Two Stories On Bolinger From Chesterton Tribune
Dr. Ginger Bollinger is pick to lead Duneland Schools
By KEVIN NEVERS
The Duneland School Board has announced its choice for new superintendent.
She is Dr. Ginger Bollinger, who since 2012 has served as superintendent of Madison Consolidated Schools, a district in Southern Indiana with approximately 3,000 students, 350 employees, and 10 facilities.
The School Board is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, at the Administration Building to formally vote on Bollinger’s appointment and approve her contract.
According to a statement released this morning by School Board President Kristin Kroeger, Bollinger was one of three dozen candidates to apply for the position, opened by the retirement of Dr. Dave Pruis, effective June 30.
Bollinger comes to the Duneland Schools with 24 years’ experience in school administration: as assistant principle, North Spencer County School Corporation (1993-96); principal, South Newton High School (1996-2001); coordinator of secondary instruction, Metropolitan School District of Steuben County (2001-03); superintendent, North Spencer County School Corporation (2003-05); assistant superintendent for instruction, Marion Community Schools (2005-10); and finally superintendent, Madison Consolidated.
Bollinger began her career in education as a business teacher, Tipton Community School Corporation (1986-93). She earned an MBA at Ball State University in 1991 and her Ph.D. in educational leadership at Indiana State University in 2000.
Retained to implement the search for a new superintendent was contracted recruitment consultant BWP & Associates. “The board was committed to conducting an executive search process that produced the best candidates to lead this remarkable organization,” Kroeger said. “As board members, this is our most important responsibility. If we do it the right way, we don’t have to do it very often. It was important to all of us that we executed our responsibility with the highest degree of integrity and quality.”
BWP received a total of 36 applications, Kroeger noted. “We knew being Superintendent of Duneland was a very attractive position. In terms of enrollment, we are in the top 35 school districts in Indiana. We think this is a destination for educational leaders and not a stop along the way in their careers. However, 36 applications far exceeded our expectations.”
Of those 36 candidates, 13 were invited to interview in person with BWP, which then prepared a short-list of six candidates for the School Board to interview. “We spent 60 to 90 minutes with each of the six candidates and invited three to meet with us again for an extended period of time,” Kroeger said. “In the second interview with the board, we spent more time with the candidates. We talked casually about their lives, their hobbies, and to know who each of them are as people. We also asked them to provide us with details on how they would approach their first year at Duneland.”
“With Dr. Bolinger, the board feels universally that we have found an incredibly thoughtful and innovative leader,” Kroeger said. “Her energy and drive are inspiring. She leads from a position of strength through experience, accountability, collaboration, and compassion. We are thrilled that she has agreed to join the Duneland faculty.”
Bollinger will earn an annual base salary through 2020 of $147,500–Pruis’ outgoing salary was $145,000–and be eligible for an annual bonus of not less than 5 percent, based on the achievement of objectives agreed upon jointly by Bollinger and the School Board.
Other terms: the School Corporation will make an annual contribution of $10,000 to Bollinger’s 401(a) account, an annual contribution of $8,000 to her VEBA account, and provide her with a monthly automobile allowance of $750.
Incoming superintendent Ginger Bollinger aims to maintain schools’ ‘greatness’
By KEVIN NEVERS
For newly named Superintendent Dr. Ginger Bollinger, the Duneland School Corporation sells itself.
“Duneland is a high-performing school corporation,” Bollinger told the Chesterton Tribune. “The programming is excellent, the students ambitious, and the expectations are very high. The fine arts programs are superb and the corporation is extremely well regarded, both academically and athletically. I’ve never worked in a school corporation before with an International Baccalaureate program. On top of that, the administrators and faculty are student-centered and the facilities are in good shape.”
All of which, Bollinger said, is to be expected in a community which supports its schools with as much commitment as Duneland does. “You don’t find that in every community. Duneland is the outstanding community in Northwest Indiana.”
Bollinger comes to the Duneland Schools after serving a five-year tour as superintendent of Madison Consolidated Schools in Jefferson County, Ind., a rural district roughly half the size of Duneland. Madison Consolidated: 3,000 students, 350 employees, 10 facilities. Duneland: 5,800 students, 775 employees, 11 facilities.
Although Bollinger has served in a larger district–for 10 years, as assistant superintendent for instruction, Marion Community Schools (enrollment: around 5,000 students)–size is not, in and of itself, a telling measure of a school corporation, she said. “Generally you have the same accounts in your budget, the same testing everyone does in the state. What tends to differ is the culture of expectations, outreach, and creativity.”
In that sense the Duneland Schools excel. “The leadership is top notch,” Bollinger said. “The School Board really cares about children, what’s best for them. The students themselves perform at high levels. And the faculty is marvelous. Chesterton High School has a world-class debate team. That speaks to the commitment of teachers who are willing to put the time in. These are people who care about children and want the best for them. My challenge will be to maintain the Duneland Schools’ greatness.”
When she arrived at Madison Consolidated in 2012, Bollinger found a district in financial straits. “We were eating through a $4-million cash balance at $800,000 per year. We were over-staffed. And we had a Rainy Day Fund totaling $67,000.” She’s leaving Madison Consolidated with a Rainy Day Fund of $4.6 million and the ways and means to have provided raises to all employees in each of her five years there.
