SHARPSVILLE – Newly hired Tri-Central Community Schools Superintendent Tim Garland will be pushing for better test scores, a revamped Head Start program and a bigger preschool program as he gears up for his first year in the position.
And he will have to find a way to do all of this under some serious budget constraints.
Garland said Friday he was up for the challenge.
The new superintendent came from North Miami Junior-Senior High School, where he had served as an administrator since 2009.
He worked for years as a technology teacher in Logansport and Lafayette.
Before that, he spent 10 years at Delphi Automotive Electronics where he managed a response team to solve customer issues. He also served 11 years in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard. As a staff sergeant, he taught battle field skills to noncommissioned and commissioned officers at the Indiana Military Academy.
He said he will pull from all of that leadership experience as he leads Tri-Central into the future.
His first project in the Sharpsville district is to revamp the Head Start program. He wants to move it from a home-based program to a center-based one that will be operated on the district’s campus.
There are about 10 local families enrolled in the home-based program right now. He wants to serve more families in need.
He said he knows there has to be more than 10 low-income families eligible since 41 percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced priced lunches.
Garland said he hopes the change will draw more people to the program.
“I want to give the community as much benefit as I can,” he said.
Garland hopes to open the Head Start center by January of next year.
In that same vein, he wants to expand the district’s preschool program. Right now, it’s only open to Title I students — those who are disadvantaged.
He will also be taking a closer look at test scores across the district. Historically, Tri-Central has done pretty well, he said.
In June, the district was honored for having 25 percent or more of its students pass an AP exam before graduation. This year, only 34 schools in the state achieved that.
This is the third year Tri-Central has received the honor.
Traditionally, students perform well on the ISTEP, he said.
This year’s third-graders had trouble with the new IREAD-3 exam that measures reading comprehension, though. Garland said they were a class of struggling readers.
Twenty-two students failed the exam the first time around.
But over the summer, teachers worked closely with those students, giving them more individual attention and intense remediation.
They worked with students in small groups.
“The small group is what gets those kids through,” he said.
When the students tested again over the summer, all but four students passed. Three of those who failed are special education students who receive exemptions, he said.
When the special education students aren’t factored in, the district’s pass rate is about 98 percent, Garland said.
Still, he knows test scores can always improve. It’s critical that the district ensures students are doing as well as they can, he said.
Poor results will eventually kill them financially, he said. Word of those numbers spreads quickly. Good numbers could mean more students transferring in to Tri-Central. Bad numbers could cause more to transfer out, he said.
That’s not something the district can afford.
Garland predicted that district test scores would plateau this coming school year but would start rising after that as he implements changes in the coming year.
Garland said he loves working in rural districts. He loves the tradition and the values, he said.
But they pose unique challenges.
“With us, it’s been budget issues,” he said. “We’re losing assessed value to the new U.S. 31. And it takes money to build curriculum, to hire teachers.”
Tri-Central has already made cuts to budgets and staffing, Garland said. The next thing he will address is any overspending there might be. He will also look for more grant money.
At the end of the day, though, Tri-Central needs to attract more students, he said, because state dollars follow them now.
“That’s a big obstacle,” he said.
How does he plan to address it? By becoming the best school in the area, he said.
When they do that, the numbers will speak for themselves, he said.
He knows Tri-Central can get there, too.
“They have the drive,” he said. “My job is to push them that much harder.”
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.