Michael Wells – District 1
Michael Wells earned his Bachelor of Science degree in education from Indiana University in 1994 and his Master of Science in education administration from Purdue University Calumet in 2007. After serving as a classroom teacher at Harrison Middle School (Merrillville) from 1995 to 1999, at Munster High School from 1999 to 2003, and in Chicago Public Schools from 2003 to 2007, he became assistant principal at Munster High School from 2007 to 2013. Currently, Michael is principal there. He takes particular pride in the impact of the Alumni Hall of Fame and the Faculty and Staff Hall of Fame programs that recognize achievement and inspire students. He also points to the success of structured professional learning communities, data analysis and discussion, the introduction of KHAN Academy, and the implementation of remedial resource time. Under his leadership, Munster High School became the first school in the state to be AdvanceEd STEM certified. His superintendent writes, “Mr. Wells is extremely effective because he is always focused on student learning and growth.”
Troy Akers – District 2
After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in special education at Anderson University in 1985, Troy Akers taught from 1985 to 1988 at Churusbusco Jr/Sr High School and at Wawasee High School from 1988 to 1993. He earned his master’s degree from Ball State University in 1991. In 1993, he served as director of alternative schools for Wawasee Community Schools until 1996 when he took on the job of dean of attendance at Warsaw Community High School. Then, in 1999, he became assistant principal there, and in 2008, principal. Troy emphasizes the importance of the word “all” to the school’s mission statement: “to inspire and equip all students to continuously acquire and apply knowledge and skills while pursuing their dreams and enriching the lives of others.” Further, he credits collaboration with Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the Curry School of Education and the use of Illuminate with improvement in student performance. Troy’s superintendent, a former teacher and student under him, regards him as an inspiring role model. Further, he says “all students leave WCHS better people and well prepared due to Mr. Akers’ influence.”
David Parker – District 3
A graduate of Taylor University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in art education in 1995, and of Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he earned his Master of Science degree in education leadership in 2008, David Parker taught for thirteen years and served as assistant principal and then principal of Whitko High School. Following an interlude of three years in the business world, David returned to education to become principal of Norwell High School (Northern Wells Community Schools). He counts among his proudest accomplishments the expansion of AP and dual credit offerings at both high schools at which he has served as principal. At Norwell he has also led expansion of career and technical education. Emphasizing teachers as influencing leaders, challenging students to greater academic challenges, and committing to increasing the number of Core 40 diplomas earned, David keeps the best interests of students foremost in his efforts. His superintendent writes that students “revere Mr. Parker for his leadership and genuine interest in each of them,” that teachers “respect him for his commitment to excellence and willingness to lead by example,” and that colleagues “rely on his wisdom and expertise.”
Michael Cox – District 4
In 1994, Michael Cox graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education along with a K-12 computer education certificate. From 1995 to 1998, he was the computer teacher at Hamilton Heights Middle School. At the same time he served as the athletic director, continuing to do so when he became the dean of students in 1998. In 2004, he moved to Northridge Middle School (North Montgomery School Corporation) where he taught eighth grade social studies. Next, Michael moved to North Montgomery High School as assistant principal in 2007, earning his Master of Arts in education from Ball State University in 2008. Since 2014, he has been the principal at North Montgomery, earning a certificate of Applied Educational Neuroscience from Butler University in 2018. Michael notes the switch from valedictorian and salutatorian recognition to the cum laude recognition system among his proudest achievements. In addition, he calls the implementation of applied educational neuroscience “the most impactful system of change I have been a part of in my twenty-five years of education leadership.” The director of student services at North Montgomery writes, “Michael emanates a positive energy and has a contagious knack for finding the silver lining in any situation.”
