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Southwest Allen County Schools head wins state superintendent honor

Phillip Downs

Dr. Philip Downs, superintendent of the Southwest Allen County Schools, has been named the Indiana Superintendent of the Year for 2020 by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS). As such, he becomes Indiana’s representative in the American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year program.

“Dr. Phil Downs is a strong leader of an outstanding school district,” Dr. J.T. Coopman, executive director of IAPSS, said in a statement. “That alone is more than a full-time job. Dr. Downs also devotes time, energy and research skills to be an enthusiastic advocate to ensure all children throughout Indiana get a quality education. He is a role model and inspiration for other superintendents, and he will be a strong contender in the 2020 national superintendent of the year competition.”

Downs has been superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools since 2014 and previously served the district as an assistant superintendent. Southwest Allen County Schools serves more than 7,500 students. Despite its academic success and a growing enrollment, Southwest Allen Schools is in the bottom five school districts in Indiana for per-pupil school funding, and like many school districts in Indiana loses a significant amount of its operations budget to property tax caps, according to the IAPSS.

To offset the funding losses, the district passed a general fund referendum and restructured its professional development into a “grow-your-own-talent” model. The district has also minimized textbook expenditures by creating curriculum materials, using more open-source materials and has been a leader in Blended Learning through its 1:1 computer technology program.

Downs has extensively researched the impact the Choice Scholarship Program, also known as vouchers, has had on funding for public schools throughout Indiana. As an outspoken advocate for Indiana’s public school students, Downs willingly shares his research through presentations and a blog.

“Public school superintendents must take a broader view than our districts and become the clear, research-based voice for all our students,” said Downs. “It takes courage, reveals character and sets a worthy example for others to follow.”

Downs earned four degrees from Purdue University-Fort Wayne and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He currently serves on the National Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators and as the District II chair for the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. He serves on the boards of directors for Friends of the Lincoln Collection and The Orthopedic Hospital in Fort Wayne, and is the board president of Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) and the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue Fort Wayne.

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