School City of Hobart
Building skills and future careers brick by brick
The School City of Hobart prepares college and career-ready students with an innovative educational approach
Known as “Brickies” and led by their mascot Yohan the Bricklayer, the Hobart School District (School City of Hobart) in the state of Indiana aims to educate students from “cradle to career.” This philosophy guides the work the school district undertakes daily and provides the strong foundation for its students.
“When you look at the School City of Hobart’s vision for student learning, it stands the test of time,” says Tim Krieg, director of secondary curriculum for the School City of Hobart. “It’s about fostering intellectual curiosity, natural abilities, and literacy in students while developing respectful and responsible citizens who are excited about the challenges of tomorrow, confident in their ability to chart the future, and dedicated to the pursuit of lifelong learning.”
The School City of Hobart’s mission for lifelong learning starts in the womb, with programming running the gamut from before birth to college and everything in between. Brickies-in-training can get a head start through the school district’s Early Learning Center, which includes the “Building Brickies” program from prenatal to kindergarten. The program includes home visits for parents, developmental screening, community resource information, and monthly playgroups.
“We started the Building Brickies program to teach parents how to be the best at their jobs,” says Peggy Buffington, superintendent for the School City of Hobart. “Children don’t come with an owner’s manual, so we started this program to assist parents all the way up to kindergarten.”
Beginning at age 4, students can register for preschool programming and join the kindergarten program at age 5. As the students age up, they can attend one of three elementary schools: Joan Martin Elementary, Liberty Elementary, and Veterans Elementary, followed by Hobart Middle School, and finally, Hobart High School.
But the School City of Hobart’s programming doesn’t end with the high school curriculum. The school district has partnered with nearby Ivy Tech Community College to offer dual credit, dual enrollment courses through Hobart University. Founded in 2018, the Hobart University program allows students to earn college credits while completing their high school diploma.
“It’s unique because what we did is we started a university right inside our high school,” Buffington says. “In the State of Indiana, any public university has to take those credits. So we are building a program to save time, effort, and money and earn stackable credentials.”
The program offers students 123 courses taught by 50+ credentialed high school teachers in the comfort of their school and without the cost of tuition. Students can take one of two pathways: Indiana College Core, which allows them to earn up to one year of college credit, or an Associate’s Degree, which is the equivalent of two years of college completed at graduation.
“Let’s say you’re going to be a teacher, and you do two years of college with us (at Hobart University) through our early college accreditation partner Ivy Tech,” Buffington explains. “If you do those two years, that is the curriculum, that is the blueprint, and then we have something called TSAP here in this state, which is the transfer of those credits, and then students only have two years of college left to complete a bachelor’s degree in education and start teaching.”
Ivy Tech equips Hobart University students with a college connection coach that assists the district’s early college team by coming to the high school to help guide students, register them in suitable classes, and ensures they are on the right path.
If there is a course a student needs to complete their credential that isn’t offered at Hobart High School, the Ivy Tech team has funding through the state to help students cross the finish line by taking their final courses at the college over the summer free of charge.
“There isn’t anything we don’t do,” says Traci Bryan, director of K14 initiatives at Ivy Tech Community College. “If they’re missing one class, then I’m talking to the vice-chancellor, saying I have to offer this class. If one student misses one class to get their credential, we are all over it,” Buffington remarks.
The program has been a huge success since 2018, with 28,898 credits achieved, and $4,422,967.03 in tuition and college costs saved to date. The class of 2023 will be graduating with over $1.5 million in savings this year.
“There are plenty of kids who will tell you they’ve left here with a two-year degree and they have two years of college left, or they’re going into graduate school and how much money they’ve saved,” Buffington says.
“I have a girl graduating this year with three years of college. She’s going into molecular biology, and we are amazed at her. She has 89 college credits. I can tell you wonderful success stories of kids that leave with certificates as well that are very successful because their pathway choice makes them happy in life.”
The School City of Hobart and Ivy Tech’s partnership has been so successful that it draws attention nationwide. First Lady Jill Biden recently visited Ivy Tech’s Valparaiso campus to recognize the program and see how it is being built.
“I can just say that the partnership we have with Hobart High School and what we have built is the best in the nation,” says Aco Sikoski, Ivy Tech Community College’s serving campus chancellor for Valparaiso, Michigan City, and La Porte sites. “If you don’t believe me, you can call the First Lady’s office.”
The School City of Hobart’s mission to help equip students for adulthood started in 1999 when Buffington became assistant superintendent for the district.
