Chip Pettit – District 1
Chip Pettit served as principal of Crown Point High School for seven years and is currently the superintendent of Duneland School Corporation. Chip did his undergraduate work at Valparaiso University, earned his master’s degree from Indiana University Northwest, and completed his doctorate in educational leadership at Ball State University this past July. During his career in education, he has taught both at-risk and advanced placement students, served as a middle school athletic director, dean of students, and head football coach at the high school level, and performed the role of director of student services. While principal, Chip’s collaboration with students, parents, teachers, staff, and the community led Crown Point to be named the number one public high school in Indiana by Newsweek, recognizing that through educational and community partnerships, 75% of graduating seniors earned college credit, and one-third of all students completed a year of college credit prior to graduating from high school. In addition, his work in coordinating efforts with the community allowed the development of a work-based learning and internship program through which seniors accepted placements in 250 local businesses that aligned with their college and career interests. Chip also found time to work as an adjunct professor for Purdue University Northwest and serve as director of the Northwest Indiana High School Principals Roundtable.
Alissa Schnick – District 2
Alissa Schnick earned her bachelor’s degree in English education from Ball State University and her master’s degree in educational leadership from Indiana University South Bend. After serving as assistant principal for Westville Middle School, Alissa became the principal of Westville Middle School/High School. She has served on the advisory committee for Purdue Northwest and currently works with Ready Northwest Indiana, the goal of which is to prepare a talent pool of potential employees who hold a college degree or high-value post-high school credential aligned with employers’ specific needs. At Westville, she has lead a 97% growth on state assessments and implemented the Blackhawk Academy, an online curriculum aimed at meeting the needs of at-risk students. In recognition of successes in addressing academic, physical, emotional, and social needs of students while simultaneously developing active involvement of families in schools and the community, her school has been designated a Family Friendly School by the Indiana Department of Education. According to her superintendent, Alissa has “worked very hard to instill a culture of rigor, accountability, and achievement into Westville High School.” She sees listening, communication, and empathy as three pillars of her philosophy of leadership.
Travis Heavin – District 3
After earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana State University, qualifying him for an Indiana teacher’s license in U.S. history, economics, world history, and geography, Travis Heavin went on to enroll in the Administrative Credential Program at California Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. Returning to Indiana, he took a master’s degree in educational leadership at Indiana State University and began a doctorate in educational leadership at Purdue. After serving as assistant principal at East Noble High School in Kendallville, Travis becme principal at Avila Elementary/Middle School in 2006. In 2007 he became principal at East Noble Middle School and in 2012 principal at Angola High School. He counts adding dual credit and AP classes as his proudest achievement. His superintendent points to his moving the high school schedule from a four-block plan to a traditional seven-period day and of implementing one-to-one computing for all high school students as well as providing staff development to his faculty while remaining open to allowing teachers to take risks in trying out new ideas and strategies. Active in his community, Travis serves on the board of the Carnegie Public Library of Steuben County and is member of the Steuben County Workforce Taskforce.
Tom Harmas – District 5
A graduate of Indiana University, where he earned both his Bachelor of Science degree and master’s degree in secondary education, Tom Harmas graduated from the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals at Butler University, earned his educational specialist degree from Indiana State University, and pursued his doctorate in educational leadership at Oakland City University. After eight years as a teacher at Indian Creek High School in the Nineveh Hensley Jackson School Corporation, Tom became assistant principal at Tipton High School and then assistant principal at Avon High School. Then, in 1998, he took up the role of principal at Mt. Vernon Middle School and later at Creekside Middle School (Carmel Clay Schools). In 2017, he became principal of Carmel High School. Concerned about mental health among students, teachers, and parents, Tom has led the creation of programs to inform all stakeholders of the best mental health practices. With over 75% of students trained in Ask-Listen-Tell Suicide Prevention, his focus on building relationships has resulted in the creation of adult clubs and of two mental health awareness nights open to the community and offering breakout sessions dealing with topics such as raising the adolescent, stress and the adolescent, drug awareness, and parent mental health. His superintendent characterizes Tom as a collaborative servant leader.
Keith Burke – District 6
Keith Burke earned both his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Oakland City University. Beginning his career as a social studies teacher and assistant football coach at Madisonville-North Hopkins High School in Kentucky, Keith moved to Indianapolis Public Schools where he taught, coached, and served as athletic director at Broad Ripple High School, both assistant principal and principal at George Washington Community School, and athletic director and head football coach at Arsenal Tech High School. Then, following three years as principal for T. C. Howe High School (CSUSA), he accepted the position of principal at Marion High School. From the “war room,” he and his staff track student progress from freshmen through senior year, partnering with teachers, in-district social services, and outside agencies to provide the right interventions and support to promote student success, achieving a 96% graduation rate every year since 2014. Keith is particularly proud of the JROTC Raiders Program which won the national championship for the 2018-2019 school year and of the Marion High School Academic Super Bowl Team which has placed in the top four in at least one subject area every year since 2014. He says, “Collaboration and teamwork make the dream work here at Marion High School”
Steve Samuel – District 7
Having spent his professional career in the MSD of Wayne Township, Steve Samuel has taught at both the 7th and 8th Grade Center and the Ninth Grade Center where he served as assistant principal and now works as the principal. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University and a Master of Science degree from Butler University. As a result of developing and refining new teacher professional learning in tandem with an informal mentor program, he has seen teacher turnover fall from 15% to 4% annually. Through the Habits of Success Curriculum, he supervised the development of a soft skills curriculum to support students transitioning to credit-earning classes. Steve has also launched a Naviance program, completed the STEM certification process, established the first AP course – AP World History, and added a PLTW Biomedical Science elective. In advance of a one-to-one Chromebook rollout, Steve led year-long professional development to prepare teachers to leverage the devices to have an optimal impact on student learning. To maintain a healthy and informed faculty, he also initiated Healthy Start, a self-care program for teachers that included massage, exercise, and nutrition, as well as financial, and legal sessions throughout January and February. In addition, he also secured a grant to fund the launch of PBIS programming school-wide, leveraging the money to sustain the program for three years. Currently serving as the president of the Marion County Principals Association, Steve has also served as a leader in the Children’s Policy Law Initiative.
