Center Grove’s school board officially names Long superintendent

The Center Grove School Corp. Board of Trustees has named Bill Long superintendent.

Long first came to work for Center Grove in 1998 as assistant principal of the high school. After serving as interim principal, he became principal in 2001. Three years later, he was promoted to assistant superintendent for operations.

Long began serving as interim superintendent on Jan. 8 following former superintendent Rich Arkanoff’s request to retire amid a state police investigation.

The board approved his contract at a special meeting Thursday with a vote of 3-0.

For the past five years, Long has joked that he only has five more years before he retires, he said. His retirement plans have dissipated for now because of the “exciting opportunity,” he said.

Long can’t think of being anywhere but Center Grove, he said. He remembers how lucky and grateful he felt back in 1998 walking through the halls as assistant principal.

“Now I come to work in this building and think ‘Man, I thought I was lucky to be the principal at Center Grove High School, how fortunate am I to have the opportunity to lead a corporation? I just started my 27th year here — that’s how fortunate I am.”

Jason Taylor, assistant superintendent, said he couldn’t be happier with the selection of Long as superintendent.

“The leadership Dr Long has shown in the past six months stands as a testament to why the board has taken this action today,” Taylor said at the meeting. “He is the right guy to lead us forward.”

Long has already been discussing his goals with school principals and staff. He wants to focus on collaboration, and leadership and foster high-quality instruction for students. He knows focusing on high-quality instruction is an obvious goal, but wants to re-emphasize it is important, he said. One thing that will be different under Long’s leadership is focusing on students’ mental health and lives as a whole.

Focusing on students as a whole means they will learn better and have higher achievement scores, Long said.

“We know that kids need to know they come to a safe environment, they need to know that they have an adult in the building that cares for them,” Long said. “And if we can add parent participation to that, we feel like we’ve set the stage for them to really perform well academically.”

The number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Building strong bonds, connecting to youth and creating protective relationships can protect their mental health, the CDC says.

Long helped reorganize his cabinet to encompass mental health, physical health and student services under one umbrella called Center Grove’s Leadership Cabinet.

The cabinet consists of six members, including Long, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, executive director of human resources, executive director of student services and executive director of communication.

Long hopes to “get different voices in the room that have different perspectives,” he said.

The cabinet will allow the school to “focus on providing the support that our kids need,” Long said. He also wants to focus on attendance, community and parent engagement and professional development for employees.

The most important goal of Long’s is to focus on collaborating with teachers, parents and community, he said. He’s challenging school principals to come up with ways to increase collaboration, he said.

Another goal is to refocus professional learning communities to provide a safe and supportive environment for students.

“I think we do a really good job, but we’re gonna make sure that we’re still doing everything that we can do to make our kids feel safe and our staff feels safe or visitors when they’re here on school grounds,” Long said.

Long has never said he wants summer to be over, he joked, but this year is different. He “can’t wait” for summer to be over and to start working with everybody.