“I was really looking at high schools and just how broken they were in terms of post-secondary success,” Buffington recalls. “Were we preparing our kids to go into that post-secondary world and to be successful? Were we preparing them for the jobs of the future?”
Buffington approached her role as superintendent with a career mentality, aiming to lead the Hobart students to real, achievable careers that would benefit both themselves and the Indiana workforce. That was something that, at that point, really hadn’t been done before. But Buffington was dedicated to her cause.
“You have to venture into those areas you know nothing about and grow and learn,” she says. “You have to be willing to say ‘I can do it’ and not say no. We don’t take no for an answer if we say we will do something. We work hard for kids.”
Since then, the School City of Hobart has had to constantly stay abreast of the shifting job market to update the curriculum to meet the ever-changing needs. In addition to Ivy Tech, the School City of Hobart partners with the local hospital St. Mary Medical Center, NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company), and the Center of Workforce Innovations to help stay up to date on what jobs are needed in the community.
“Our sustained leadership has been paired with nimbleness, agility, flexibility, and open-mindedness,” Krieg says. “If we’re preparing students for the challenges of tomorrow, those challenges are different than they were before. We have a constant and deliberate redefining of college and career readiness that seamlessly blends with life readiness. The economy our students are entering is very different than it was even a few years ago.”
“We have an ‘oblitunity’ – an obligation and opportunity – to our students and their parents and our community stakeholders to embrace those changes.”
Hobart was once a very blue-collar district, but now the area is moving toward more of an energy technology focus. Healthcare has also become a large sector of employment in the area. So with that have come changes to Hobart University and Hobart High School’s offerings. Christopher King, director of technology for the School City of Hobart, ensures that Hobart students are equipped with the new technology they need to keep them competitive.
“We’re constantly looking at what’s there and how we can put it in the hands of students so that it adds to their learning and provides them those extra opportunities to achieve, to succeed, and be prepared once they get there,” King says.
One example is the dissection table recently purchased for the high school’s medical pathways program.
“Not many high schools have those, and we were excited to get that,” King says. “We knew that it was an opportunity that our kids could benefit from and would give them a leg up as they look into going into those industries along that pathway.”
Buffington believes it’s essential to always stay ahead of the curve to serve Hobart’s students with the best opportunities for achievement and success.
“You have to be green and growing all the time,” she says. “You can’t just rely on the status quo. You can’t just sit back and think that things won’t change. They will, and I think we’ve had a good vision of working with people and understanding their needs and how to move forward.”
And now, she hopes that the School City of Hobart can lead by example and become a pathway for other schools in the state and the country to follow.
“Here is the kicker about high school,” she says. “In most states, it’s compulsory attendance. So let’s give them a purpose to be in high school. Our model is an excellent demonstration of what it means to think outside the traditional core you offer in your high school. Reinvent high school!”
“Let’s use the time we have kids and keep their interests and engagement. Let’s give them many opportunities to be engaged, save time, energy, and finances, and I assure you they’ll achieve.”
AT A GLANCE
School City of Hobart
What: the School City of Hobart is a school district dedicated to providing the skills needed for a career within its innovative curriculum
Where: Hobart, Indiana
Gibraltar Design – www.gibraltardesign.com
Gibraltar Design is a full service architectural/engineering/interior design firm with complete focus on educational facilities. Our unique client-focused approach revolves around constant communication and collaboration with clients. We design spaces where students and teachers have the best opportunities for current and future trends of teaching, learning, and achievement.
MacLennan & Bain Insurance – www.maclennanbain.com
MacLennan & Bain Insurance extends our congratulations to Dr. Peggy Buffington and the Hobart School Corp on their success, and we look forward to our continued partnership! Since 1908, MacLennan & Bain has been committed to providing our clients with the highest possible level of service. Our investment in the people we serve, coupled with our expertise is the foundation of our success and longevity in business.
Bose McKinney & Evans LLP – www.boselaw.com
The Public Finance Group of Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana provides a full range of bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel and related bond services to its governmental clients, including schools. The Firm routinely ranks in the top 3 bond counsel firms in the State. Bose means bonds!
St. Mary Medical Center – www.COMHS.org
St. Mary Medical Center, located in Hobart, Indiana, is one of four hospitals within Community Healthcare System. In collaboration with the School City of Hobart, St. Mary Medical Center operates Brickie Clinic. The school-based clinic, open to the public, offers convenient access to primary care services. For details, visit COMHS.org.
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