Jason Chew – District 8
Jason Chew started his career as a social studies instructor at Owen Valley High School before moving on to South Putnam Junior/Senior High School as a special education instructor, then serving in the same capacity at North Putnam High School. Starting his administrative career as dean of students there, he soon moved up to be assistant principal and has been the principal since 2014. Earning both a Bachelor of Science degree in education and a Master of Science degree in special education at Indiana University, Jason obtained his principal licensure certification from Oakland City University. Following a two-year program of planning and professional development, his school successfully implemented a program of one-to-one computing with Chromebooks. Having convened a College/Career Advisory Council who aided in the development of North Putnam’s Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate, North Putnam will be awarding this certificate for the first time in May of 2020. The development of North Putnam University, a collaboration between North Putnam and Ivy Tech, brings college professors on site to teach dual credit courses, allowing students to earn up to twelve dual credits in liberal arts courses. Stemming from a program Jason initially started during his internship using funds from a grant he wrote, he has developed a partnership with Cummins Behavioral Health that now has two full-time therapists and three full-time life skills specialists who work with students in all four schools in the North Putnam Community School Corporation. As a member of the Principal’s Advisory Focus Group, Jason worked in cooperation with the State Board of Education on the development of Graduation Pathways. Outside of school, he also serves as a member of the Putnam County Economic Development Workforce Group.
Kevin Rockey – District 9
After Kevin Rockey began his career teaching social studies in Michigan, he moved to Indiana and taught at-risk students at Edinburgh Community Middle School and later served as Director of Guidance at Waldron Junior/Senior High School. Currently the principal of Edinburgh Community High School, Kevin was previously the principal at Edinburgh Community Middle School. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in secondary social studies from Ball State University and his Master of Science degree in guidance and counseling from Indiana University where he also took his certification in school administration. In 2013, he earned his education specialist degree from Indiana State University. He is particularly pleased with programs he instituted to impact students individually in the social/emotional area. In implementing the Freshman Focus program to help student make the transition to high school smoothly, he coordinated creation of a peer mentor class that provides guidance to homerooms and works with elementary students as well. In cooperation with the Simon Youth Academy and the outlet mall near the high school, he worked to create an alternative school which has increased the graduation rate and has provided opportunities for students to gain employment while attending school. Overall, Kevin is most proud of the growth and development of former teachers and assistant principals with whom he has worked and who have made an impact on students’ lives and the surrounding community.
Curtis Chase – District 10
Curtis Chase earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education with both social studies and math endorsements from Franklin College, his master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Ball State University, and his educational specialist degree from Indiana State University. Curtiss began his career teaching math first at West Central High School and later at Edinburgh Middle School, while he simultaneously served as head varsity boys’ basketball coach at Edinburgh High School. His administrative career first saw him acting as expulsion officer at Edinburgh’s middle and high schools and subsequently attendance officer at Edinburgh High School. After serving as interim principal at East Side Elementary School (Edinburgh), he assumed duties as director of Edinburgh Academy. In 2008, Curtiss became assistant principal of Edinburgh High School. Then, in 2012, he became principal of Southwestern Junior-Senior High School (Southwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County). He identifies the implementation of the Teacher Advisory Program as the most successful innovation of the past school year. With the support of the Lily Counseling Implementation Grant, teachers collaborate with community members, students, businesses, and key stakeholders to implement a variety of activities and programs that support students’ social and emotional health while providing them with opportunities to develop their college and career readiness, including hard and soft skills for their future careers. However, he is proudest “knowing that our community has my back, just like I will always have theirs.”
Steve Combs – District 11
With a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Evansville, Steve Combs went on to earn his Master of Education degree from Olivet Nazarene University. Fulfilling his dream of emulating his high school coach, Steve began his career as a social studies teacher and coach – first as assistant and then as varsity basketball coach – at Lincoln High School in Vincennes. When, in 2003, his wife was killed in an automobile accident, he found himself at a crossroads, uncertain of whether to continue teaching and coaching or to leave education altogether. He decided to stay in education, earned his principal certification at Oakland University, and took the job of assistant principal at Clark Middle School in Vincennes, moving on to same position at Lincoln High School, where in 2010 – after being thrust into the role of interim principal, he has been the principal for the past nine years. His proudest achievement arises from facing the fact that between 85% and 90% if his graduating seniors were attending Vincennes University, but less than half were returning for their sophomore year. Working with assistance from CELL at the University of Indianapolis, Steve’s school graduated their first students with Statewide Transfer General Education Core certificates, showing that their students finished their first year of college while still in high school. Each year since that first class the number of students earning the certificate has increased; fifty-two did so last year. One of Steve’s core beliefs is that “leaders give credit and accept blame,” and he acknowledges that he stands “on the shoulders of a fantastic group of faculty, staff and a supportive central office.”
Ric Manns – District 12
Ric Manns earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in history from Kentucky Christian University and the other in elementary education from Indiana University. He took his master’s degree at the University of Lousiville. Before retiring at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, he served for eight years as principal of Scottsburg High School. A native of Scottsburg, he had graduated from Scottsburg High School in 1980. Married and the father of a daughter, he has two grandchildren, he hopes to spend more time with his father and volunteering at church.
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