Thriving Rural Communities

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By Brett R. Boggs
Superintendent of Schools
Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation

The information to be shared in this Valley Insight article comes from the March 2016 issue of Thriving Communities, Thriving State in an article titled, “Recommendations for Thriving Rural Communities”.  The Rural and Small Town Commission brought together 16 individuals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors – people with an interest in small towns, rural communities, and unincorporated areas throughout the state – to identify common community challenges and opportunities and to develop strategies to address them over the next ten years.

After analyzing the issues important to 58 Indiana rural counties and small communities throughout the state, the commission found that throughout Indiana’s history, small towns and rural areas offer select economic and quality-of-life advantages.  They have consistently been wonderful places to live, work, and raise families.  Hoosiers in small towns and rural communities look out for each other and their communities.  In small towns there are many opportunities to get involved and exercise leadership.  Rural and small community leaders are more accessible and visible than leaders in other communities.  These assets position rural communities to effectively develop and exercise social capital in ways that would be difficult in larger communities.  Many of Indiana’s rural and small towns benefit from tremendous natural assets, a strong community and civic heritage, unique spaces and structures, and a history of civic investment.  All of these assets can serve as the basis for attracting a talented workforce, developing local business, and energizing local economies.

While rural and small towns have charm and economic potential, they face significant challenges.  The greatest demographic concern for many rural communities is the out-migration of rural youth to other places within the state and nation.  Many rural communities disproportionately lose population as rural-educated youth enter college and then to do not return to the community after college. This is a cause of economic development challenges for many rural communities and also diminishes the pool of emerging and potential leaders.  Many rural communities have also experienced the demise of local businesses and employment options in favor of broader regional options.

The commission found four priorities for making Indiana’s rural communities and small towns more successful.  To help rural Indiana communities thrive in the immediate future they must embrace:  1) Identifying, developing, and engaging strong leadership; 2) Entrepreneurship is the key to creating jobs and retaining young residents; 3) Increased access to and quality of education are critical to rural workforce development; and 4) For quality of life and quality of place, rural and small towns must think beyond the status quo.

In future Valley Insight articles I plan to address each of these priorities with a look at what Tippecanoe Valley is doing to ensure our small towns and rural community are thriving places for years to come.

Valley’s Focus on The Growth Mindset

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By Blaine Conley
Assistant Superintendent
Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation

Over the summer months, teachers from Tippecanoe Valley participated in the Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute for four days, All Write Summer Institute for two days, IDOE training on the new high school science standards for one day, ACP training for two days, Project Lead the Way training for two days and the e3 Conference for two days.  The time away from their families is a sacrifice during the summer months and demonstrates the dedication teachers at TVSC possess in improving instructional practices to meet the needs of our students.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  As we have completed the first few weeks of school, I’ve been reflecting on John Wooden’s quote.  The data shows that many teachers at Tippecanoe Valley continue to work during the summer months to improve their craft in preparation of the upcoming year.  These individuals exemplify our school corporation’s vision by doing whatever it takes to equip all students to be outstanding today, tomorrow and beyond.

When over 40% of the staff works to improve over the summer, how do we implement these strategies throughout our schools when the year begins?  It starts with what Peter Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive, “Organization is a means of multiplying the strength of an individual.”  Our teachers meet twice a week for 40-minute sessions before school during collaboration time as grade level and department teams.  Using the problem solving method, teams work to address the basic needs of students and then address academic issues.  Aligning curriculum, developing formative assessments and analyzing data are a few examples of how teachers at TVSC work collaboratively.  Individual teachers produce amazing results in their classrooms, but when they collectively work together, we achieve so much more.  The success of walking across the stage at graduation is a K-12 endeavor that takes teamwork, sacrifice and dedication from many adults working together.

In Carol Dweck’s work, Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success, the growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset is discussed in detail.  In a nutshell, the growth mindset focuses on a person’s belief that they have the ability to change their level of intelligence through the process of learning from one’s mistakes.  The fixed mindset is a belief that you can learn new things, but your level of intelligence cannot substantially change.  TVSC staff members work within their collaborative teams to meet students at their ability level and then challenge them through processes that focus on the growth mindset.

On October 2, 2015 four amazing men who positively influenced our community lost their lives in a tragic accident.  Those in education, no matter their roles, are nation builders as they work with students to develop greater intelligence through the growth mindset.  The time educators sacrifice from their families to help students become valuable contributors to society is appreciated by the community and demonstrates the values exhibited by those lost on that October night.

Distinguished Alumni Dinner and Halftime Recognition

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On Thursday night, Sept. 15, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation honored the nine members of the Distinguished Alumni Class of 2016. Each honoree and his or her family members were invited to enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by middle school and Mentone cafeteria staff at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School. The dinner was followed by an interview portion moderated by local radio personality Rita Price.

This year’s class of Distinguished Alumni is made up of Greg Gibble, graduate of the class of 1978; the late Scott Bibler, graduate of the class of 1982; Mindy (Creighton) Truex, graduate of the class of 1983; Tim Doud, graduate of the class of 1988, and Lisa (Harger) Fear, graduate of the class of 1996. The other part of the group, recipients of the Legacy Award, is made up of a combination of graduates from Akron, Beaver Dam, Burket, Mentone, and Talma High Schools. Recipients include the late Ann (Kindig) Allen, who graduated from Akron in 1952; Lee Norris, who graduated from Beaver Dam in 1947; Norman Wagoner, who graduated from Talma in 1955, and Tim Harman, who graduated from Mentone in 1972.

Celebrations continued on Friday, when honorees gave presentations and ate lunch with students, in addition to touring Tippecanoe Valley High School. Finally, each person was celebrated and presented with a plaque during halftime of the football game. We are proud to have these Distinguished Alumni represent our schools and inspire our next generation of leaders!

Pictured, back row, L to R: Tim Harman, Tim Doud, Norman Wagoner, and Greg Gibble. Front row, L to R: Stephanie Bibler (wife of Scott Bibler), Lisa (Harger) Fear, and Mindy (Creighton) Truex. Not pictured: Lee Norris and a representative of Ann (Kindig) Allen.