High School back in 2013. It was not only because I was overweight -- and had a much fuller head of hair.
It was not long after Superintendent Lori Richmond left GCSC, "following months of discord with staff, students and the public," as the Banner Graphic put it in April of that year. Even then, My feeling was the school-community had won a war of attrition.
I will not claim to know what occurred behind closed doors during Richmond's tenure. What I do remember is that until she left, there had been palpable feelings of fear and distrust. Some of my teachers maybe softened them, but they couldn't hide it totally.
This discord was internal. If there is anything that COVID-19 has brought out about our schools, it is that the external issues will compound those decisions. Of course -- as with kids wearing face masks -- they can be caught in the socio-political crossfire.
Second-grade teacher Tonia Dibble and GCSC Assistant Supt. Jenny French told us in the PCLA 2020 group that communication with our community at large is crucial.
They spoke about the challenges which continue to impact Greencastle Schools, and they are the same as those faced by the other Putnam County school districts which I cover for the Banner. Two of the most critical are e-learning and government funding.
"Do I love it? No," Dibble said about teaching online. I appreciated her candidness about not being prepared in April -- when our schools were closed and didn't come back. They became prepared, she suggested, because they've all tried to pull together.
French referenced the fact that Greencastle Schools continues to face a declining enrollment. This affects average daily enrollment (ADM), which in turn determines how much educational funding public school systems get per student from the state.
With e-learning, it's about teachers, administrators and staff being on the same page procedurally. With sustainability, French suggested, it becomes about marketing the opportunities -- such as dual credits and sports -- GCSC can offer to students. This is where we as influencers and community members, as well as the kids, can come in.
Some will be given to showing the negative more than the positive. Businesses, just as parents, have to be on board with our schools if they are to thrive. As it always is in the Banner Graphic newsroom, oftentimes it's about just being aware of what's going on.
Same thing here, only we're talking about advertising those attributes. Still, this is one way in which online and physical school-communities can be promoted. This certainly includes DePauw University and its outreach efforts through the McDermond Center.
French said there are "too many hands in the pie" internally with trying to manage GCSC's online presence. If, though, the community as a whole can be committed to showing the best of Greencastle, North Putnam, South Putnam or Cloverdale, that means all of us would be investing in our public schools as powerful forces for unity.
What is different in 2020 from how it was in 2013, Dibble said genuinely, is the love became stronger at Greencastle. This is a rather broad, liberal artsy metric to go off of.
However, she credited Supt. Jeff Gibboney -- who came from the outside -- with inspiring that "fresh vision" of a more positive and cohesive environment. They want to promote the same communication with social media and community involvement.
"We want that professionalism as teachers," Dibble said about raising that standard. However, it's just as important for that school-community to be more like a family.