Rick Davis – District 5
Rick Davis received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Butler University in 1993 before beginning his career at Western High School in 1993. In 2005, he became assistant principal there and, in 2007, principal. Since 2018, he has been the principal of Sheridan High School. Along the way, he earned his Master of Education degree in 1997 and completed the principal licensure program in 2006, both through Indiana Wesleyan University. Rick takes special pride in the alternative learning center started in 2011 which has seen upwards of 85% of students re-enter the regular student population or graduate within four or five years. He has also developed the Wednesday Enrichment Block, a thirty-minute period during which teachers develop a solid mentor relationship with students who need help, and the Save Our Seniors intervention program which partners the most at-risk seniors with at least one faculty member. In addition, Rick put together a team to rebrand the Sheridan Blackhawk which, with the help of a Jostens artist, created a unique image for the school logo and mascot. Rick’s superintendent praises Rick as a school and community leader while adding, “As a parent, I appreciate that Rick is part of my ‘team’ in raising our own children in the Sheridan community.”
Renee Lakes – District 6
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in education from Butler University in 1994, Renee Lakes first taught science at St. Luke Catholic School (Indianapolis) from 1994 to 2001 and from 2001 to 2005 at New Castle Middle School. Having received her Master of Science degree in administration and supervision from Butler in 2004, she became principal of Western Wayne Elementary School in 2005 and then principal of Lincoln Middle/High School in 2017. Renee recalls with pride the opening of a free preschool program at Western Wayne Elementary in 2007. Also of particular pride is the collaborative work with community leaders and companies she led to determine the skills necessary for employment right out of high school, work which has culminated in a dedicated mentoring program to teach the identified skills as well as a weaving of those skills into Lincoln’s entire curriculum. The five principles of her leadership strategy are joy, community, impact, empowerment, and teamwork. A teacher at Lincoln describes Renee as “amazingly passionate about students’ social and emotional well-being” and says, “She is sincere in her attempts to help everyone be ‘just a little bit better than you were yesterday.”
Rebecca Daugherty-Saunders – District 7
Rebecca Daugherty-Saunders received her Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Ball State University in 1998. That fall she began her teaching career at Frederick Douglass Middle School (Indianapolis Public Schools), moving to New Augusta Public Academy North (MSD of Pike Township in Marion County) in 2000. From 2002 to 2006, she taught science at Hamilton Southeastern High School, during which tenure she took her Master of Arts in educational administration and supervision at Ball State in 2005. In 2006, Rebecca became assistant principal and later principal of the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center. Then, in 2013, she became principal of Ben Davis University High School. Having earned her Ed.S. from Indiana State University In 2017, she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in educational supervision and higher educational leadership at ISU as well. Applying the data team process at the Ninth Grade Center led her to create a School-Wide Attendance Team (SWAT) which engaged the same approach. At BDU, Rebecca overhauled the schedule, initiated a peer tutoring program, developed opportunities for students to gain authentic learning opportunities, and transitioned from primarily online courses to courses taught by credentialed instructors. Associate degree graduation rates have increased from 35% to 99%. Acknowledging her inclusive accomplishments, her superintendent writes of Rebecca that “she organizes the school so that all social, economic, and racial/ethnic groups have equal access to all programs and provides the support needed for student success.”
Matthew Shockley – District 8
Principal of Avon High School, Matthew Shockley earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Hanover College in 1993 and his Master of Science degree in education from Butler in 1999. Starting his career at Tipton High School in 1993, he first taught special education and then social studies. In 1999, he took on the role of assistant principal there until 2001 when he moved to Center Grove High School in the same position. From 2004 to 2013, Matthew was the principal at Center Grove High School; then, in 2013, he assumed that role at Avon High School. Among his proudest achievements there he counts the Junior Day of Caring in partnership with the United Way. On the same day, seniors, 100 of them trained the prior evening, lead small groups and facilitate team-building activities. For freshmen and their families, he employs a variety of information and orientation events. Additionally, at the invitation of the IDOE, Avon High School adopted the Jobs for America program to help students at risk of not completing high school. In addition, a Work-Based Learning Coordinator reinvigorated the school’s internship program. Under his leadership, his school has achieved numerous academic honors. Matthew’s superintendent characterizes him as “charismatic, forward thinking, and extraordinarily passionate about making a difference in the lives of our youth.”
