Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

July 21, 2011

Do not Overlook the Leadership at our Schools

Nathan Harter

— Stop and smell the flowers. Greensburg is a great place to raise kids. The place is relatively quiet, clean, safe, and affordable. Sure, it could improve here and there, such as becoming more bicycle friendly, but my wife and I feel good about our choice to move here back in 1993.

One of the unheralded assets is the local school corporation. If a child wants to succeed in life, the schools can prepare you. There is only so much they can do for anyone else, here or elsewhere. Just don't let folks put you down because you come from a small town. A degree from here is enough to seed you. The rest is up to you.

Much of the credit for the corporation is its leadership, especially its current superintendent who seems to have navigated out of hardship and toward such success that the state recognized Tom Hunter as the best. He seems to be.

Anyone who has done business with Mr. Hunter knows that he insists on excellence. He also has a vision for this town that puts him in a position of real leadership. Mayors and plant managers and bank presidents shape the future, along with judges, editors, and durable preachers, but never overlook the man or woman who guides the school corporation where you live.

Tom Hunter doesn't miss much. And once he knows the best course of action, he rarely procrastinates. From what I hear, he expects youth to compete in any one of a dozen or so activities, and that has to be part of his philosophy for raising successful adults. I concur.

You know, we all make our way from idealistic dreams to mature ambitions, learning where we can and taking chances along the way. To become a community leader, you have to put yourself out there, take chances, upset some people, maybe even earn a derogatory nickname and live with it. You cannot control the future, but you can be one of the few that give it its distinctive spin.

I will recall many faces and voices from Greensburg. But as an exemplar of local leadership, I cannot think of a better one than he. And now that I am gone and my children have been graduated from his schools, I can say this without being accused of brown-nosing. None of which is meant to take anything away from his peer Dan Roach; I simply had more experience in town.

Fat chance attracting either one to elective politics. They are on the top of their game, making a difference where they sit. I predict either man would recoil from running for office. Still, you could do a lot worse at the local level. How else should a candidate demonstrate the capacity to manage a large operation, working with a budget and staff, toward wholesome community outcomes?

By way of contrast, I am reclusive, more of a loner. These men - and executives like them - daily place themselves before demanding people, struggling to steer a community toward greater success in a responsible manner. And when kids go bad, who always gets the blame if not the parents and the schools? It takes real gumption to do what they do without becoming a bureaucratic, cynical jerk.

I write a lot about leadership. I also write a lot about local politics. Finally, I can write something obvious about two leaders in our midst. They probably have not come to expect it by now, but send them a quick note telling them you appreciate their efforts. I just did.