Interview by Dirk Webb
The Alexandria Community School Corporation is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and is a consolidation of township and city. With over 1,500 students in two campuses, the Alexandria-Monroe Elementary, Intermediate, Junior and Senior High Schools are impressively situated to serve students throughout their community.
This vibrant school system is led by Superintendent, Dr. Alice Johnson and School Board President Warren Brown who also serves as Economic Development Director for the City of Alexandria.
According to Merriam-Webster the word, optimism, is defined as a feeling or belief that good things will happen.
Would you consider Madison County to be in the midst of sunrise? What does the business sunrise across the horizon look like to you?
(Dr. Johnson) “Absolutely. I’ve been here eight years and in terms of the school corporation, Madison County is unlike others in terms of collaboration and working together for all students. We take pride in our curriculum offerings and technology strategies. We recognize schools are a fundamental cog in bringing new families to Madison County. We have to have great schools. It matters to Madison County that we make sure the students have the best instruction in all our schools. We’re also part of CAPE (Community Alliance Promoting Education) which is a collaboration of all our county school systems. If we don’t succeed, Madison County doesn’t succeed and that’s our role in Economic Development.”
What does "A New Day" mean to you?
(Mr. Brown) “We make data driven decisions. We don’t make them on an emotional basis. For a rural community we need to make sure our students are well prepared with a solid educational base to meet the needs they will have regardless of their future direction. We have the data to back our decisions regardless of a family’s socioeconomic situation. In three of the last four years, our High School has been rated one of the top in the nation Newsweek and U.S News World Report.”
(Dr. Johnson) “We also believe strategies led by the Flagship Enterprise Center and Purdue with the P3 Polytechnic facility support further education and transition to the workforce in ways our students have never had before. We’ve previously seen wide gaps in workforce development. I think we are making a comeback in a technological manner driving students from above rather than in traditional methods. And let’s not forget the contributions of IVY Tech.”
How has your optimism helped you guide your company’s vision?
(Dr. Johnson) “Personally speaking, I was not raised in a fortunate family and was without many advantages. I believe that even if you’re poor or have other issues you can rise above it. Where you start is only a factor in what you can achieve, not a determining factor. We promote the concept that your environment influences but does not determine your outcome. I still believe that in the United States you can achieve anything you want with hard work, dedication and perseverance.”
Is your optimism ever threatened?
(Dr. Johnson) “We might get a bump in the road perhaps with an ISTEP based on flawed testing and data. Often student data doesn’t match the data that we know about our kids. External sources tell us stories that don’t match with what is happening at our schools. While we are data driven, we know our kids and our teachers and ignore the data that doesn’t tell the story of our students. Government makes objective decisions based on budgets and we understand that. Other decisions, may not be in our student’s best interest. We have to discern what to put on our radar and what we let pass by for our kids. We help them develop life-long learning habits for success. In the past six years we’ve had 100% compliance in our Special Education programs. We have never had “throw-away” children.”
If Optimism leads to achievement, what is it you hope the school system will achieve in 2016?
(Dr. Johnson) – “We don’t always have the opportunity to see the results of our work. If we’re fortunate we may see it later down the road. We intentionally promote positive self-fulfilling prophecy. If student “gets in trouble”, I like to see what is really going on behind the incident. I expect principals and teachers to treat it as an aberration, rather than a definition or label. Many times the people who should be nurturing them actually treat them as if they are less than they should be. We try to look through the lens of everything that is great about you. True leadership develops tomorrow’s leaders. We develop personal leadership from an early age. It’s not just about the report card grades.”
If you were to have five minutes with someone who was considering relocating to Madison County what would you tell them?
(Dr. Johnson) “We love talking about the Alexandria Educational system. Success breeds success. When Alexandria, Anderson, Frankton, or Lapel experience success we all do. We focus on the positives. Alexandria schools are second to none in the state and beyond.”
(Mr. Brown) – “We have a 473 acre site that will be a huge opportunity for growth. We have a low cost of living but a huge quality of life. We have great positives in Alexandria and northern Madison County, which mean shared positives to everyone in Madison County. For us, education is the brightest star that rose first in our community. Madison Co economically is a great value and Alexandria is a wonderful community to raise kids.”
(Dr. Johnson) – “I’d also like to mention the Leadership Academy of Madison County. For many of our leaders, that experience has built networks all across the county that would never have happened without the Academy. The Academy provides a powerful engagement opportunity and I would encourage anyone to participate. For a new business owner it’s such a great way to connect with other leaders. We all like to do business with people we trust, and the Leadership Academy can start building those relationships.”
To view past award winners, or to read more about the awards, visit MCC's Wall of Fame.