Brian Disney – District 9
In 1993, Brian Disney received his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics education and began his career as a teacher and coach at Decatur Central (MSD of Decatur Township in Marion County). He continued teaching when he moved to Culver Community High School in 1997 and then on to Jennings County Middle/High School in 2000. Having completed his Master of Science degree in school counseling at IUPUI and IU South Bend, Brian became the director of guidance at Zionsville High School in 2002 where he continued to coach as well. From 2005 to 2011, he taught and coached at Brownsburg High School during which time he earned his administrative licensure from IUPUI in 2009. In 2011, Brian became assistant principal at Franklin Central High School, serving until he became principal of Mooresville High School in 2013. In his first year, he redefined department heads as instructional leaders instead of department managers. Under his guidance, the technology team started in 2018 implemented the integration of technology into classroom instruction and is spearheading eLearning during the current pandemic. Championing a rigorous academic program, he is proud of the fact that 70% of graduates have earned college credits through AP and dual credit courses. His superintendent credits Brian with the success of staff, students, and families during the confusion connected to maneuvering through the COVID crisis.
Grant Peters – District 10
Grant Peters earned his Bachelor of Science degree in marketing (2002) and his Master of Arts in Teaching degree (2005) from the University of Indianapolis. From 2005 to 2012, he taught business classes at both the middle and high schools in the Shelbyville Central school district. From 2012 to 2014, Grant was the athletic director for South Vermillion High School, during which time he received his building level administrator certification from Ball State University. In 2014, he became the assistant principal at Greensburg Community High School and, in 2015, he became the principal. Grant earned his Ed.S. in school administration in 2018. Among the achievements and programs he implemented and of which he is most proud, he counts the implementation of Early College Endorsement, the redesign of the PLC model, the development of the “Pirates are Primed” marketing program for the school, and a consistent graduation rate throughout his tenure as principal. However, he is most proud of authentic relationships with his people. His superintendent praises Grant’s active presence in the community and connections forged with over 250 businesses in Greensburg.
Steve Peterson – District 11
After graduating from Indiana University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematical education, Steve Peterson began his career teaching math at F. J. Reitz High School (Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation). He completed his Master of Science degree in public school administration at Indiana State University in 2000, the same year he moved to Loogootee Junior/Senior High School. Then, in 2001, he assumed the same position at Hobart High School until 2008 when he became principal of Gavit Middle/High School (School City of Hammond). From 2011 to 2016, Steve served as principal of East Noble High School. Since 2016, he has been the principal of Washington High School (Washington Community Schools), taking his Ed.S. from Indiana State University in 2019. In his current position, Steve has forged partnerships with businesses locally and regionally to create project-based learning experiences, including internships with the local hospital and the Crane Naval Base. Through the College and Career Academy, he has expanded Project Lead the Way offerings to include multiple years of courses in engineering, biomed, and computer science – his being the smallest school to do so. In addition, Steve’s work to partner with the University of Notre Dame has yielded advanced training for AP teachers and expanded course offerings for students. Coupled with dual credit offerings through Vincennes, such opportunities have resulted in some students graduating with an associate’s degree. His colleague writes of him, “Steve is at his best in challenging situations where he encourages and leads meaningful conversations between all stakeholders.”
Julie Straight – District 12
Beginning her career in education in the Greater Clark County Schools in 1988, Julie Straight taught English at New Washington High School before transferring in 1990 to Jeffersonville High School. For 21 years, she served as adviser for clubs, and coached gymnastics, cheer, and track and field. In 2012, Julie became assistant principal and then principal in 2014. She counts as one of her proudest achievements guiding her school out of probation to an “A” rating by using interventions and strategic scheduling. As the culmination of two years of planning, Jeffersonville High School became a wall-to-wall Academy school, transitioning through the Ford Next Generation Learning network. Julie forecasts that 86% of current seniors will graduate via a graduation pathway career sequence. Married for 36 years, she and her husband have three children and one grandson, soon to be joined by a granddaughter. Julie is now the Academy/CTE Coordinator for Greater Clark County Schools.