South Bend School Board progress: Part 2

By: Erin Logan Email
By: Erin Logan Email

Ousting the superintendent after just 20 months caused a lot of chaos in the school system and controversy in the South Bend community. You probably remember the situation last June with Dr. Robert Zimmerman.

So, have things improved over the last year with two new board members and a new superintendent?

We let you be the judge.

According to our online poll, 46.2% gave the board an F on progress made over the last year, 22.3% gave a D
20.2% gave a C and 8.4% gave them a B and
2.9% gave them an A.

While board members agree it takes time to make big changes, they've been together now for about eight months. Jim Kapsa has been in the superintendent chair since June, but was officially given the title in November.

Authority, command, and direction are the words members of the South Bend Community School Corporation describe fitting for the person that sits in the head chair.

Last year at this time they felt none of those characteristics were there. You may remember these statements.

Marcia Hummel said, “When the superintendent fails to manage, the board steps into a micromanagement role.”

Dr. Zimmerman said, “I feel in many respects I'm leaving without finishing the job I was brought to do and that's the hard part. That's the emotional part.”

After being ousted from the chair, Dr. Zimmerman told us it was highlighted in his evaluation, that five out of the seven board members felt he wasn't communicating well.

So, how does Kapsa feel after being the power position for over a year now?

We asked him, “Are you worried or do you feel confident everything's right on track?” He said, “No, I don't ever feel confident about that, but on a daily basis I try and communicate with them. There are many calls, many memos, and meetings.”

Bill Sniadecki said. “Mr. Kapsa is trying his best. I think he's still in the learning process and he's got a rough job.”

Every single board member shared that thought.

We asked Kapsa, “What are you most proud of?” He said, “Survival in the first year. I've been very pleased with the community's effort in talking to individuals within the community, working with individuals, working with businesses that are willing to team up.”

Kapsa is referring to the much anticipated New Tech High School, expected to be open in the 2010 school year. It's a project being partially funded by the community.

Other highlights Kapsa mentioned:


  • A new trimester program at Washington High School

  • Full day kindergarten, which has been talked about for years

  • Early college credit for high school students

  • Keeping the budget in check, yet still looking for the best programs for student success

We asked Kapsa, “So, you're happy with the board as a whole working together?” He said, “We could always show improvement, but I've been able to communicate with them.”

Some say they feel Kapsa is letting the board control him.

Longest serving board member, Marcia Hummel says rules are continually broken in meetings and some are trying to sneak items on the meeting agenda hoping for a vote to be taken.

Hummel says, ‘It's up to the superintendent to bring it to the board and the board decides on it. Every superintendent I've worked for sets that line.”

Kapsa says he welcomes suggestions from his members.

He says, “Board members are taking their jobs very seriously.”

Ralph Pieniazkiewicz says, “I think maybe he's trying to keep everybody happy and you can't do that. We have no leadership what so ever. Everybody is doing their own thing and it's really upsetting. There has to be a stop to it.”

The board tells says there's no question Kapsa cares about the students and wants everyone to work together.

It's just a matter of each and every board member understanding their roles, then, following the lead taken by the president and superintendent.

Kapsa is confident this school year, this board will make significant progress now that they know and understand each other.


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