State Supt. Bennett makes visit to South Putnam High School

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
South Putnam High School Student Council members meeting with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett are (front, from left) Emily Dobson, Allacyn Arnold, Megan Arnold, Taylor Vansickle, Shelby Johnson, Olivia Arnold, Jessica Jones, Kassi Rains, Maddison Plunkett, Katie Hewitt, (back, from left) Aubrey Nichols, Nikki York, Kimberly Cheatham, J.D, Briones, Dr. Tony Bennett, Ryan Chestnut, Tyler Nield, and Matt Lund.

South Putnam High School Principal Kieth Puckett greeted some special visitors to his building Monday, Aug. 20.

First, Puckett and Assistant Principal Dan Bain welcomed Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett to campus.

Bennett conferenced with Puckett, Bain and South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt before touring the SPHS building.

Bennett questioned the South Putnam principal regarding his school's success in graduating its students, the system of rules and expectations South Putnam incorporates, and about the keys to South's rise in Advanced Placement participation and scores in recent years.

South students set a school record for graduation rate in 2011, graduating 94 percent of its senior cohort.

"The class of 2011 was a great class for us," Puckett noted.

"And, our teachers, administrators, counselors and staff all did a phenomenal job with those kids. For the past six years, we have averaged 87 percent while the state average is about 80 percent. Our staff does a consistently good job of getting kids to the finish line."

South Putnam discipline rate over the same period has dropped dramatically. The average South Putnam student in grades 7-12 averaged a written discipline referral every 900 class periods during the 2011-12 school year.

Puckett believes everyone at South should receive credit for that statistic.

"Mr. Bain, as assistant principal, is as good as there is, and we have tremendous kids to work with," he lauded. "The families in our district give us a great bunch of students, and, more importantly, their parental support.

"Our philosophy of discipline is to have high expectations for our kids and to be fair, firm and consistent," Puckett added. "It seems to be working because our teachers are fair, firm and consistent in their approach to classroom management."

South Putnam Advanced Placement program, which started six years ago, received recognition from Bennett this summer as one of the top three in the state for improvement on AP test scores.

Puckett gave credit to his teaching staff for the accomplishment.

"Our teachers have embraced he challenge of both AP participation and AP rigor," he said. "They've challenged and motivated our students to take AP courses and to achieve on the AP test."

South's AP instructors are Harriett Dobson, Tiffany Dickson, Natalie Hodge, Zach Love, Chris Jones and Theresa Doud.

Bennett concluded his visit by posing with all of the South Putnam High School class officers as well as Student Body President Ryan Chestnut.

To end an eventful day, Principal Puckett greeted the "big pink fire truck" to campus

The large truck showed up at dismissal, and after the initial confusion of where and how to park a vehicle that large in the midst of 250 cars leaving the school, an impromptu ceremony was held honoring breast cancer survivors Susanne Sullivan, Traci Heet and Pam Albright.

A high school friend of Sullivan's had called in a favor that initiated the visit.

Apparel sales fund the "Pink Heals Tour" and may be purchased at

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