Clark-Pleasant’s new assistant superintendent feels like she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be.
Cassandra Shipp started the job at Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. on Jan. 1, just at the start of the second semester. In her first weeks on the job, she already feels welcomed and immediately clicked with the staff, students and community.
“It was a natural feeling. You know, how sometimes when you take jobs, and you feel like ‘oh, how am I going to fit in?’ … Off the bat, it was like the stars aligned here. This is where I need to be at this time,” Shipp said.
Shipp comes from a long background working in education. She grew up in Gary, and later moved to central Indiana after meeting her husband. They currently live in Lawrence.
She spent much of her career at Indianapolis Public Schools, working as a teacher and an administrator. She then went on to work in the administration at Muncie schools. She later moved on to higher education working for Ivy Tech Community College for a few years, where she lead the statewide K-14 initiatives.
Most recently, she worked for over a year as the assistant superintendent at School City of Hammond in northwest Indiana.
Shipp was drawn to Clark-Pleasant because she saw an opportunity to help a growing school district in a growing community. The school district is the second-largest in the county, sprawling over Greenwood, Whiteland and New Whiteland, with over 7,000 students enrolled.
“The community is growing. It’s going from small town to what you would say is more urban middle class,” Shipp said.
As assistant superintendent, Shipp has her hands in a lot of things at the school. From focusing on the pre-K-12 educational programs to supporting teachers and students on a daily basis.
One of her main goals to expand opportunities for students to receive college credits, or find career pathways before leaving high school.
Shipp, from her time at Ivy Tech, saw how much higher education can be connected to K-12 learning, whether it’s through going to a traditional four-year institution, or getting certifications to go into the workforce. She wants to expand that, and other work-based opportunities at Clark-Pleasant.
“It really helps that a student doesn’t have to wait until they earn a high school diploma to start that new transition into what, the new phrase I keep hearing, is ‘adulting.’” Shipp said.
One goal with that is Shipp wants to expand into offering the Indiana College Core, in which students in high school can earn up to 30 college credits by taking certain classes required in school. Those credits can then be transferred to any public university in the state as general education credits. Clark-Pleasant currently offers 19 Advanced Placement, or AP, classes and 17 dual-credit classes, and this would expand on that.
Shipp also thinks more work-based learning is important, especially for students to learn soft skills to succeed in the world after their time in public education ends.
“Resume writing, you know, speech and debate … that’s an option. How can students learn these things? I do believe that work-based is a good thing,” she said.
Other goals include enhancing STEM programs at the schools, and introducing students to them starting in elementary and middle school to jumpstart their interests in that potential field.
Another interest of hers is looking at how to continue growing Clark-Pleasant’s high ability programs, and how it can grow as the school district grows. She said she wants to look at the data and see if it can be improved to best represent the student population, including the growing number of Latino and African American students. She also would like to see more boys in high ability classes because many classes are mostly filled with girls.
Generally, Shipp also wants to be a constant support for teachers and staff by being in tune with their needs. On top of that, she wants to better communication with parents, and find ways to get them more involved. That could be through just listening to parents’ concerns or creating committees they can serve on, if they want.
“I would say things we need to improve in are some of what I mentioned before, and also working with our parents and have making sure our parents have a voice,” Shipp said.
Shipp is the first Black woman to serve in an assistant superintendent role at Clark-Pleasant schools. She sees her position as a way to both support and inspire the young women and girls she’s around daily.
School corporation leadership is generally a male-dominated field, so Shipp feels she can be a voice for women in her role, and show it is possible to be a woman and a leader.
“I would like to empower girls that and young women and older adults that we can be in these positions. And we know how to handle those challenges,” Shipp said. “… Diversity is not just about skin color. It’s about class, and it’s about gender. So as a woman, I come to the table when I’m sitting in a meeting and I’m the only woman, then I can speak from a woman’s perspective that the men can’t.”