New superintendent takes over as SBCSC
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- During his first week as the new superintendent of the South Bend Community School Corporation, Dr. Todd Cummings says he is committed to improving the district.
As superintendent, Cummings wants to improve literacy and graduation rates and ensure all students leave the district college and workforce ready.
“I am thrilled to lead South Bend Community Schools,” said Cummings. “I am thrilled that we can impact in literacy, we can make an impact on graduation rates, we can ensure that all of our students are graduating college and workforce ready.”
The district hired Cummings in February. He joined the school corporation in 2017 working first as the director of human resources then as deputy superintendent.
“I want to commit to all of our students reading on grade level,” said Cummings. “I want to commit to the financial health of the district. I want to commit to a safe environment where all of our students learn, where teachers are able to discipline students and create safe fostering environments for every student to learn.”
Using an A-F rating scale, the Indiana Department of Education awarded a “C” grade to the South Bend Community School Corporation in 2017. The district’s 2018 grade is awaiting appeal.
ISTEP+ is an assessment that measures student achievement levels in English and language arts and mathematics.
Both of those rates are below the state average. In 2018, 50.8 percent of Hoosier students in grades 3-8 and 33.7 percent of students in grade 10 passed ISTEP+.
Graduation rates for the district also fall below the state average. In 2018, 77.7 percent of students graduated from one of the corporation’s high schools. During that same year, 88.1 percent of students graduated from an Indiana high school.
Cummings says he is hiring great teachers, principals, and literacy experts to increase those rates.
“We’re committed to hiring the best and the brightest,” said Cummings. “When you hire great teachers, great principals and give them autonmy, student achievement is impacted and we’re looking forward to what our teachers and our principals do to impact literacy and graduation rates of all of our students.”
During his first year, Cummings will deal with a myriad of issues the district faces, like losing $10 million in property tax revenue as a result of state mandated tax caps taking full effect in St. Joseph County.
Cummings says a referendum is one way the district could offset the impact of losing that much money.
Right now the district is working with a consultant to tighten its belt and examine its finances. Cummings says if the district decides to propose a referendum next year, this move will show taxpayers the district is doing its due diligence.
The South Bend Empowerment Zone Transformation Plan also launches this school year. Cummings says the district fully supports the zone.
He explains it is doing well and is in the process of hiring its first executive director to help improve the five failing schools within the district.
Cummings wants students, parents, teachers, and community members to feel comfortable talking to him about anything.
“I am at every community event and I welcome everyone,” said Cummings. “Whether its’ at Costco or at the ‘Talks with Todd’ or at a public event,... come up and talk to me. Hear my vision for the district which is about literacy, which is about increasing graduation rates, and it’s also about ensuring that our students are leaving college and workforce ready.”