HANCOCK COUNTY — Balancing a budget and planning multi-million dollar projects while trying to put away a little capital for the future is never an easy task. Yet, for the past 41 years, Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County administrator Bob Yoder has handled the massive financial balancing act with the skill of a highly trained juggler.

This summer will be the final year Yoder puts together a multi-million budget for the district. Yoder plans to retire as assistant superintendent effective August 31. School board officials made an official announcement during the most recent board meeting earlier this week. Officials thanked Yoder for 41 years of service to the Southern Hancock community, noting a total of 53 years in education and administration.

“I feel good about the 41 years that I have spent here,” Yoder said. “As I reflect on the years spent in education, I am grateful for the meaningful relationships I have built with students, parents, colleagues and community members.”

The school board gave Yoder a round of applause when board member Dan Walker read from a prepared statement stating that Yoder would be stepping down in a few months.

Longtime SH assistant superintendent Bob Yoder announced he will retire from the district this year. He’s been at SH schools for 41 years for a total of over 53 years in education. February 16, 2024. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

“He’s been a fixture in our community and his name embodies trust,” Walker said. “He’s served this corporation well for over four decades and he will be missed.”

When asked if it was a difficult decision to announce retirement after so many years in one position, Yoder said he’s tried to time his departure with the completion of a $43 million renovation project at New Palestine High School.

“Everything is coming along there and we should have that project wrapped up this summer, so it felt like the timing was right,” Yoder said. “I don’t won’t to leave that project unfinished with someone else.”

Yoder has worked with five different superintendents during his time with the district, which had 1,800 students when he first started. The school district has since grown to over 3,800 students in 2024.

“The support I have experienced throughout my career has been invaluable,” Yoder said. “I am proud to have been part of such an amazing community.”

From finding funds to hire another teacher to making sure state officials understood the importance of funding schools at the highest level, Yoder has spent most of his life dedicated to building the school district, sometimes brick-by-brick. Referred to on more than one occasion as “Bob the Builder,” Yoder had a direct hand in helping district officials over the past 40 years build the school corporation to where it is now with six school buildings, state-of-the-art athletic facilities, a corporation headquarters and a transportation garage.

When Yoder first started, the district had a high school, the old Doe Creek building, and Brandywine Elementary. When Yoder came on board, New Palestine Elementary was part of the high school. He went on to build a new New Palestine Elementary, a corporate office building, a transportation garage, New Palestine Intermediate, and he is overseeing the high school renovation.

“I’ve built a few things,” Yoder said with a laugh. “I’ve always tried to look forward in this job, and that’s what you’ve got to plan for.”

There isn’t one piece to the puzzle in the school district Yoder hasn’t touched over the past 41 years. From making sure the district was able to build New Palestine Intermediate during an economic downturn when no new school buildings were being constructed in the state, to recently purchasing 115 acres of prime property to set the district up in good shape for decades to come.

“Owning that property puts the corporation in a great place for quite a few years,” Yoder said.

In addition to working for the district for decades, Yoder has also been a member of the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) for 40 years. He often takes calls from other school corporation officials seeking assistance, and Yoder suspects that will continue even in retirement.

“I still accept calls from people who sort of want to pick my brain on things,” Yoder said when it comes to understanding school financing. “I enjoy trying to help people out.”

While district officials say there is no official word yet on Yoder’s replacement, he’s been working these past couple of years with Sarah Gizzi, district assistant business manger, in anticipation of her stepping into his position. The school board, however, is also in the process of hiring a new superintendent after Lisa Lantrip announced last fall that she is set to retire with the class of 2024 in May.

The school board is currently looking to fill the superintendent’s position before spring break, and Yoder noted things may fall into place surrounding his position replacement after that role is officially filled.

“I’m assuming Sarah will take over a big portion of things because I’ve been working with her on that,” Yoder said.

Yoder says he decided to stay on board until the end of August to help put the upcoming school budget for 2024-25 together, see that the high school project gets finished and to help the new superintendent transition into the role.

“I thought I could be of some help there,” he said.

An avid sports fan, Yoder noted he plans to remain in the community to continue to support the Dragons, but said he and his wife will more than likely spend their winters in Florida with their two sons and grandchildren.

“Of course, the hardest part about all of this is I still have things I want to do here in the district, but I guess we’ll leave those for somebody else,” Yoder said. “There’s just lots of things you’ve always got to keep working at, but I’m looking forward to retirement.”