FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. has a new leader.
Shane Robbins, 47, superintendent of the Northwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County since 2012, will take over for Bill Riggs on July 1. Riggs has been superintendent for 21 years and is retiring.
Robbins signed a three-year contract Tuesday during a special school board meeting. He will be paid a $135,000 salary plus benefits.
“We put the for-sale sign out today,” Robbins said, noting he and his family will relocate to the Fortville area from Greenwood.
Robbins said after the meeting that he is ready to start but that his first 100-day action plan includes “look, listen, learn,” as he builds relationships with people in the district.
“Authentic relationships are the key to anything you do,” he said.
Mt. Vernon School Board President Tony May said Robbins’ experience with one-to-one computing, which he implemented in Shelby County, will be invaluable at Mt. Vernon, which is in the process of starting such a program. The initiative involves providing all students with their own computer devices.
Setting up the technology is simple, May said. The hard part is “how do you change your curriculum to take advantage of the fact that you have these new devices.”
May also said Robbins has an existing relationship with the Indiana General Assembly, which will serve the district well in terms of influencing lawmakers and responding to changes. In 2014 Robbins was appointed to a state government panel of four Indiana superintendents to review the accountability system for the state’s schools.
The new superintendent will oversee 195 teachers who educate more than 3,500 students in five buildings with a general fund operating budget of roughly $17.9 million.
The move to Mt. Vernon is a big step up for Robbins, whose current district has three schools that house a total of 1,400 students, according to Indiana Department of Education data.
Board member Shannon Walls said Robbins was clearly the best candidate from an initial group of 20 applicants. That opinion didn’t change after the number was whittled to five. She said Robbins is a strong leader based on how he implemented one-to-one computing in his current district and how he turned around the district’s finances.
Fellow board member Kellie Freeman echoed that sentiment, noting that Robbins apparent expertise in school finances could help ensure Mt. Vernon remains on a healthy financial track after encountering severe problems several years ago.
“We’ve come a long way from where we were a few years ago,” Freeman said. One main goal throughout the search was “to find someone who can keep us moving forward in a positive direction.”
Freeman said she checked out Robbins’ references and people used the words “visionary,” “leader” and “a great communicator” to describe Robbins.
Freeman said those qualities will be important in implementing the board’s strategic plan, of which the one-to-one computing is a large piece.
“It’s a huge undertaking to do it right,” Freeman said.
Bill Riggs said Robbins is “coming in at an opportune time,” with district finances in good order and a good strategic plan. “They got the right guy for the job.”
Robbins said he’s optimistic about Mt. Vernon’s future, especially given that the district’s state funding is going to be rising in coming years, by more than $850,000 next year and more than $1 million the year after that.
Robbins will have the second-highest superintendent salary in the county. According to data provided by Mt. Vernon schools, Southern Hancock Superintendent Lisa Lantrip makes $150,000; Greenfield-Central Superintendent Harold Olin makes $128,000; and Eastern Hancock Duperintendent Randy Harris makes $106,125.
“We went through so many years of salary freeze,” Mt. Vernon board member Michael McCarty said of why the salary would be higher than Riggs’ current $116,858 salary.
McCarty said a study was done on not just Hancock County schools but other nearby school corporations of similar size and demographics.
The $135,000 salary is enough to be competitive, McCarty said. The contract also comes with health insurance valued at nearly $19,700 and reimbursements for electronic devices and travel expenses.
Robbins earned a bachelor’s degree in allied health from Franklin College in 1993. At Ball State University, he earned master’s degrees in secondary education in 1999 and K-12 administration in 2003, an educational specialist degree as a superintendent in 2007, and a doctorate in educational leadership in 2011.
Robbins became a health and science teacher at Blackford High School in Hartford City in 1998. He began his administrative career as principal at Madison-Grant High School in Fairmount in 2005 and then as associate principal at Huntington North High School in Huntington in 2006. Robbins became the superintendent of Monroe Central School Corp. in Western Randolph County in 2008.
The Indiana Association of School Business Officials named Robbins Region VI Business Officer of the Year in 2012.
Robbins has served in the U.S. Army/Indiana National Guard since 1987. He earned a Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal and other awards.
Robbins lives in Greenwood with wife, Heather, and sons Bryce, 17, and Brandon, 13. Both children will attend Mt. Vernon schools, Robbins said.
Robbins has a personal website at www.DrShaneRoberts.com.