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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Public has chance to weigh in on key FWCS issues

May will be an important month for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

For one thing, the May 5 primary election will include a referendum on “Repair FWCS,” a plan to renovate the district’s schools by beginning the third phase of the project.

And while that result will impact a number of schools within the system, another expected outcome that month will impact every school in the district – the announcement of the successor to retiring FWCS Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson, who will take over leadership of the district’s 4,000 employees and nearly 30,000 students in 50 school buildings.

Robinson is retiring in June following 17 years as superintendent of what is now the largest school district in Indiana. She has worked for FWCS for 47 years. As superintendent, she was a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year in 2018. She served on several state and national councils, and, according to FWCS, is known as an expert in the importance of educational leadership serving as a catalyst for student achievement.

Sunday was the deadline for all applications in the nation-wide search for Robinson’s replacement, and, according to the district, the announcement of the finalist, posting of that person’s contract, board approval and reception of the new superintendent will all take place in May.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Schaumburg, Ill., was selected to provide the FWCS board of school trustees with a list of qualified candidates, and board members will begin reviewing those applicants this month. HYA&A is scheduled to meet in executive session with board members on March 16. The interview process will likely begin in early April.

We appreciate FWCS’ process of public involvement in initiating the search for a new superintendent. Members of the community completed a survey in November to provide feedback on the current state of Fort Wayne Community Schools and what leadership qualities the next superintendent should have. Community members also attended open meetings in early December to discuss those issues at South Side and Northrop high schools as well as the FWCS Family and Community Engagement Center.

We encourage the community to step forward further by participating in the May election and casting votes in the FWCS referendum. If the $130 million plan passes, renovations will begin in 2021.

The third phase of the plan will include major renovations at Wayne High School and Blackhawk and Miami middle schools, which were all in need of renovations during the 2016 phase but were postponed until FWCS finished renovations at elementary schools and air conditioning projects.

Wayne and Blackhawk were both built in 1972 and Miami in 1976, making them some of the “newer” additions to the district.

The district is also planning minor repairs at 30 other schools. Of the $130 million total cost of this phase, about $85 million will go toward Wayne, Blackhawk and Miami. FWCS spokesperson Krista Stockman also said this will be the final phase of “Repair FWCS” for the foreseeable future.

Renovations will include upgrades to the HVAC systems and lighting, window replacements and entrances for classroom security, upgrades necessary for the lifespan of a building.

The first phase of “Repair FWCS” began in 2012, with repairs at 30 schools and major renovations at 10 schools. The second phase came in 2016, which provided repairs at an additional 42 schools, including major renovations at 10 schools.

We encourage voters to endorse the third phase in the referendum in May, a month that can be a huge leap forward for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

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