Welcome to the Elkhart Rotary Club Meeting on March 4, 2019; Today we welcomed Elkhart Community Schools new Superintendent, Dr. Steve Thalheimer.

President Peter Norton opened the meeting and introduced Bill Kovach who shared inspirational words, led the Pledge, and our Four Way Test.

Candy Yoder introduced our Guests for today including visiting Rotarians Doug Grant from the Wawasee Club and Gerald McDonald from South Bend. Guests of Rotarians included: Catherine Welles-Bentz (Patsy Boehler), Jeremy Kline (Nick Corpe), Bob Loods (Tom Shoff), Michelle Sokol (Donna Belusar), Jennifer Hayes (Sarah Snyder), Phid Wells and LouAnn Welsh (Jeff Wells), Ben Decker (Moe Jacobson), Sue Neat (Tom Neat), Garrick Lankford (Bill Burton), and Kristin Smole (Ashley Molyneaux). We also had 3 student guests from Central High School, who were introduced by Dean Bergeman.

Important announcements from March 4:

  • Erin Wagler, Marketing Committee Chair directed an audience participation contest - including a prize - to the first table that could snap a selfie and tag Elkhart Rotary Club. The process took all of 30 seconds, demonstrating how EASY it is to get engaged with Rotary through social media!
  • Tom McArthur noted the Rotary Volunteer Opportunities sheet for March 2019, located on each table. Want to get involved in the community? Choose from one of the nearly-20 organizations listed and give them a call!
  • Eric Garton announced that the Marketing Committee will be presenting a program on April 1 designed to orient club members to online engagement with the ERC, including logging onto Clubrunner through our website (elkhartrotary.org) as well as Rotary.org, the Clubrunner App, and Rotary.org. As an incentive, Eric promised to match fines paid on April (up to $5 per club member), paid to the Foundation, for each club member who attends April 1 AND logs into Clubrunner and/or Rotary.org (on their portable device, laptop, etc) and udpates their date of birth DURING the meeting. This offer is for anyone who has NOT included their date of birth in Clubrunner already. So logging in can help the Foundation, come on April 1!
Howard Edwards had the pleasure of announcing new Paul Harris Fellowships: 
  • Tom Neat - PHF +2
  • Aaron Clow - PHF +5
  • Candy Yoder - PHF +2
  • Andy McCaskey - PHF +3
  • Steve Poe - PHF +4
  • Thad Naquin - PHF +6
  • Dean Hupp - PHF+6
Congratulations and THANKS to the following club members who received their pins! 
Today's Sergeant was Bill Rieth, who used New Year's Resolutions (or rather the lack of sticking to them!) to enact fines upon unsuspecting Rotarians. Another great day of FUNdraising as Rotary fines are collected weekly and are pooled into a fund. In the spring approximately $10,000 is distributed as grants to not for profit organizations around our county.

Today's speaker was Elkhart Community Schools' new Superintendent, Dr. Steve Thalheimer. 

Dr. Thalheimer began as the superintendent of Elkhart Community Schools on January 1, 2019 and has 24 years of experience in public education. He has served as a high school teacher, curriculum coordinator, assistant superintendent, and, for the last five years, superintendent at Fairfield Community Schools. Thalheimer shared, "The core of my leadership practice is stakeholder engagement, listening to students and staff, and being respectful of the people who make up our school community,” said Thalheimer. “I want students to feel safe and loved while also challenged; I want parents to feel we work in partnership as we strive for excellence and success for every child; I want teacher evaluation to be transparent and fair; I want all staff to know how important of a role they play in the growth of our students and community.”

Thalheimer discussed a list of priorities and goals that focused on the overall health of students, schools, and our community. He also touted the district's accomplishments including that students at Elkhart Community Schools are better prepared for the real world than ever before:

  • 95% graduation rate – the highest in Elkhart County. In 2008, this number was 62.7%.
  • Over 14,000 college credits earned annually, saving Elkhart families over $1.5 million.
  • Over $4.4 million in scholarships awarded to ECS graduates in 2018.
  • Over 2,000 students enrolled in Career Technical Education (CTE) and Dual College Credit programs.
  • Over 30 industry-specific CTE programs through a nationally-recognized career center. Areas of study focus on Art & Communication; Engineering, Manufacturing & Technology; Health & Public Safety; Hospitality & Human Services; and Transportation.
  • The area’s only fully-endorsed Early College Program.
  • Over 250 high school students have walked in the Ivy Tech Community College graduation prior to their high school graduation.
Thalheimer also discussed the reasons that a referendum is necessary. In 2016, the ECS Board of School Trustees passed a strategic plan that outlines a five-year pathway for the district. The plan outlines three major objectives:
  1. Educate, Retain and Attract Students
  2. Ensure a Highly Effective Staff
  3. Create Vibrant Relationships to Ensure Successful Students, Schools and Community

All three of these objectives rely on quality instructional staff.

Elkhart Community Schools is losing teachers, as well as support staff, to neighboring districts. Neighboring districts have taken steps to increase staff pay and benefits through referenda, supported by their taxpayers (WaNee Community Schools, 2018; Goshen Community Schools, 2018; School City of Mishawaka, 2016). To stay competitive and retain excellent, effective staff, to keep class sizes down, and to continue offering a rich and varied education for Elkhart students, Elkhart Community Schools must do the same.

For more about Elkhart Community Schools and the referendum, visit their website and follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElkhartCommunitySchools/

About Rotary:

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, community leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and act to create lasting change – across the globe, in our local communities, and in ourselves. The Elkhart Rotary Club was founded in 1917 and serves its community through volunteerism, providing grants to not-for-profit organizations, sponsoring, and participating in service projects such as ringing bells for the Salvation Army, roadside trash collection, and are the originators and sustainers of Wellfield Botanic Gardens. Elkhart Rotary Club’s membership consists of approximately 150 dedicated individuals from various professional backgrounds and diverse interests. Membership in the Elkhart Rotary Club is by invitation. We welcome guests to attend any of our meetings and hear from our great lineup of weekly presenters.
For more information on the Elkhart Rotary Club, visit elkhartrotary.org or email elkhartnoonrotary@gmail.com. Like and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook/ElkhartRotaryClub to stay current on meetings, upcoming events or speakers, and initiatives in the community.
Upcoming Meetings and Programs:
  • March 11: Tami Silverman, President and CEO Indiana Youth Institute
  • March 18: Oaklawn Services and Community of Oaklawn Presentation
  • March 25: Jann Joseph, Chancellor, Indiana University South Bend
  • April 1: Elkhart Rotary Marketing Committee; More fun than a cat dressed in a hula skirt!
Join us for our next meeting:
All meetings are at noon on Mondays at the Matterhorn Banquet and Conference Center, 2041 Cassopolis St. in Elkhart IN, 46514. In months that include a FIFTH Monday, the Elkhart Rotary Club holds a dinner meeting (no presenter) at the same location.