There were “tough choices” to make, though, Bollinger said. Two under-utilized and unsustainable elementary buildings had to be closed and some RIFs issued. And the failure of a building referendum to raise additional property-tax revenues for new facilities–to replace badly aging ones–made things harder. “There are many individuals in the community who own farm land. Some were on board with the referendum. Some weren’t.”
Madison Consolidated does differ both demographically and academically from Duneland, Bollinger noted: 52 percent of Madison’s students are in the free-and-reduced lunch program, versus 25 percent of Duneland’s; while Madison’s graduation rate is around 90 percent, versus Duneland’s 98 percent.
Yet graduation rates only tell part of the story. “It’s great for children to go to college,” Bollinger said. “But it’s even better if they graduate from college. It’s great for them to go to technical school. But it’s even better if they earn technical certification. We have to think beyond graduation. We have to make sure students have a plan before they graduate.”
Thus Bollinger is proud of Madison Consolidated’s partnership with Ivy Tech, through which participating students are able to earn enough Transfer General Education Core credits to graduate from high school with their first year of college complete.
Challenges Going Forward
Coming to Duneland, Bollinger points specifically to two challenges on the superintendent’s horizon. The first: funding and the budget, as the operating referendum which passed by the narrowest of margins in 2012 is due to expire after 2018. ”There is a need for another referendum,” Bollinger said. “We need to help the public understand why another will be needed, why the funding won’t be there for the programs we offer.”
The second challenge: the terrific pace of change, pedagogical and otherwise, in the classroom. “There’s an enormous amount of change in education,” Bollinger said. “Technology. Curriculum. Best-practices instructions. Changes in state testing requirements. We need to support our students as they ride this rollercoaster ride. And we have to make sure our students have the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills they need to be successful.”
But students aren’t the only ones on a rollercoaster ride, Bollinger added. “We need to keep the noise of change away from our classrooms so our teachers can concentrate on education.”
Bollinger is aware of last fall’s protracted–and at times tense–contract negotiations with the Duneland Teachers Association. And another round of negotiations is just around the corner, as the teachers’ one-year contract expires on June 30.
But, Bollinger suggested, “a lot of times past performance points to future performance,” and she believes her relationship with faculty at Madison Consolidated was a fruitful and positive one. “I was a teacher myself and know the demands on a teacher’s time and work. In my five years at Madison there was a raise every year for all employees. I have been able to negotiate contracts very quickly. I would very much like to be a leader in that area.”
The Drug Problem
Bollinger is aware too of the drug problem in Porter County. There’s a “terrible” one in Jefferson County as well, she said. “There’s been a number of overdoses in Madison, not of students but of millennials in the community, and of the parents of some our children.” And, Bollinger noted, Austin, Ind., the epicenter of an HIV outbreak in 2015 related to intravenous drug use, is only 30 minutes from Madison.
So far, though, no one’s invented a magic bullet to keep kids clean or to get them clean. Substance abuse is a social problem, a family problem, a public-health problem, and a law-enforcement problem, Bollinger said, and to the extent that it’s an educational problem, school districts have a vital role of their own to play, but only in partnership with other stakeholders. “Schools are a microcosm of our community. Schools alone can’t solve all of our problems but they can partner with the community to help solve them.”
Parents and taxpayers alike, Bollinger understands, are justifiably concerned about the internal operations and the expenditures of their school district. For that reason transparency has been the watchword of her administration at Madison Consolidated. “We try to be more than transparent,” she said. “We never want to hear ‘They’re not telling us everything.’ We try to get ahead of that, as opposed to not saying anything until we’re asked. I’ve had a very good relationship with the local newspaper.”
Duneland’s ethic of transparency, Bollinger is confident, is no different from Madison Consolidated’s. “We’re only going to do those things we’re allowed to by law,” she said. “We’re going to do the right thing every time. And we’re going to be transparent.”
On the other hand, Bollinger supports the Duneland School Board’s policy of not accepting unvetted, unscheduled public comment at its meetings. “School board meetings are not public meetings but meetings conducted in public,” she said. “When members of the public speak at a meeting, their comments have to be agenda-specific.”
In any case, personnel matters–the subject which parents are most likely interested in raising to the School Board in the first place–are simply not appropriate for a public meeting, Bollinger said. “If parents have a concern about a teacher, there is a chain of command. Speak to the teacher. Then to the assistant principal or principal. Then to an assistant superintendent. Then to the superintendent. The process works well, and usually the parent can resolve the issue at the teacher-level.”
Bollinger has nothing specific to say about the Discovery Charter School. She did, however, watch between 100 and 120 students at Madison Consolidated leave her district in her first year there for the Canaan Community Academy, a charter school sponsored by Ball State University.
“Our school board was pretty upset about it,” Bollinger said. “I know we all have to work together in the field of education.”
Living in Duneland
Bollinger said she has any number of reasons to be thrilled by her new position: the excellence of the Duneland Schools, the caliber of the students, the creativity of the teachers. But she and her husband are thrilled too to live in Duneland itself, with its high quality of life, its many amenities, and its proximity to Chicago.
“We’re just really excited to be part of this community.”