Wawasee ‘Listens & Learns’ With Community

Wawasee School Corporation held its first “Learn and Listen” session at Wawasee High School Monday.

Teacher Emily Worrell said she was asked by Superintendent Dr. Stephen Troyer to help with communications in his transition to superintendent and the “Listen and Learn” meetings are a result. Worrell said during the meetings the school corporation wants feedback from community members.

Troyer became superintendent Jan. 1 after Dr. Tom Edington retired Dec. 31. One of Troyer’s priorities in his new role is to embrace the community and hear about issues the community feels are important.

During Monday’s “Learn and Listen” session, Troyer first introduced some of the values he thinks are important, including integrity, communication and everyone can grow academically.

He also said one of his values is taking care of people. Troyer said he believes the school corporation is the second largest employer in the area, behind Polywood, with just under 3,000 students and just under 400 employees. He said that’s a lot of people and the school corporation has to make sure they’re taken care of.

Those values, among others, help form the priorities Troyer said he has as superintendent. Those priorities include instructional leadership, which is what and how teachers teach; and building and managing relationships, which happens not only in the school corporation’s schools, but outside schools and in the community.

Troyer said his vision for Wawasee is to become a premier school corporation in northern Indiana. He said as Wawasee identifies the great schools in northern Indiana, they have to figure out how to get Wawasee to be among those schools. To do that, Troyer said there are some things the school district has to focus on, including accountability, growth and improvement. Troyer said he wants Wawasee to focus on being an instructionally-focused, professional learning community.

“It is where we work together differently and we become very collaborative in the work we do. And we start to provide unity between our buildings in among our school corporation itself as we take a very professional approach to learning and instruction,” Troyer said.

Parent Ben Wilson asked Troyer to clarify what the professional learning idea means and what kind of changes it means.

Troyer said professional learning is looking at teaching from a team approach, “so at elementary grade levels, that would be a grade-level team that would be working together.” At the middle school level, sometimes it would be grade level teams, while other times it would be departmentalized teams. “Working together, collaborating together to identify what the priorities are for learning and how do we know that kids learn it and don’t know it and how do we respond,” Troyer said.

Wilson asked if it contrasts with what the state says students need to learn. Troyer said he wouldn’t say it is in contrast to what state requirements are, but it helps the schools prioritize what the state wants the schools to teach.

Troyer said one of the biggest challenges Wawasee is facing is its declining enrollment.

Starting in 2015 through the current school year, Wawasee has had a declining school enrollment. It provides an ongoing challenge as the school corporation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. Troyer said the declining enrollment isn’t just isolated to the current school year.

“This has been an ongoing thing,” Troyer said. In 2026, projections estimate that Wawasee’s enrollment will be at 2,500 students. In 2015, Wawasee had 3,145 students.

It is something Wawasee will have to deal with head on, especially when the school corporation deals with funding, Troyer said.

One topic Troyer addressed during the question-and-answer segment of Monday’s event was families that live within the school corporation but go to other schools and vice versa.

Troyer said approximately 250 students who live within Wawasee’s boundaries go to other schools and approximately 150 “come in our direction.” Some of the families that have children go to other schools are on the school district’s radar. Some of the families do it for practical reasons, such as the family has work and daycare in other school district. Other families may be dissatisfied with something and Wawasee has to find out why and address it.

“So I will tell you, that for me, that is a big priority,” Troyer said.

Parent Jeff Boyer thanked Troyer for what he put out and said he was excited about his points. He wanted to address one, which was communication. Being with the school corporation for 16 years, Boyer said he felt communication was lacking.

Troyer said with all of the “Learn and Listen” sessions, he is going take all the feedback, as well as other information he’s been collecting, and put together a State of the School report in March. It will help feed into the school corporation’s five-year plan.

The other sessions are scheduled for Feb. 8, Milford School, 6:30 to 8 p.m.; Feb. 20, Wawasee Middle School cafetorium, 9:30 to 11 a.m.;  and Feb. 22, North Webster Elementary, 6:30 to 8 p.m.