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Despite FWCS’ size, staff positions fill fast

– It’s anything but easy when it comes to replacing staff, teachers and administrators in 51 schools within the Fort Wayne Community Schools district, officials say.

With school starting in a matter of days, the district has managed to fill many of the open slots, leaving only 11 administrative vacancies, which are mostly curriculum and family and student support positions.

“There are still a couple of assistant principal jobs open, but most of the positions are filled,” Superintendent Wendy Robinson said.

The district advertised the openings in a national magazine, and got some responses, but many of the interested applicants had heard by word of mouth, she said.

“They Googled us or they visited our website and found out what we have done,” Robinson said. “People are coming to us after hearing and seeing what we were doing at conferences; they wanted to be a part of it.”

The school board hired three new administrators Monday – Kevin Simmons, principal at Northrop High School; Michael Sullivan, secondary curriculum director; and Tracy Williams, chief academic officer. Simmons will earn $111,641 annually, Sullivan $107,239 and Williams $122,178.

The school district tries to remain competitive when it comes to teacher salaries, FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

“Some of our administrative salaries are higher because of the complexity of the district. It is challenging to work here,” she said.

As to why some new hires were from out of state, she said there were qualified candidates within the district who could have applied for the positions but for various reasons did not.

“A principal’s job is 24-7, and it’s not something people take on lightly,” Stockman said.

For teachers, the district usually posts openings internally before going outside, she said.

“But for administrators and noncertified staff, we post it internally and externally at the same time,” Stockman said.

There would have to be a good reason for an internal candidate not to be interviewed, and an even better one why the internal candidate would not be chosen over an external candidate, she said.

Last year, the district employed 4,088 people – 1,883 were teachers and 230 were administrators.

One big component of turnover is retirement.

This year, 123 employees retired, compared with 73 in 2013.

Although the number of retirees almost doubled this year, it was not the highest number to retire in recent years, Stockman said.

“This year was up from last year, but historically speaking, it was not an unusual year,” she said.

In 2010, the district had 135 employees who retired, followed by 123 in 2011 and 121 in 2012, she said.

The district has a very strong internal training staff to help “grow their own” future administrators.

The training program identifies teachers who would make good administrators, trains them and appoints them to serve in internships before they are hired as administrators, Stockman said.

This year, nine teachers will be interns in administrative offices, she said.

The district had no trouble attracting a strong pool of candidates, she said.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we are an urban school district that is not shrinking, which is unusual,” Stockman said.

The district also has a 91 percent graduation rate, which Stockman said was “unheard of.”

The district also has a reputation for offering a lot of support and training for staff, she said.

“We have high expectations and they know that, but we give them the tools to reach those expectations,” Stockman said.

The district’s current school board was another draw, she said.

Board members are supportive of the efforts of administration and know the importance – and limits – of what their responsibilities are, she said.

“They are very professional and do not interfere with what is going on in the classroom – something the staff appreciates.”